After more than a year of staying safe by staying home, Americans are getting vaccinated and getting out. If you’re planning a vacation with your pet, a dog friendly National Park may be just the ticket.
But how can you find that perfect dog friendly vacation destination? Puppy Panache is here to guide you.
Which National Parks Are Dog Friendly?
There are 63 National Parks scattered across 28 states (29 if you count Idaho, which includes a small part of Yellowstone National Park) and two US territories. Most are concentrated in the West: California has the most National Parks, at nine, followed by Alaska, with eight.
While the plethora of parks may seem to make your vacation planning more daunting, some National Parks are more dog friendly than others. Here are the best five destinations for our four-legged friends:
Acadia National Park – Located on Maine’s coast, this park doesn’t just welcome dogs in most public areas, on nearly all 120 miles of trails, and on the free shuttles. It also offers a short program your dog can complete to be sworn in as a BARK Ranger. A few popular areas are off-limits during high season (mid-May to mid-September), but otherwise your pup can join you almost anywhere inside the park.
Grand Canyon National Park – When you’re ready to go big, the views don’t get much grander than those visible from the internationally famous South Rim Trail. Dogs are welcome along the entire 13-mile stretch. While the trail itself is not particularly challenging, the high elevation and desert climate can be. Be sure to bring along lots of water for yourself and your four-legged companion, as well as a collapsible or packable dog bowl.
Indiana Dunes National Park – If you like cool breezes, sandy beaches, and sparkling blue water lapping the shore, you’re going to love this new National Park, approved in 2019. Leashed pets can explore the entire 15-mile stretch of sand along Lake Michigan. Additionally, they have access to the dunes, creeks, ponds, picnic areas, campgrounds, and forests nearby. The sand can be quite hot when the temperature reaches 70 degrees or more. If it’s too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for your pooch’s pads. You may want to consider packing some dog boots (the same goes for White Sands National Park).
Shenandoah National Park – Though this park in Virginia is best-known for the scenic Skyline Drive, it also includes 500 miles of hiking trails. 480 of these miles are open and accessible to dogs. This means you and Fido can enjoy waterfalls and wilderness together within a 90-minute drive of Washington, DC.
National Mall and Memorial Gardens – As long as you’re visiting the nation’s capital, you might as well introduce your furry friend to the seat of our democracy. You won’t be able to take your dog inside the buildings, but you can take a stroll through history as you take in the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, US Capitol building, White House, Reflecting Pool, and Lincoln Memorial. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes – the distance between the US Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial is more than 2 miles. Plan for a seven-mile roundtrip in total.
What Are the Rules for Having Your Dog in a National Park?
No matter which dog friendly National Park you choose to visit, there are some basic rules you need to follow. These help to ensure everyone’s safety and show respect to the precious natural environments and their occupants.
Stay away from wildlife – Do you know how your dog would react in an encounter with a burly bear, a wily wolf, or a belligerent beaver? Trust us – it’s better if you don’t find out. This is why some of the most spectacular National Parks – including Yellowstone, Zion, Crater Lake, and Glacier – are largely off-limits to dogs. In parks where dogs are allowed, do not allow them to roam where the deer and the antelope play.
Leash up; clean up! Keep your dog on a short leash no longer than 6 feet (all Puppy Panache leashes are between 40 -42 inches!). This will help you keep your hound away from potentially dangerous wildlife. It will also make it easier to pick up after your dog in the great outdoors with the baggies you bring along in your dog waste bag holder.
Know where Fido can (and can’t) play – Read and obey all the rules for dogs at each and every park you visit. Some require you to keep your dog leashed even when swimming. Others allow dogs only in cars, campgrounds, and parking lots. You may be fined for flouting the rules, or your dog may be taken away.
What Are Your Options If You Want to Visit a No-dog National Park on a Family Vacation With Fluffy?
And then sometimes we want to take a family vacation at a National Park that isn’t pet-friendly. Instead of skipping Yellowstone altogether, consider boarding your dog at a kennel in a nearby town in Montana, Wyoming, or Idaho. You’ll also find good options in local towns near Zion National Park and in areas surrounding Glacier National Park.
Got additional questions? Find a ranger or campground host to ask. Ignorance of the rules is no excuse for breaking them. They’ll only lead to even tighter restrictions for dogs in the future. Help preserve pets’ access to National Parks by respecting the rules.
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