A Guide to Dog-Friendly National Parks: Pt. One - The West

Looking to explore some of the nation’s most beautiful landscapes with your four-legged friend? Check out this guide on dog-friendly national parks of the west!

Two women walk with their dogs on a trail in Joshua Tree National Park.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Tree National Park

You inevitably have to make sacrifices with a dog. My goal is to show you that even though U.S. National Parks implement restrictions, they are still worth visiting with your pup. National parks have a wide variety of sights and experiences to offer that you and your best friend can both enjoy.

Why Don’t National Parks Allow Dogs?

A dog sticking his head out the window of a car with trees in the background.

Photo by Elle Matthews

An article titled “Bringing Dogs into Parks can be Dangerous” written by Our National Parks Miami quickly clarified for me why there are so many rules set in place for dogs in national parks. It seems natural to allow dogs to explore the outdoors with you, but the National Park Service (NPS) focuses on preserving and restoring parks for future generations to enjoy. Some reasons why bringing dogs can be dangerous are:

  • The scent left behind from dogs sends signals to certain wildlife that a predator is near, so they may not eat and hide in fear.
  • Dogs could become the prey of mountain lions, bears, coyotes, and so on. They could also react to seeing other wildlife and create a dangerous situation.
  • Insects could pass diseases to dogs, and dogs could carry diseases that spread to park wildlife.
  • Historical structures, archeological sites, and sacred grounds cannot be replaced. Even the smartest dogs can be clumsy.

B.A.R.K. Ranger Principles

Bark Rangers is a new program that teaches you how to be the best dog mom or dog dad while at the park.

Check with the park’s visitor center and see if you can earn a Bark Ranger badge and treat!

Here’s what B.A.R.K. stands for:

Bag your pet’s waste Always keep your dog on a leash no longer than 6 feet. Respect wildlife Know where you can go

General Rules

  • Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • Don’t leave the dog unattended.
  • Carry poop bags and throw bagged waste into the trash.

Generally, all park trails and backcountry areas are not pet-friendly.

Dogs are allowed in parking lots, pull-offs, some campgrounds, bicycle paths, or on any road where a car can go.

Tips For Hiking With Dogs

  • Bring a leash and poop bags
  • Bring food and treats
  • Bring water and a bowl
  • Pack paw protection

Keep Your Pup Safe

  • Stay on the trail.
  • Watch for dangerous plants and animals.
  • Look for any signs of exhaustion, heatstroke, or injuries.
  • Know what natural water sources are safe; don’t trust the rest.

There are a lot of national parks to cover and dog-friendly links to follow. Check out the list below of the most and the least dog-friendly national parks!

List of the top dog lovin national parks and the least fido-friendly national parks.

The Western States

Below is a list of national parks in the western states with information on where to stay, what to do, and where to bring your dog (or not!). For similar information, check out this article on national parks in the South and this article for parks in the Midwest and Northeast.

California

Map showing the national parks in the state of California.
A husky standing outside with Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in the background.

Photo by Kazisdaman

There was a man who believed shoes are “cruel and silly instruments of torture, at once uncivilized, unhuman and unnecessary.” He stood proud among the Sequoia trees as the first European to discover Mariposa Grove, merely probing for gold until he stumbled into the Sierra Nevada Mountains — his name was Galen Clark. His life forever altered, he became dedicated to teaching about conservation. He shared good humor, warmth, and wisdom with travelers of the area. Clark was a well-known guardian and friend of this park, and his body is now buried in Yosemite Valley. The waterfalls, domes, valleys, glaciers, and peaks are as rich as their history and they won’t disappoint.

Yosemite has long been loved by explorers. Bring the love of your life, your doggo, and walk together with the spirit of Galen Clark on an 11.5-mile hike to see Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, and the Merced River meet the spirit of Clark on the Yosemite Valley Loop. Drive the famous Tioga Road, or take a dip in the local swimming hole at Rainbow Pools. There are plenty of dog-friendly hiking paths and campgrounds.

Camping / Lodging

Scenic Drives

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

Find a Dog-Sitter

2. Redwood National Park

Redwood trees in a forest.

