Why Dogs Aren't Allowed On Most Trails In Zion National Park

Zion, with its beautiful desert canyon scenery and challenging hiking trails, is one of those national parks to put on your bucket list. Once a bit of a hidden gem, this deep red wonderland of a national park has become increasingly popular in recent years and was even the third-most visited national park in the United States in 2022 behind the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon, according to the National Park Service. However, if you are planning a trip to Zion, before you get started you should know that dogs (and other pets) are not allowed on most trails within the park.

While it seems a little rude to exclude our furry friends from such beautiful hikes, the real reason that the National Park Service doesn't allow dogs to hike in Zion is that most trails are simply too dangerous for them. Because of this, while dogs are allowed in all public campgrounds, parking lots, and picnic areas, there is only one trail in Zion that allows four-legged friends and that's the Pa'rus trail (a short paved path near the visitors' center). So, what is it about the trails in Zion that make them dangerous for man's best friend?

Toxins in the Virgin River

The Virgin River is the main water source in Zion, despite usually being only one to two feet deep in many places, it was the creating force behind this national park's stunning vertical canyons and sandstone monoliths. Because of this, the river is a central point in the park, and most trails either border, cross, or trudge through it. However, the problem is that the waters of the Virgin River are sometimes toxic due to the growth of a specific type of algae called benthic cyanobacteria. This algae is harmful to humans but is more dangerous for pets who can become gravely ill and even die after consuming the toxin.

This is what happened to, Keanna, a 6-month-old husky puppy who died in less than half an hour after being exposed to the algae while swimming in the park in 2020, via 8 News Now. Unfortunately, Keanna was also not the first or last dog to die from toxins in the Virgin River, which is one reason why many trails in Zion are considered unsafe for dogs.

Other reasons to keep your dog off the trails at Zion

However, the risks of Zion don't just stop there (this park is not ranked one of the most dangerous in the U.S. for no reason). Another danger to pets in Zion is the weather because many areas in the park get up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The reason this is a problem is that dogs are not as good at regulating their body temperature as humans and are more likely to suffer from heat stroke. In fact, any temperature over 77 degrees Fahrenheit is considered unsafe for walking a dog let alone taking it for a strenuous hike on difficult trails.

Furthermore, some of the most popular trails in Zion — like the Emerald Pools and Angel's Landing — involve steep staircases and pathways of slippery wet sandstone. Trails also sometimes become quite narrow only allowing room for one person to pass through at a time. These trails can become dangerous for humans (especially when wearing the wrong hiking shoes) and are definitely not suitable for our canine companions.

So, if you want to visit Zion, it's best to leave the doggo at home, or, you can bring them along and sign them up for one of the doggy daycares or boarding centers located in nearby towns outside the park.

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