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10 Most Dog-Friendly National Parks

You and your canine companion can take advantage of all that these parks have to offer.

There's nothing like hitting the road with your furry friend in tow, especially if it means you both get to experience the great outdoors together. In many cases, national parks are some of the best options out there for travelers and their canine companions. But before you start packing, it's important to know which destinations are the best fit for this type of excursion. We've reached out to the pros for their recommendations on the most suitable options. Read on for the most dog-friendly national parks, according to travel experts.

RELATED: The 7 Best Dog-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga National Park Ohio
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A top destination for you and your dog is Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, where you can both enjoy the scenery and take on the trails. "Leashed dogs are welcome on all of the park's 125 miles worth of trails, which are generally of a good standard," Erika Barnes, founder and CEO of Pet Smitten, tells Best Life.

Aside from gorgeous forests and sprawling landscapes, Cuyahoga Valley is also a safe choice for you and your dog. "It has a relatively temperate climate, typically warm but not hot in the summer (great for making sure your dog avoids heat stroke) and cold but not freezing in the winter," Barnes says. "There's also, compared to many of our national parks, a refreshing lack of creatures and critters that might do harm to you and your dog. Sure, they are there, but for example, there have been no venomous snakes found at the park."

Acadia National Park

acadia national park
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Head up north to Maine and take in breathtaking views at Acadia National Park with your dog in tow. According to the park's website, you both can explore 100 miles of hiking trials, 45 miles of carriage roads, and stay the night at the Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods campgrounds.

"There are plenty of trails to explore with your pup, and you can even bring them on a kayak or canoe trip," Matt James of the travel blog Visingtingly says, adding that as in other national parks, you'll want to make sure your dog is always on a leash.

Other experts agree it's a great getaway option for pets and their owners. "Acadia is ideal because it permits dogs on nearly all its trails, carriage roads, and even Sand Beach and other shoreline areas—an often rare allowance," says Peter Hamdy, travel expert and co-founder of Auckland & Beyond Tours. "The vistas are stunning, and your canine companion can enjoy the crisp air and varied terrains, from rugged coastlines to dense forests."

RELATED: 10 Best National Parks You Can Walk Through.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

black canyon of the gunnison
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This lesser-known park is certainly one your pup will enjoy, Adam Marland, travel photographer and writer for We Dream of Travel, tells Best Life.

"The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is tucked away in a remote part of Southwest Colorado and is one of the most beautiful but overlooked parks in the NPS system," Marland explains, adding that leashed dogs can accompany you at visitors centers, campgrounds, and the three primary hiking trails at the park.

While exploring, you can discover the park's famed "sheer black canyon walls," Marland says, which are nearly 2 million years old, according to the park's website. "Wandering amongst the alpine nature with thriving wildlife, unbeatable views, and a plethora of smells for the pup to enjoy will be an experience that neither of you will forget."

White Sands National Park

white sands national park
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Another puppy paradise is White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Described as being "like no place else on earth," this park offers something for everyone. "White Sands is a giant playground whether you're on two legs or four," Marland says. "The park is among the most dog-friendly in the country, allowing you and your pets to explore absolutely anywhere you want to go, except for inside the visitor center."

If you're looking for a unique adventure, Marland recommends that you and your pup try sandboarding in the dunes of gypsum sand. "Worth noting for those sensitive puppy pads is that the gypsum present at White Sands differs from actual sand in that it does not retain heat, meaning it will not burn your feet even in extreme temperatures," he explains.

RELATED: The 7 Best Beaches That Are Also U.S. National Parks.

Shenandoah National Park

shenandoah valley at sunset
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If you're trekking around the East Coast, Virginia's Shenandoah National Park offers a unique way to take in plenty of natural beauty—especially in the fall. It also happens to be a great option for your pup.

"What makes Shenandoah particularly appealing is its dog-friendly hiking trails that cover over 500 miles," says Hamdy. "Most trails are pet-friendly, providing a broad range of experiences from easy walks to more challenging hikes. Also, the park offers numerous streams and waterfalls, which are great stops for hydration and a bit of fun for you and your dog."