Photo by Michael Schweppe

Redwood trees emerged not long after the dinosaurs; they are older than flowers and are the tallest trees on Earth. California is one of the last remaining places you can go to meet the majestic redwood trees. The oldest redwood revealed here is 2,000 years old. Unfortunately, most are younger due to the never-ending battle with logging. The California gold rush came sweeping in and left only 5% of the old-growth coastal forest. Today, climate change is the redwoods’ biggest threat. If you’d like to be a part of saving the redwoods, there are opportunities available. Following pet restrictions when you visit is a helpful contribution as well.

Dogs are welcome in select campgrounds, beaches, picnic areas, parking lots, paved roads, overlooks, and vista points. Choices within the national park boundaries are small, but the surrounding forest area offers more freedom for Fido to explore the trails. Schedule time for yourself by looking into doggie daycare.

Camping

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

Scenic Views

Find a Dog-Sitter

3. Pinnacles National Park

View of Pinnacles National Park.

Photo by Samartur 

In 1891, Pinnacles became the talk of the nation. It was praised and sought after because of the beautiful rocks there. Schuyler Hain traveled from Michigan to see it for himself and eventually became the “father of the Pinnacles.” He contributed to its establishment as a national monument in 1908. The Bacon family were friends and neighbors to Hain and were highly involved in the fight to preserve and enjoy the land. The Bacon Ranch was acquired by NPS in 2006. Finally, Pinnacles National Park was born in 2012. The national park works with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to learn how they resource the land and what is important to them. In 2013 the Amah Mutsun Land Trust was formed. Allowing the Amah Mutsun tribe to tend plant life and practice traditional customs on 100,000 acres of private and public land including Pinnacles. They work together with land management to find better-growing conditions for plant life based on climate change. They consult with Pinnacles National Park about the federally endangered California Condor in hopes of educating the cultural meanings and restoring the species. There are over 70 members of the tribe that volunteer for cultural events held at Pinnacles. Tribal chairman Valentin Lopez said, “Creator gave us the responsibility to take care of Mother Earth and all living things. We have to find a way to live up to that responsibility.”

There is only one main road running east to west through the park. Dog-friendly camping is on the east. However, its well-known and most-talked-about pinnacles, caves, and peaks are in the west. Driving across the whole park only takes two hours, so take your time and enjoy the view! Utilize the dog-sitters for a few short hours so you can walk through and see inside the caves.

Camping

Hiking

Scenic Drive

Explore Surrounding Areas

Find a Dog-Sitter

4. Lassen Volcanic National Park

A waterfall near Lassen National Park.

Burney Falls in Shasta-Trinity, only 45 minutes away from Lassen National Park. Photo by Elle Matthews

California’s most recent volcanic eruption commenced in 1914 when Lassen Peak periodically spewed ash and steam. A year later, that activity intensified when small lava flow became dense and destructive, leading to debris avalanches and massive volcanic mudflows. Lassen Volcanic National Park’s main attraction was ongoing until 1921. Lassen Peak was created from volcanic eruptions. There are five varieties of volcanoes within the whole park, as well as mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground.

Enhance your journey through Lassen Volcanic National Park with a roadside audio tour. There are no hikes here that are safe for dogs. The volcanic soil and hydrothermal areas could mercilessly damage your canine’s feet. Plan visits to nearby areas instead!

Camping

Group Camping

Scenic Drive

  • Bumpass Hell Overlook
  • Lassen Peak Viewpoint
  • Kings Creek Scenic pullout
  • Sundial Bridge

Explore Surrounding Areas

5. Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park

A man and his dog near the Visitor Center in Sequoia National Park.

A man and his dog near the Visitor Center in Sequoia National Park. Photo by Jing Ke

A sequoia tree’s roots run shallow and wide; they use each other's roots for balance and support. Under low-intensity heat, sequoia pine cones open up and spread seeds. Fire has been used since the 1960s as a way to rejuvenate and protect the forests. In California's 2021 fire season, an estimated two to three thousand sequoias were killed. The park is home to the largest living single-stem organism by volume in the world; the General Sherman tree is predicted to be about 2,200 years old. Behind General Sherman is the President tree in second place, then the General Grant and Lincoln trees.

The campgrounds are plenty, but the activities within the boundaries are limited. Check out this list of dog-friendly trails adjacent to the park.

Camping

Hiking

  • Keys View Trail (0.2 mi)

Scenic Drive

Explore Surrounding Areas

  • Sequoia National Forest
  • Giant Sequoia National Monument

6. Joshua Tree National Park

A dog on a leash on a dirt trail.

Dog on the Oasis of Mara trail in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo courtesy of Joshua Tree National Park

The Joshua tree name is a biblical reference; the branches represent arms pointing toward the promised land. In the 1930s, Joshua trees were being ripped out of the ground by the truckload and brought back to the cities as popular household or yard decorations. Minerva Hoyt regularly visited, appreciated, and exhibited the desert plants to major cities. She eventually became a conservationist chairwoman for California and pushed to protect the area for years and in 1935, Joshua Tree National Monument was established.

Hoyt passed away 10 years later, our voice for Joshua Tree invisible in the wind. Then, 300,000 acres were given out for people to do as they please. It wasn't until 1994 that Joshua Tree was brought back under the government's wing of protection. According to Cronkite News, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will determine whether or not Joshua Trees will be a permanent endangered species in April 2022.

Joshua Trees has dog-friendly campgrounds. The 4x4 roads are a wonderful opportunity to walk around the park. Just make sure to visit at the right time of year, as the temperatures get high.

Camping

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

7. Death Valley National Park

A woman hiking in the desert with two dogs.

Hiking near Artist's Palette in Death Valley National Park. Photo by  George Lamson

The largest national park in the lower 48 states, Death Valley features three million acres of desert, mountains, canyons, salt flats, dunes, flash floods, dangerous cactuses, poisonous snakes, mountain lions, you name it. It is full of curious wonders, like waters saltier than the ocean, large craters known as Maars, and Badwater Basin as the lowest point in America at 282 feet below sea level.

Don’t forget water and dog booties for this trip. Pets are not welcome on any trails, except the few listed. All campgrounds and some lodging locations welcome puppers and service dogs are allowed in The Oasis Resort at Death Valley. It’s worth a visit, just make sure you go at the right time of year for your baby’s safety.

Camping / Lodging

Hiking

Scenic Drive

Explore Surrounding Areas

8. Channel Islands National Park — Restricted

View from Channel Islands National Park.

Photo by David Wan

With proper permits, a service dog may join you at Channel Islands National Park. Pets are not allowed in the Islands.

Nevada

Map showing where the national parks are in Nevada.
Mountains in Great Basin National Park.

Photo by Frank Kovalchek

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees stand high up above the treeline. Unwavering against fierce weather, they are some of the oldest trees on Earth. One glacier remains from the Great Basin’s glacial formation 10,000 years ago — look for it in the Lehman Cirque above the Lehman rock glacier. Shift your eyes to the sky when the sun goes down for an especially clear and starry night. Great Basin Astronomy Festival offers telescope viewing, art in the dark, and discussions about constellations that strike the sky above Great Basin. The fascinating elements to Nevada’s national park aren’t just above, but also below. On the walls of the Upper Pictograph Cave are drawings from 1,000 to 1,300 A.D. when the Fremont people inhabited the land.

The Great Basin National Park is remarkably unique and truly one of a kind. Next to the national park is a dog-sitter who can give you an opportunity to see the caves. There is a moderately challenging, dog-friendly trail within Great Basin and campgrounds as well! This visit is both Fido-friendly and fascinating; I hope you get the chance to experience it.

Camping

  • Lower Lehman Creek
  • Upper Lehman Creek
  • Wheeler Peak
  • Baker Creek
  • Grey Cliffs
  • Snake Creek

Hiking

Scenic Drive

Explore Surrounding Areas

Find a Dog-Sitter

Oregon

Map showing where in Oregon Crater Lake National Park is.
View of Crater Lake National Park.

Photo by Elle Matthews

Native Americans say the bluebird is grey before it dives into the waters of Crater Lake. Crater Lake’s story began when Mount Mazama erupted and created a large depression that eventually filled with rain and snow. At almost 2,000 feet deep, it is the ninth-deepest lake in the world, and the islands floating on its surface are made of volcanic cinder cones.

Boat tours offer you a chance at a closer look, and service dogs may join the tour or any trail. Pets may be left in your vehicle as long as it does not put them in any danger by doing so. Look at the lake from a different angle by driving the rim and stopping at any of the 30 scenic pull-offs. Then, make sure you sleep under a night sky as clear as the blue lake.

Camping

Scenic Drive

Hiking

Washington

Map showing where the national parks are in Washington.
A dog standing in a field of flowers.

Photo by Elle Matthews

"If in the making of the West, Nature had what we call parks in mind, places for rest, inspiration, and prayers, this Rainier region must surely be one of them." — John Muir

Mount Rainier prevails at 14,410 feet high as the largest volcanic peak in the Cascade Range. It’s included in the Ring of Fire — 450 volcanoes that sit on the edge of the Earth’s tectonic plates, 75% of which are still active. Rainier’s last known eruption occurred 1,000 years ago. Its sporadic eruptions have created the face you see today.

The only hiking trail that dogs are allowed in is a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) within the park. In this dog-friendly travel guide, there are several options listed for pet-friendly hiking. I’ve conveniently included links for you to use for further details on the areas.

Camping / Lodging

Scenic Drive

  • Sunrise Point
  • Chinook Pass Overlook
  • Tipsoo Lake Overlook
  • Suntop Lookout
  • Martha Falls Viewpoint

Explore Surrounding Areas

  • Goat Lake Trail and Glacier View from FS Road 59 at Mt. Tahoma Trails
  • High Rock Lookout near FR 52
  • Forest Service Road trails in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest such as Sheep Lake just east of Chinook Pass
  • Little Mashel Falls Trail (5 mi)
  • Noble Knob

2. North Cascades National Park

A river between mountains and forests.

Photo by Elle Matthews

The scenic drive to end all scenic drives. There are 75 miles of eye-popping pine and cedar trees among rugged granite peaks, over 300 glaciers, and countless waterfalls up and down and around every turn. Diving deeper into North Cascades National Park’s magnificence, there are gray wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, wolverines, river otters, cougars, lynx, and bobcats, oh my!

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through the Cascades invites you to hike with dogs! The scenic drive and the PCT are the only pet-friendly activities within the North Cascades National Park. Luckily, the bordering Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Chelan Lake National Recreation Area have a long list of dog-friendly camping and hiking, and I’ve only listed a fraction of it.

Camping

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

3. Olympic National Park

Some kayakers in a body of water with mountains in the background.

Photo by Elle Matthews

The subalpine forest and wildflower meadow, temperate forest, and rugged Pacific shore are spread across the protected land at Olympic National Park. Still inhabited by native tribes, the landscape has not been considerably altered by English settlers.

Visit during April, May, October, or November for the grey whale’s migration season. Take a dip with your pup and peer 60 feet below Crescent Lake’s crystal blue waters. Take your pick from plenty of stunning trails and beaches between the Hoh and Quinault Reservations, then pick any campground.

Camping / Lodging

  • Kalaloch Campground
  • South Beach Campground
  • Mora Campground
  • Fairholme Campground
  • Kalaloch Lodge

Beaches

  • All Kalaloch beaches
  • Ruby Beach south
  • South Beach
  • Rialto Beach (0.5 mi stretch north to Ellen Creek)

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

Colorado

Map showing where the national parks are in Colorado.
Two people and a dog looking at a sign in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Photo by Chuck Cars

The name for Western Colorado’s Black Canyon is derived from certain areas within the canyon that only see 33 minutes of sunlight a day. The state’s deepest and narrowest point of the canyon plunges 2,000 feet down to meet the Gunnison River. Black Canyon was added as an International Dark Sky Park in 2015. Visit classic Western Colorado and enjoy some peace and quiet. It’s much less busy here than Estes Park and isn’t far from the town of Gunnison, which has friendly people and great food.

Bring your pupper to see the massive drops across overlooks, explore the handful of trails, and lay under the stars in this peaceful and underrated canyon.

Camping

Scenic Drive

  • Tomichi Point
  • Chasm Viewpoint
  • Painted Wall
  • High Point
  • Warner Point

Hiking

Find a Dog-Sitter

  • Stoney Hill Pet Lodge
  • Iron Will Dog Lodge
  • Pearl's Pet Lodge
  • Critter Sitters and Outfitters

Explore Surrounding Areas

2. Mesa Verde National Park

Some ruins in Mesa Verde National Park.

Photo by Ken Lund

Mesa Verde translates to “green table,” referring to its juniper and pinyon trees. The Puebloan civilization was a unique group; it is believed they relied on rain and snow as their water source. The area has cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers, abundant rainflow, and periods of drought — certainly a challenging environment. Farming and community helped the culture to thrive until they abandoned everything. After so much advancement, it’s still a mystery as to why.

