While a road trip to your favorite national park seems like the perfect opportunity to bring Fido, you may be surprised that most national parks aren’t incredibly dog-friendly. Here are the best ones that are.
If you do your research ahead of time and plan well, you can enjoy a road trip for the books with your furry friend. Here, we’ve rounded up seven of the best national parks to visit with dogs, along with our favorite hikes and campsites at each.
And if you want your pup to pull their weight, check out our list of the best dog backpacks.
Best National Parks to Visit With Dogs
Acadia National Park, Maine
Located primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre recreation area along the Atlantic coast. Home to the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline, a variety of different habitats, and rich cultural heritage, the park is one of the top 10 most-visited national parks in the U.S.
The park features 27 miles of historic motor roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads. Almost all of these welcome dogs — the only exceptions are a few hikes that require ropes and ladders.
Dogs are also invited on the shuttles and are free to roam all of the public areas in the park except for Duck Harbor Campground, Wild Gardens of Acadia, Echo Lake Beach, and Sand Beach during the high season.
Popular hikes include Bar Island Trail, Schooner Head Path, and Wonderland Trail. And a good place to lay your head at night is Blackwoods or Some Sound View Campgrounds.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Featuring the tallest dunes in North America, Great Sand Dunes National Park offers a diverse landscape of wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Nestled against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the park spans 30 miles and is open 24 hours a day.
Leashed pets are welcome anywhere in the park between High Dune and the Castle Creek Picnic Area, as well as throughout the adjoining Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. A popular hike is up to High Dune for a view of the entire dune field — the hike is a 2.5-mile round trip and climbs approximately 700 feet.
Pro tip: Visit at sunrise or sunset for the best views. The dunes can get hot during the summer months, so make sure it’s safe for your pup before venturing out.
If you wish to stay overnight, head to Pinon Flats Campground, open April to October.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Fifty miles outside of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is home to 200,000 miles of protected lands and a wide array of flora and fauna. Shenandoah is popular due to its cascading waterfalls, wooded areas, pastoral landscapes, and the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains.
The park has over 500 miles of hiking trails on offer, only 20 of which are off-limits to dogs. Popular hikes to do with your pup are Little Stony Man, Hawksbill Gap Trail, and the Rose River Loop. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, cruise the famous Skyline Drive to soak up the sites.
Campgrounds in the park are well-suited for dogs, and dog-friendly rooms are available at Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge, and Lewis Mountain Cabins.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Located in northeastern Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park was given its name due to the large deposits of petrified wood that span the park.
The park is a trip back through time and features historic structures, archaeological sites, 200-million-year-old fossils, and remnants of 13,000 years of human history. It offers a Bark Ranger program specifically designed for pets, who are welcome on all of the park’s official trails, roads, and official wilderness areas.
During your visit to the park, be sure to visit Tiponi Point, the Painted Desert Rim Trail, Puerco Pueblo, Newspaper Rock, the Tepees, Blue Forest hike, Blue Mesa Trail, Crystal Forest, and drive Route 66.
Dogs are welcome in the backcountry, so if you plan on staying the night, post a tent for you and your pup.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Located 18 miles from South Carolina’s capital city, Congaree National Park is a 26,276-acre national park that preserves the largest tract of old-growth hardwood forest in the United States.
The Congaree and Wateree rivers wind through the park, allowing visitors the opportunity to kayak, canoe, and fish on the waterways. The park is ideal for furry friends, as pets are allowed on all trails, including the boardwalk, in and on the river, and in all of the campgrounds.
Popular day hikes include the Boardwalk Loop, Weston Lake Loop, River Trail, and Kingsnake Trail — all of which offer glimpses of the impressive biodiversity the park has to offer.
In addition to backcountry camping options, Congaree is home to two designated campgrounds: Longleaf Campground and Bluff Campground.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that many of the trails flood in the spring. So if you plan on doing some hiking, you may want to plan your trip for a different time of year.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Home to the world’s largest known cave system, Mammoth Cave National Park is a western Kentucky gem. In addition to the impressive caves, the park also offers rolling hills, deep river valleys, a wide expanse of plant and animal life, and thousands of years of human history. It’s recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.
Although the caves themselves aren’t dog-friendly, there are plenty of dog-friendly trails around the visitor center as well as the popular Green River Bluffs Trail and the North Side Trails. Should you wish to visit the caves (and we suggest you do), Mammoth Cave Lodge offers a kennel where your dog can stay while you take a cave tour.
At the end of the day, rest your head at Mammoth Cave Campground, Mammoth Cave Horse Camp, Maple State Park Campground, or Nolin Lake State Park Campground.
White Sands National Park, New Mexico
White Sands National Park is about as dog-friendly as they come. Pets are allowed anywhere in the park that humans are, except for the visitor center and gift shop. Spanning 145,762 acres in south-central New Mexico, the park is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range and is home to the largest gypsum dune field in the world.
During your stay at the park, take some time to play on the dunes or explore one of the five official hiking trails on offer. It’s best to visit during the fall, winter, or spring, as temperatures can get dangerously high during the summer months. If you wish to stay overnight, there are 10 backcountry campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis.