A Guide to Dog-Friendly National Parks: Pt. Two - The Midwest and Northeast

Camping & Hiking Expert Elle Matthews breaks down the most dog-friendly national parks in the Midwest and Northeast to help you plan a trip with your pup!

A man stands with his dog on a leash on a trail.

Photo by Kenneth Bosma

I previously covered dog-friendly national parks in the West, so don't forget to check out Part One here. Part two now focuses on national parks where you can bring your dogs in the Midwest and Northeast.

Midwest

A map showing the national parks in the midwest.
A view of a lake and trees in Voyageurs National Park.

Voyageurs National Park’s topography is most recently a result of the glacial period. An area of over 500 islands, 40% of this park is covered in lakes. The Kabetogama Peninsula is 75,000 acres of rolling hills, swamps, and small lakes. Enjoy the quiet surroundings with blue herons and beaver dams. The park has been a wildlife protection zone for the grey wolf since 1992. Tip-toeing around are roughly 50 wolves split into six to nine packs. This unspoiled Northwoods scenery is topped off with the aurora borealis year-round. The best time to see the lights is during the winter months.

This is a tough park to navigate without a boat. Luckily, there are more than enough options to rent in nearby areas. The park asks that you make sure your dogs are updated on their shots before you go as well. If you decide against a boat, the recreation trail by Rainy Lake is a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

Camping

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Outfitters and Tours

Ohio

1. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

A waterfall in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Photo by Niagara

Native Americans in the region gave the park its name, Cuyahoga, which means “crooked river.” In the center of the park runs the twisty Cuyahoga River for 22 miles along floodplains, valleys, and ravines. Just 15 minutes from Cleveland is this refuge away from the city with 110 miles of smiles — there are plenty of trails to explore. Dogs may stay in the park at The Inn but only in the provided kennels. Surrounding areas offer plenty of camping, backpacking, and kayaking.

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

Lodging

Michigan

1. Isle Royale National Park — Restricted

A rocky coast at Isle Royale National Park.

Photo by Tony Webster

Isle Royale National Park does not welcome pets to preserve the wolf population. Getting close to the park requires some work. Your options are to take a 6.5-hour ferry or a 30-minute ride via seaplane from Houghton, Michigan. From Copper Harbor, Michigan it is a 4.5-hour ferry or from Grand Portage, Minnesota, a 1.75-hour ferry to Windigo, or a 6.5-hour ferry to Rock Island.

Indiana

1. Indiana Dunes National Park

A dog licking his lips while standing in the sand.

Photo by Elle Matthews

From national lakeshore to national park in 2019, the Indiana Dunes are a giant playground for you and your pup. More than just sand dunes, the park also features wetlands, prairies, forests, and rivers. Indiana Dunes National Park is a treasure trove of nature, with over 1,100 flowering plant species and ferns as well as over 350 species of birds. Within the boundaries of Indiana’s first national park are four natural landmarks and one historical landmark, the Bailly Homestead.

Dogs may join you on any trail except the Great Marsh Trail, Pinhook Bog, and the equestrian section of the Glenwood Dunes Trail. Here’s a great pet guide to the park and more.

Camping

Hiking Visit AllTrails for an extensive list!

Beaches

  • West Beach
  • Kemil Beach
  • Dunbar Beach
  • Lakeview Beach and picnic area
  • Central Avenue Beach
  • Mount Baldy Beach

Explore Surrounding Areas

Missouri

1. Gateway Arch National Park

View of the Gateway Arch in Missouri.

Photo by Bup Hoff

Gateway Arch National Park’s location was set along the Mississippi with the intention for it to represent a gateway to the west. The world’s tallest arch, standing 630 feet high and staked as far as 60 feet below ground, is built to hold strong against earthquakes and sway up to 18 inches in high winds. Known today as the symbol of St. Louis, the arch was made in honor of western pioneers.

Have a relaxing day with your pup and walk along the river, or go on a boat cruise together. Only inside the arch is off-limits for those with four legs.