Bring binoculars or try the kennel available within the park that gives you the chance to see the largest archeological preserve in the United States up close.

Camping / Lodging

Scenic Drive

  • Mesa Top Loop Road

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

Find a Dog-Sitter

3. Rocky Mountain National Park

Snow in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Photo by Elle Matthews

The Rocky Mountains are the second-longest mountain range in the world and supply around one-quarter of the United States’ water. The Peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park will get you high, ranging from 7,500 to 12,259 feet. Here you can drive the United States’ highest continual highway. Trail Ridge Road takes you up 12,183 feet. Have a hand at a classic haunted Colorado spot, The Stanley Hotel. Otherwise knofmiwn as the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, the hotel has several ghosts who roam the grounds. In addition to hosting grizzlies and marmots, there are rare animals such as lynx and wolverines in the park. The Rocky Mountain National Park has done well in preserving its ecosystems: montane, subalpine, and alpine tundra.

Hiking in this wonderfully protected area with a pup is limited to the campgrounds and overlooks. NPS offers a massive list of dog-friendly hikes nearby. Colorado is a favorable state for hiking with pups.

Camping

Scenic Drive

Explore Surrounding Areas

Find a Dog-Sitter

4. Great Sand Dunes National Park

A person and a dog running in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Photo by Elle Matthews

Between the San Juan Mountains and the Sangre De Cristo Mountains is the San Luis Valley. Opposing winds carrying eroded sediment from these two ranges continuously shape the tallest sand dunes in North America, found in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Some dunes can get up to 4,000 feet, which is taller than three Eiffel Towers stacked on top of each other! Within these massive piles of dunes live sand snakes, lizards, beetles, wasps, moths, flies, and spiders. The reptiles slither into the sand, known as sand swimming, and kangaroo rats live at the base of the dunes.

This is a playful environment that is a blast for you and your dog. Dogs are allowed to play in the front range area of the sand dunes. Bring them to Medano Creek to cool off when you're done. Then head east toward Rio Grande National Forest and you’ll find an alien site along the way!

Camping

  • Pinon Flats Campground

Hiking

  • Dunes Overlook Trail

Scenic Drive

  • Medano Pass Primitive Road

Utah

Map showing the national parks in Utah.
A woman stands under a rock formation in Arches National Park.

Photo by Elle Matthews

A French trapper’s “I was here” engravings are found throughout the southwest, but especially at Arches National Park, thanks to Denis Julien who inscribed June 9, 1844 as the first dependable date recorded in the park. It has 2,000 arches, primarily made of sandstone — there’s nowhere else in the world with as many stone arches in such close proximity to each other. Other rock formations you’ll find here are spires, mesas, windows, natural bridges, and balanced rocks. Erosion has played an important role in their creation and continues to influence the shape of their future. Monsoon season is typically July to September, bringing in afternoon rains and more frequent flash floods. Arches is an incredibly busy national park with 1.24 million visitors in 2020 alone.

Dogs are unfortunately not even allowed at any of the overlooks in Arches. Surrounding areas are plentiful and offer all kinds of fun. If you’d like to see and experience more of the park, it would be best to find a sitter in the area.

Camping

Explore Surrounding Areas

2. Canyonlands National Park

View of Canyonlands National Park.

Photo by Andre Engels

The Canyonlands is divided into four regions: The Needles, Island in the Sky, The Maze, and the two rivers, Green and Colorado. Island in the Sky is the most accessible by car. Here you’ll find a variety of sandstone and rock stacked on top of each other, showing years and years of history. Arches National Park is just 30 miles away, so hop over and say hi to the neighbors.

Dogs are not allowed on any trails or backcountry, not even at any overlooks in Canyonlands National Park.

Camping / Lodging

Explore Surrounding Areas

  • Dead Horse Point
  • La Sal National Forest
  • Green River State Park

Find a Dog-Sitter

3. Bryce Canyon National Park

View of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Photo by W. Bulach

This area first opened as a National Monument in 1923, then became a Utah National Park in 1925. In 1928, the park's boundaries expanded, acquiring Bryce Canyon National Park. The name, however, is a misleading title for Southern Utah’s series of amphitheaters. The park is named after Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon pioneer and settler of Paria Valley, because his cattle would often drift into the depths of the nearby canyon walls and not return.

