5 National Parks That Actually Allow Dogs On The Hiking Trails

As the weather warms up in spring, the last of the cool rains and muddy trails start to disappear; you are probably itching to grab your four-legged best friend and start hiking again. However, if your plans involve heading to a national park, it can be hard to figure out what trails and parks actually allow dogs. This is because while many national parks allow pets in the campgrounds, picnic areas, and maybe on a few paved paths near the visitor's center, the vast majority of U.S. national parks don't allow dogs on the hiking trails. There are a few reasons for this. First, some parks — like Zion – don't allow dogs for their own safety. While others — like the Great Smoky Mountains — don't allow dogs on the trails to protect local wildlife. Either way, the "no pets" rule is a national park standard.

Luckily, there are a few national parks in the U.S. that are safe for our canine companions and do allow dogs to join you on your hikes. So, if you want to take your dog adventuring this summer, here are the best national parks in the U.S. to hike with your dog. Just be sure to follow trail etiquette rules by keeping your pooch leashed while there and picking up after him or her to leave no trace – and you and your dog will have a wonderful time.

Shenandoah National Park

Located in Virginia, only around 75 miles from Washington D.C., Shenandoah is one of the few national parks that allows pets on the trails. In fact, Shenandoah has 500 miles of trails within its boundaries and only 20 trails are off-limits to dogs. On top of this, many trails that don't allow dogs — like the Bearfence Mountain Trail, the Stony Man Loop, and the Old Rag area trails — simply have rock scrambles and steep climbs that aren't suitable for canines.

However, you can easily enjoy some of Shenandoah's other trails, including 101 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail. Or, if you are after scenic overlooks, go for the 2.5-mile-long Hawksbill Gap Trail. For rushing waterfalls and to have some fun splashing around with the pup, head to the dog-friendly 4-mile-long Rose River Loop Trail. One Redditor, who commented on the national parks forum of the website about their trip to Shenandoah with their dog, also recommended checking out the popular 8.3-mile-long White Oak Canyon Trail, which includes six waterfalls with swimming holes at the bottom.

Also, if you decide to pack up your pooch and head over to explore the Shenandoah Blue Ridge Mountains, the good news is that many of the lodging options inside the park have dog-friendly room options.

New River Gorge National Park

The New River Gorge (often just called "The New" by locals) is America's most recently established national park, having just been upgraded to prestigious status in 2020. Located in the mountains of West Virginia around the New River and its 1,000-foot-deep sandstone gorge, this park offers excellent views and outdoor recreation activities. But the best thing about this national park is that it allows pets pretty much everywhere, including at the rock climbing walls, on the river, and on all of the trails. The one requirement is that you take care of your doggo and keep him or her on a leash at all times. The park also includes plenty of pet-friendly lodging and dining options.

So, where should you and your canine companion explore in New River Gorge? According to one Redditor, you should start at the Endless Wall Trail to take in the views of the river and gorge below; then, if you are up for a challenge, hit the Kaymoor Miners Trail to descend into the gorge and check out the ghost town and old abandoned coal facility at the bottom.

Also, make sure to stop by the visitor's center and find a park ranger outside (dogs are not allowed inside) to make your dog an official B.A.R.K. ranger. Once a B.A.R.K ranger, your dog will get a signed certificate, and you can purchase an adorable dog tag for his or her collar.

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park is also a relatively new addition to the national park system, having just received the status in 2019. This park is famous for its picturesque white rolling dunes that are made of tiny sand-sized pieces of sparkling gypsum. White Sands National Park is also extremely dog friendly and not only allows canine companions on all five trails but even allows them to roam off-trail and explore the 275 square miles of dunes and even camp in the backcountry with their owners.

However, as a national park that is located in the middle of the desert of New Mexico, temperatures do get quite high in the summer, and you should always bring plenty of water for both you and your dog. Many of the trails are also not shaded, so it's a good idea to visit when temperatures are cooler in the early mornings or evenings. Luckily, the gypsum dunes in this national park don't get hot like regular sand, so there isn't a risk of your pup burning his or her paws while playing and exploring.

Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest is located in Arizona and is one of those hidden gem national parks that simply doesn't get talked about as much as it should. Filled with ancient trees that have been crystallized in rainbows of white and smoky quartz, purple amethyst, and yellow citrine, this park is a pleasure to explore on foot with man's best friend. Dogs are allowed on all established trails in the park, including the Painted Desert Rim Trail, Crystal Forest Trail, and Blue Mesa Trail.

Although dogs aren't allowed to explore off-trail in the Petrified Forest, neither are humans, as walking through this unique environment can damage the fragile grassland ecosystem. In order to protect the environment as much as possible during your time in the park, rangers ask that you keep your furry friend on a leash and prevent him or her from interacting with or chasing any wildlife.

This is another park that participates in B.A.R.K., so make sure to find a ranger near the visitor's center if you want a signed certificate and an official dog tag.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in both Ohio and Pennsylvania on the shores of Lake Eerie and, despite being one of America's smallest national parks, is also one of the most visited. This park allows dogs on 110 miles of trails (except for the East Rim mountain biking trails), including the popular Towpath Trail and Lake Trail. If you are looking for a more moderate hiking experience, then try out the Salt Run Trail and Cross Country Loop with their scenic views and hilly landscape. You can also hike to the Brandywine Falls for a spectacular view.

However, as noted by the National Park Foundation, this park does have ticks from spring to autumn. So, make sure you are up to date on your dog's tick and flea medicines before visiting, and do a quick tick check before getting back in your car. If you visit in winter to avoid the ticks, make sure to stay away from the Virginia Kendall Hills area because it is a popular sledding spot that doesn't allow dogs during the winter season.