In 2016, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday! To celebrate, the NPS will offer free admission on 16 days throughout the year. Here are the 2016 Free Admission Dates:

  • January 18th (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
  • April 16-24 (National Park Week)
  • August 25-28 (National Park Service’s 100th Birthday)
  • September 24th (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 11th (Veterans Day)

For dog lovers, visiting the national parks can be difficult due to tight restrictions. We looked into the most dog-friendly national parks and summarized their policies below, so that you and your best friend can get out there and celebrate America’s Best Idea!

  1. Acadia National Park: Acadia was the first National Park on the east coast, encompassing rugged coastal Maine and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast (Cadillac Mountain). Acadia National Park allows pets (on-leash) on 100 miles of trails and 45 miles of carriage roads, as well as in its Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods campgrounds.
  2. Grand Canyon National Park: The park is bisected by the mile-deep Grand Canyon carved out by the Colorado River, attracting hikers, backpackers, sunset-chasers, rafting groups, and more. Grand Canyon National Park permits leashed-pets above the rim and at Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village throughout the developed areas. Service animals are permitted below the rim (but you must check in first at the Backcountry Information Center).
  3. Zion National Park: Zion is Utah’s first national park, and it’s home to sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red, paths created by ancient natives, and a unique variety of plants and animals. Zion allows leashed pets on Pa’rus Trail and in the developed campgrounds and picnic areas, and on the grounds of the Zion Lodge.
  4. Yosemite National Park: Established in 1864, Yosemite National Park is a wonderland of granite domes and towering waterfalls. It’s inspired legendary American figures like John Muir and Ansel Adams. Yosemite allows leashed dogs in all of its developed areas and on paved trails, roads, sidewalks, bicycle paths. Dogs are also allowed in the campgrounds (except Camp 4), on the Wawona Meadow Loop, and on the Four Mile and Eleven Mile fire roads.
  5. Mammoth Cave National Park: The park is located in the Green River valley of south central Kentucky, housing the world’s longest known cave system (over 400 miles). Leashed dogs are permitted in the park, except for inside the caves, and in the Woodland Cottages. Service animals are permitted both in the caves and in hotel guest rooms.
  6. Shenandoah National Park: Just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., the park includes 200,00 acres of woods, hills, cascading waterfalls, and wildlife.  Shenandoah is one of the few national parks that allow dogs on the trails. Dogs are required to be on leash, but are permitted on most trails, in campgrounds and in pet-friendly lodging. There are a handful of trails that prohibit pets, so be sure to check before planning your trip.
  7. North Cascades National Park: North Cascades offers jagged granite peaks, more than 300 glaciers, and deep valleys. Leashed pets are allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail, on the Ross Lake and Chelan National Recreation Areas, and in the surrounding national forest lands.
  8. Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Located near Cleveland, along the historic Ohio & Erie Canal, Cuyahoga offers rolling hills, deep forests, and native plants and wildlife. The park allows pets on leash to access 110 miles of hiking trails, 20 miles of the Towpath Trail, and the Stanford Campground.
  9. Badlands National Park: 244,000 acres of geological deposits contains one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Once the home of saber-tooth cats, the park now hosts bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets. Leashed dogs are allowed in developed areas, such as paved picnic areas, campgrounds, paved and gravel roadways. Dogs are also allowed on the trails at the nearby Buffalo Gap National Grassland.
  10. Rocky Mountain National Park: Home to 415 square miles of spectacular mountains, lakes, wildflowers, and wildlife, Rocky Mountain National Park contains over 300 miles of hiking trails. The park allows dogs (on leash) in developed areas, including picnic areas and campgrounds, on Endovalley Road, and on trails in the adjacent national forest lands.


Keep in mind that the National Parks are some of America’s most visited (and therefore busiest) protected wild places. When planning your trip, please respect the rules – They’re in place to protect the native plants and wildlife and to preserve the park for everyone’s enjoyment. If you want to venture into the backcountry, many parks have kennels within the park itself or in the nearby vicinity. Check your park’s website for all the details and most up-to-date information!

10 thoughts

  1. While some National Parks/Monuments are quite restrictive on pets there are a number which are dog friendly. Unfortunately the list provided in this article is not representative of the more friendly parks. I have travelled to many parks with my Great Danes and I devised a system to compare the parks. A 4 paw park has few limiting restrictions, a 3 paw park has at least 2 pet friendly trails, 2 paw has 1 trail and <100 feet from roads, 1 paw is paved areas and roads only. Most of the parks on this list I would consider 1 paw parks with the exception of Acadia NP.

    Four paw parks I have visited include:
    Great Sand Dunes NP (as mentioned by Amos)
    White Sands NM
    Grande Staircase Escalante NM
    Devils Postpile NM
    Fort Laramie NHS
    Petrified Forest NP
    In all these parks/monuments dogs can go with you almost everywhere outdoors (they can't go in the buildings) as long as they are leashed and you clean up after them.

    Some 3 paw parks (2 or more trails):
    Agate Fossil Beds NM
    Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
    Scotts Bluff NM

    I'm still traveling and still expanding the list. I hope you find this helpful, I fully believe you should travel with your pets, it can be challenging but it is also rewarding for you and your pets. All of my Danes have each travelled to over 20 parks and 2 countries.
    If you want to see more specifics check out https://barkcheese.com/dogs-and-national-parks/

  2. Great Sand Dunes National Park is great for a dog in cooler weather. They’re allowed on the dunes up to High Dune! We just went on a hike with Winston there this month. (The sand gets hot in the summer, so don’t take them then.)

  3. Thanks for posting this article! It inspired me to take my dog to Yosemite, we had a wonderful time! We went on a few of the paved trails (Lower Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, Glacier Point) and had a great time exploring Yosemite Valley. Our options were limited, but it was still so much fun to share the experience with him!

    1. after hiking all day (and luckily friend had cool RV to leave dogs – still had to walk my dog around and around the few/short paved options and the campgrounds -meh– Unless you have an old sleepy dog: OUR NATIONAL PARKS ARE NOT DOG ‘FRIENDLY’=you canNOT hike w/dog

  4. Most if not all NPs restrict dogs to on leash at all times and usually in visitor center or CG paved areas. Canyonlands NP does not even allow you to have your dog on a leash out to the viewpoints along the paved scenic loops. So, with a dog, you are limited to a vehicle quickie drive thru. At the Needles District of Canyonlands, you are not allowed to even have your dog in your own vehicle out to one of the high clearance overlooks.

  5. There are lots of national forests and wilderness areas that not only allow dogs on trail, but many do not have leash laws. I visited several on a road trip and found it to be a great alternative, as they are still very beautiful and cover a LOT of area.

  6. Hate that National Parks are so restrictive. Should be some way to educate pet owners and certify them and their pets that they can be trusted to preserve these sites. I really want to explore the Utah parks….

  7. Thanks for the info, and always NEVER leave your dogs alone in a car. Sometimes it’s best to leave your “best friends” at home.

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