Highway 63 leads you to the main area of the park that has the visitor center, dog-friendly campgrounds, and overlooks. Only 2.5 hours from Zion, Bryce Canyon National Park is the more secluded and less visited of Utah's national parks. Take this opportunity for you and your pup to listen to the sounds of the hoodoos (tall and thin spiraled rocks) whistle and whisper as the wind travels through the park. Their name refers to the Hoodoo spirituality and the belief in powers within natural forms. Breathe in the sights and sounds on a walk with your dog between sunrise and sunset points for a bite of Bryce Canyon’s best views.

Camping

Hiking

  • Rim Trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points
  • Shared-use-pathway 18 miles from the visitor center to Inspiration Point

Explore Surrounding Areas

Scenic Views

  • Farview Point
  • Agua Canyon
  • Ponderosa Canyon
  • Rainbow Point
  • Yovimpa Point

4. Capitol Reef National Park

View from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center.

Photo by Benito Roveran

Tracing sandstone and siltstone back to the Jurassic Age, Capitol Reef’s rock layers tell us the story of an environment mixed with rivers, swamps, and deserts. You’ll even find American beavers poking around. The Waterpocket Fold gives this park its name because of the seemingly coral-like landscape. On the edge of the Colorado Plateau is Capitol Reef National Park. Check out what’s there and what’s around. It doesn’t take long to get through its 21-mile out-and-back road, so why not take a gander!

Camping

Hiking

Scenic Drive

See more about this scenic drive from the NPS website

Explore Surrounding Areas

5. Zion National Park

Two dogs with backpacks on walking in a red rock canyon with a river running through it.

Photo by Deborah Lee Soltesz

Erosion from “the wild and free” Virgin River created the steep cliffs and canyons of Zion National Park. The earliest inhabitants hunted mammoths, giant sloths, and camels over 12,000 years ago. When the large animals died off due to climate change and overhunting about 8,000 years ago, smaller animals and seeds became the main food source. When resources started running short in the mid-1800s, a Mormon and a Paiute guide walked into the main canyon to see if it was a suitable area to farm. As it was, the area began its developments with Mormon settlers.

As an honor to the Paiute, President Taft approved the name Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909. Eventually realizing that locals referred to the monument as Zion, a requested name change made its way to Washington D.C. The word “Zion” refers to a place of spiritual sanctuary, a religious utopia, and a final gathering place in the last days. President Woodrow approved and by 1919, the park went from Mukuntuweap National Monument to Zion National Park. Visiting numbers skyrocketed from 300 in 1914 to almost 2,000 in 1919. To this day, Zion is one of the most visited national parks.

There is one gorgeous trail open to dogs that runs along the Virgin River and has spectacular views of the canyon. Dog boarding is available nearby if you feel like trying different trails such as Angels Landing, the most dangerous hike in America.

Camping

Hiking

Scenic Views

Find a Dog-Sitter

Explore Surrounding Areas

Montana

Map showing where in Montana Glacier National Park was.
A dog laying in the snow with mountains in the background.

Photo by Elle Matthews

Northwest Montana’s Glacier National Park is “the backbone of the world” to Native Americans and “the crown of the continent” to early explorers. There’s plenty of love to go around with hundreds of mountains, lakes, streams, and glaciers across over a million acres. Glaciation carved out the beautiful sweeping valleys, rugged peaks, canyons, and jagged matterhorns, giving the park its name today. Its landscape is a gift from the most recent Ice Age. Sadly, the glaciers have been shrinking since 1979. A staggering 25 glaciers remain out of the 150 we had in 1900. The park overlies the continental divide where Pacific and Arctic airs meet, causing extremely unpredictable temperature changes. For example, 100 degrees could drop within 24 hours, so prepare for any weather.

Glacier National Park doesn’t allow dogs on any trails, but the scenery it offers makes the visit exciting and worthy of your time. Check out Quirky Travel Guy’s mile-by-mile guide to Glacier’s scenic drive over Logan’s Pass.

Camping

Explore Surrounding Areas

Hiking

Scenic Drive

Idaho

Map showing where Yellowstone National Park is in Idaho.