Petrified Forest National Park

petrified forest national park
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Head to Arizona and explore Petrified Forest National Park with your dog, whether you prefer to set out on trails to look at the famous petrified logs or take a scenic drive through the park.

Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler notes that you can't take your canine companion into buildings at Petrified Forest, but they're welcome on paved roads and hiking trails in the backcountry. "As such, you can explore the park's colorful badlands and millennia-old fossilize wood, all with your best friend in tow," she says. "In fact, rangers even have treats on hand to give to pups!"

In addition, this park is not one of the most famous, which could end up being a plus for you and your dog, Alex Schnee, of the travel blog Alex on the Map, explains. "The fact that this is a lesser-known park means that you don't have to worry about wrangling your dog around strangers nearly as much," he notes.

Grand Canyon National Park

grand canyon south rim
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The Grand Canyon is probably on your bucket list, so why not enjoy it alongside your best bud? The national park welcomes dogs along the Rim Trail, as well as at Mather Point, Yavapai Point, and Grand Canyon Village, Steve Morrow, travel expert and founder of Paddle About, explains.

Be mindful of the heat and how it might affect your pooch in the summer, Morrow says. And if the weather gets a bit too warm or you want to explore a part of the park that's not pet-friendly, note that the Grand Canyon Kennel is open all year in the event you need to board your pup for a bit. "If you are looking for an unforgettable adventure with your pup, Grand Canyon National Park is worth a visit," Morrow concludes.

RELATED: The 7 Newest National Parks You Need to Add to Your Bucket List

Indiana Dunes National Park

indiana dunes national park

Looking to hit the beach with your dog in tow? One Midwest park is a great option for canines and their human counterparts.

"Indiana Dunes National Park—one of the most dog-friendly national parks in the U.S. and less than an hour's drive from Chicago—makes for an incredibly welcome pup-inclusive day visit," says Janice Moskoff, travel writer and founder of Gather and Go Travel. "While there, you and your favorite furry friend can explore scenic hiking trails and 15 miles of Lake Michigan beaches, and break a sweat climbing dunes."

Of its 15 trail systems, dogs on leashes are allowed on all but two—the Glenwood Dune Trail and the Pinhook Bog Trail, which requires pups to join ranger-led hikes. And perhaps most importantly, dogs are permitted on all beaches except the lifeguarded section of West Beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

"If your pup doesn't mind wooden stairs, try the rewarding 1-mile West Beach Dune Succession Loop Trail, a boardwalk route with a fantastic dune-top view of the Chicago skyline," says Moskoff. "If you visit in summer, pack supplies and snacks to enjoy beach time, strolling down to the dog-approved sections. Or extend your hike to include the Long Lake Trail to make it a three-mile loop."

New River Gorge National Park

new river gorge national park
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West Virginia also offers a puppy paradise: New River Gorge National Park—home to one of the oldest rivers in North America.

"America's newest national park welcomes dogs of all colors and sizes, as they're allowed on all trails within the park and preserve," Sabrina Kong, DVM at We Love Doodles, says, adding that in order to enjoy the park, dogs must be on a leash no longer than six feet.

You can explore the landscapes and get in some exercise, Kong adds, noting that you should check out the park's largest waterfall, Sandstone Falls, as well as Brooks Falls on the west side of the river for "loads of water-fun."

Debbie Littany, site owner of, also recommends whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, or taking a scenic drive through this park. As with all national parks on this list, however, you will want to check individual park's rules and requirements to ensure that you and your pooch have a pleasant and penalty-free visit.

Congaree National Park

A boardwalk in a forest in Conagree National Park
iStock / ericfoltz

Your leashed pups are welcome at Conagree National Park in South Carolina, where you'll both be able to take advantage of its unique boardwalks traversing the swampy forest. Those out for a long hike can hit the River Trail, which offers a scenic 10-mile trek.

"Pets are allowed on all trails in the park, and their B.A.R.K. Ranger program encourages responsible visitation," says Jason Frye, travel writer and National Parks guidebook author. "One caveat: You can see a lot of wildlife on Boardwalk Trail, where I've come across deer, wild boars, bears, foxes, and plenty of other critters. So if your pet's prone to barking at or chasing after wildlife, use caution."

This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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