Lodging

Hiking

Take a Scenic Ride

Explore Surrounding Areas

North Dakota

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Two dogs in front of a sign that reads "Theodore Roosevelt National Park."

Photo by Kristen Radaich

Theodore Roosevelt was a rancher in the Dakota territory during the 1800s who preserved over 230 million acres of public land. The plan for a park in his dedication began shortly after his death in 1919. Medora, North Dakota, at the time was still valuable to ranchmen and they struggled with giving it up. After drought and overgrazing in the 1930s, the land was easily passed off to the federal government. There is a petrified forest and Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch in the park’s most visited south unit area.

The northern campground is just a short walk from the largest grassland in the nation. From the south side of the park at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, you’ll see herds of buffalo. Follow that up with a drive through the scenic park loop to see wild horses and prairie dogs.

Camping

Hiking

Take a Scenic Drive

  • North Unit on Hwy 85
  • Little Missouri River

Explore Surrounding Areas

South Dakota

1. Badlands National Park

View of Badlands National Park.

Photo by Bernard Spragg

The stripes that paint across the Badlands rock formations in Badlands National Park are the result of rushing rivers and seas millions of years ago. Powerful waters created the shape and the sweeping sediment that brushed the rocks and hardened, creating the vibrant and earthy reds, tans, and whites we see today. The terrain is still shifting and eroding at about one inch per year. In June and September, paleontologists offer a fossil preparation lab to teach you about what is involved in handling ancient artifacts. One visitor in 2010 found a sabertooth skull. With 244,000 acres to explore, findings like this are not unlikely.

Doggos are allowed to walk the backroads with you in the park. This gives them a chance to stretch their legs and see wildlife, like rabbits and birds. Maybe you’ll find some bones along the way.

Camping

Take a Scenic Drive

Explore Surrounding Areas

2. Wind Cave National Park

A dog looking into a field at Wind Cave National Park.

Photo courtesy of Wind Cave National Park, photo by Callie Tominsky

The Lakota Nation’s creation story says they were led to the sunlight. The caves represent organs, meat, and medicine, and after they emerged, the black hills were in the shape of a buffalo lying down and facing east. After this experience, the Lakota Nation developed a holistic approach called “Wolakota,” natural law encompassing all that exists, that includes all places viewed as sacred. What used to be submerged in the ocean is now some of the world’s most complex caves found at Wind Cave National Park. The very first caves designated as a national park have ceilings lined in honeycomb-structured calcite. Above the caves are 33,970 acres of forest and prairie.

Make Wind Cave worth the visit and find a sitter for a few hours so you can experience the caves. After you’ve toured the caves, the dog-friendly hiking areas within the park will take you about two hours to do. Or, make your way over to Custer State Park for access to even more of South Dakota’s impressive land and wildlife with a plethora of dog-friendly hikes and lakes for swimming.

Camping

Find a Dog-Sitter

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

Northeast

Map showing where Acadia National Park is in Maine.
View of the ocean from Acadia National Park.

Photo be Elle Matthews

Acadia is in the top 10 most-visited national parks and is well worth the visit. New England’s rocky coastline, mountains, and peaceful wilderness are truly special. Be the first in the nation to catch the day’s sunrise at the most eastern national park in the U.S.

French for a place of plenty, Acadia is true to its name. Dogs are welcome anywhere except Sand Beach, Echo Lake Beach, Duck Harbor Campground on Isle Au Haut, ladder trails, public buildings, and in drinking supply water.

Camping

Hiking

Scenic Drive

Explore Surrounding Areas

I hope this information is helpful! Check out Part Three if you're curious about dog-friendly national parks in the South. For free advice and other personalized recommendations, talk to a Camping & Hiking Expert here at Curated.

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Written By
Hello explorers and adventure seekers, my name's Elle (pronounced like the letter 'L') ​ I grew up in the midwest and knew I wanted nothing more than to be outside. So, I sold my car and used all that money to buy my backpacking equipment. I'd go on extended trips, weekend getaways, I'd even pop a t...

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