1. Yellowstone National Park, (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming)

A hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Photo by Frank Kovalchek

Like kids in a cafeteria, a “Lunch Counter—for bears only” was once featured in our nation's very first national park, Yellowstone National Park. The bison population dropped down to a mere 23 in the late 19th century due to over-hunting. Many lessons have been learned since then; like bear-proofing trash and protecting the bison that have been around since the prehistoric era.

In a park that stretches across 2.2 million acres, there's still much more to be discovered. Sleeping beneath the highest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states rests an active supervolcano. Much bigger than previously thought, Yellowstone’s invisible supervolcano holds a magma chamber that could fill the Grand Canyon 2.5 times. In 2020, studies confirmed a magma reservoir at a depth of 12 to 28 miles and the Yellowstone hotspot plume that descends to the Earth’s mantle and pulls up hot rock.

Camping West Entrance

  • Madison Campground: Located next to a world-class fly fishing destination, the Madison River.
  • Norris Campground: Something for everyone, these sites offer refuge under shady pines and an opening to a meadow where buffalo roam.

Northeast Entrance (Cooke City)

  • Tower Fall Campground: Near Yellowstone’s best trails and views, like Tower Fall Waterfall, Mount Washburn, and Lamar Valley.

East Entrance (Cody)

Northeast Entrance (Cooke City)

North Entrance (Gardiner)

South Entrance (Grand Teton)

Explore Surrounding Areas

  • Gallatin National Forest
  • The Boundary Trail (5 mi)
  • Pine Creek Falls Trail (5.1 mi)
  • Suce Creek Trail (3.3)
  • Hyalite Reservoir and Hyalite Creek Trail
  • Paradise Valley: Chico Hot Springs Scenic Drive
  • Geyser Basin Tour
  • Firehole Lake Drive
  • Gardiner to Cooke City
  • Lamar Valley
  • Beartooth Highway

New Mexico

Map of national parks in New Mexico.
The inside of Carlsbad Caverns.

Photo by WTCR

The landforms that created Carlsbad, as well as the Guadalupe Mountains, are by the ancient Capitan Reef. As water slipped through breaks in the limestone over the years, the combination of elements crafted the unusual and intricate formations found in the Carlsbad Caverns. The Big Room is the largest accessible cave chamber in North America. Enter the cave 755 feet under the ground by stairs or elevator and gaze at the 4,000-foot-long limestone walls stretched beneath Earth's surface.

Known as a “destination landmark,” the national park is in a remote location with not much else around it. Carlsbad Caverns Trading Company offers temperature-controlled kennels available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Give yourself half a day so you can witness all the diverse sights.

Camping

  • Backcountry camping only. No dog-friendly camping is available within Carlsbad National Park.

Scenic Drive

Find a Dog-Sitter

Explore Surrounding Areas

2. White Sands National Park

A dog laying in white sand at White Sands National Park.

Photo by Jon Hurd

White Sands National Park is the world's largest gypsum dune field. Gypsum is commonly found from evaporated waters, so the body of water that left behind 275 miles of white sands had nowhere to go but up. The sands are not in fact white but transparent in color — the constant movement and the sun is what gives them the white appearance. Visiting White Sands is a surreal experience. In 1969, Oryx, an East-African species of antelope was imported and nearly 3,000 of them walk the dunes today. These 450-pound gazelle can survive because they can go extended periods of time without water and they feed on yucca grass. The park tells stories of human presence 10,000 years ago with Ice-Age-fossilized footprints.

Gypsum crystals are the secret ingredient that keep this sand much cooler than the sand you may be familiar with at the beach, so you know your dog's paws will be safe here. Let your woofer feel the white sand between his toes in this ultra-friendly national park.

Camping

  • Backcountry Only: There are 10 available sites at $3 each on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Hiking

Scenic Drive

Wyoming

Map showing where Grand Teton National Park is in Wyoming.
A view of the Grand Tetons with a green field in front of them.

Photo by Michael Gabler

The Teton is one of the youngest mountain ranges in North America. Earthquakes gave the Teton Range its shape by rising the mountains up toward the west and falling down to the east, creating Jackson Hole. It took 50 years. three government acts, and John D. Rockefeller’s notable support and effort to establish this national park. Rockefeller bought around 200,000 acres of land, donated it to the government, and requested it serve as an expansion to Jackson Hole National Monument.

