Are dogs allowed in national parks?
Many vanlife bucket lists include visiting as many National Parks as possible, but if you’ve got a canine companion, that might be more difficult than you think.
Most National Parks have strict rules about dogs, but with a little extra planning, you can make your visit to the park an enjoyable one for you and your pup.
This is a companion piece to our post on Campervan Life with Dogs.
Not sure if dogs are allowed in the park? Talk to a park ranger
Each national park has different dog guidelines and a park ranger will tell you exactly where your dog is allowed to visit.
While you can find information online about National parks where dogs are allowed, nothing beats a good old-fashioned conversation with a ranger to ensure you get the best recommendations for your unique situation.
Some parks offer trails to hike with your pet, but every park requires dogs to be on a leash.
Other parks don’t have any trails for dogs. In parks like these, you’ll find that dogs are allowed wherever cars can go, like pull-outs, parking lots, and campgrounds.
In parks with fewer dog options, a ranger can tell you about the best place to walk a dog, like a less-frequented stretch of road that you might not otherwise know about.
These dog regulations are in place for a reason, so it’s important to understand and respect the rules to keep these places beautiful for many years to come.
Is the weather right for your dog?
The weather, as well as your campervan setup, will play a pivotal role in how you visit the park with your dog.
Summer is a popular time to travel to National Parks, but it can also be the most unsafe time to leave your dog behind in a vehicle.
Every campervan setup is different in regards to temperature regulation.
If you’re still in the building or planning stages for your van, consider what features will help keep your dog cool when it gets warm.
If the temperatures are too hot, make other plans for your dog that day.
Many parks have dog boarding facilities nearby so you can enjoy your adventure without worrying about your dog.
Or consider spending the hotter hours of the day doing something else with your dog and then catch the sunset or sunrise from your favorite park trail.
A list of National parks where dogs are allowed
Parks such as Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico even have a budget-friendly on-site kennel.
A reservation isn’t required but it will help ensure that your pup has a space.
While we did our best to find all the national parks where dogs are allowed.
But rules and policies change, so be sure to call the park you’d like to visit, whether it’s on this list or not.
- Alaska: Denali National Park and Preserve
- Oregon: Crater Lake National Park
- Washington: Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park
- California: Yosemite National Park
- Utah: Five Parks, Many Options
- Maine: Acadia National Park
- Virginia: Shenandoah National Park
- Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Kentucky: Mammoth Cave National Park
- Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park
Should you leave your dog in your Campervan?
Many parks have strict policies about leaving dogs in cars and you could find yourself in trouble if a park ranger or other guest notices your dog in there.
These policies are in place to help keep your dog safe.
Since a campervan isn’t a typical car, you may have a wider window of safe temperatures for leaving the dog behind, but canine heat stroke can be fatal and needs to be taken seriously.
To ensure that your dog will be safe while you’re gone, close your van doors as if you were leaving and sit with your dog for at least 30 minutes.
See how the temperature changes and if it gets uncomfortable then make other plans.
If your dog is prone to barking or if your dog can be seen from your van window, it may be best to plan on other options for while you’re gone.
If you are at all unsure about whether your dog can be left behind, DO NOT RISK IT.
Know your Dog
Every dog is different as is every campervan. It’s important to know the needs of your pup and how to fine-tune your trip to keep him or her safe and happy.
If your dog loves to lay around and nap, leaving him or her behind for a few hours might not be a big deal.
But if your dog can’t stand to see you walk away without it, then you might find it has destroyed the inside of your van when you get back.
Consider how your dog interacts with crowds of people, kids, and other dogs or wildlife.
If your dog struggles with this, whether you visit national parks where dogs are allowed or not, it may not be the right adventure.
All dogs have different comfort levels as far as how long they can be left alone and how much exercise they need.
Careful consideration of these factors will help your dog be successful if you’re out on the park trails without them.
Look for adventures near the park
A tired dog is a good dog. My first priority (and best advice) when taking my dog to a National Park is to ensure that she’s tired before I go off without her.
If the park you’re visiting has a dog-friendly trail, visit that first. Get your dog the adventure it needs so that it’s happy to nap while you visit other parts of the park.
Many National Parks are surrounded by other beautiful areas that might have more dog-friendly options. It’s common to find state and local parks where are dogs are allowed nearby.
Sometimes these nearby parks are just as magnificent, and often less crowded than a National Park, so you may find that adventure would suit your crew even better.
Our Top Tips for taking your dog to national parks where dogs are allowed
Here are a few of my best tips for visiting the National Parks with your dog:
- Visit the web sites of The National Parks Service to find the national parks where dogs are allowed.
- Talk to a ranger to get the best information about dog accessibility.
- Watch the weather and don’t risk leaving your dog in a vehicle that’s too hot.
- Tire your dog out before hitting trails without them.
- Know your dog and what they can handle to keep this trip enjoyable for your whole crew.
- Seek out other nearby dog-friendly adventures as an alternate way to see the area.
- If your dog cannot be left alone, contact a nearby boarding facility.
Comment below with any tips or info.
Got a question about national parks where dogs are allowed? ask them here and we’ll do our best to answer.
Jenny has been traveling on the road full-time with her dog, Dakota, since September 2018.
She lives in her self-converted 2006 Dodge Sprinter and spends her days hiking, camping, mountain biking, and writing about her adventures.
She’s attempting to visit all 50 states and see all the National Parks.
You can read about her adventures on her site, here.