Bill Briggs was the first person to ski down Mount Teton in 1971 and he is currently the ski director for the Snow King ski resort. Just a few of the beloved features of the park are eight mountain peaks that extend higher than 12,000 feet, numerous lakes that make up the Snake River Watershed, and around 10,000 elk.

The 42-mile scenic loop covers most of the top 10 must-see sights in Grand Teton National Park. Start from the north, south, or east and feast your eyes on some of America’s best. The hiking paths are few but the Bridger-Teton National Forest next door is the third largest outside of Alaska.

Camping

Scenic Drive

  • 42-mile scenic loop
  • Inner Loop
  • Outer Loop
  • Mormon Row
  • Snake River Overlook
  • Signal Mountain
  • Jackson Lake Overview
  • Oxbow Bend
  • Jenny Lake
  • Kayak, canoe, or motorboat on Jackson Lake

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

  • Bridger-Teton National Forest
  • Ski Lake Trail (5 mi): Out and back with a lake at the end for swimming!
  • Jackson, WY
  • Dog-friendly restaurants

Arizona

Map showing where the national parks in Arizona are.
A woman and her dog sitting at the top of the Grand Canyon.

Photo by Patrick Hendry

“The elements that unite to make the Grand Canyon the most sublime spectacle in nature are multifarious and exceedingly diverse.” — John Wesley Powell

The most studied geologic landscape in the world, the Grand Canyon outlines three out of the four eras in geological time and five out of the seven life zones, the same as if you were to travel from Mexico to Canada. Over the last six million years, the Colorado River has carved the seventh natural wonder of the world for you and the ones you love most; your dogs.

The pet-friendly, 277-mile-long South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is open year-round. Follow standard guidelines, don’t chase the rock squirrels — they bite back — and listen for the natural sounds of wind and water traveling through the Grand Canyon.

Camping / Lodging

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

  • Williams
  • Flagstaff

Scenic Drive

  • Grandview Point
  • Moran Point
  • Lipan Point
  • Navajo Point
  • Yavapai Point

Find a Dog-Sitter

2. Saguaro National Park

A dog standing in front of cactuses.

Photo by Ken Bosma

The Saguaro National Park was made to protect the saguaro cactus, as the Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world where it grows. They can grow for as many as 150 to 200 years, grow as tall as 40 to 60 feet, and weigh between 3,200 and 4,800 pounds. Characterized as a foundation species, saguaro cactuses offer support to a large number of species. When the cactus dies, its wooden ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture. Native Americans used it to make water canteens.

There are not many overlooks or dog-friendly trails, which is probably a good thing because those cactus needles are everywhere. You can stay in the air-conditioning and take one of the few scenic drives or find a dog-sitter in Tuscan, less than 20 miles away.

Camping / Lodging

  • Backcountry only with permits and no dogs.
  • DoubleTree Suites Tucson Airport Hotel: 17 minutes from the east entrance

Scenic Drive

  • Cactus Forest Scenic Loop: 8 miles
  • Bajada Loop Drive

Hiking

Explore Surrounding Areas

3. Petrified Forest National Park

A dog sitting in a red rock cave.

Photo by Elle Matthews

When petrified wood is buried beneath mineral-rich soil and cut from oxygen, over millions of years, the wood will become stone—quartz crystals that still appear to look like wood. Estimated to be between 210 and 218 million years old, petrified logs are heavier than most woods and do not burn the same way. Puerco Pueblo is a village in the Rio Puerco with over 100 rooms built by the Puebloan people, the same group that built the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. This is also the only national park that is part of Route 66. The minerals within petrified wood shine brilliant white quartz, manganese-oxide blue, purple, black, iron oxide yellow, red, and brown.

Petrified Forest National Park is easily the most dog-friendly national park. Bring your doggo on any backcountry hikes and stay awhile! A $20 entrance fee to the park gives you seven days’ worth of access, or go hiking on any of its trails and stay at a nearby campground.

Camping

Backcountry

Hiking

I hope you find this helpful! If you're curious about where you can bring your dogs in other national parks in the Midwest and Northeast, check out Part Two of this article, and for parks in the South, check out Part Three here. For free advice and other recommendations, talk to a Camping and Hiking Expert here on 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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