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Visiting National Parks with Your Dog

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Visiting National Parks with your dog is something to consider carefully.  Know in advance what to expect.  This will help you decide if bringing your dog will enhance the experience or if leaving him at a local kennel during your stay might work out better.  In general, if your dog does well on a leash or in a crate, it may work out fine.  The National Park Service web site  addresses the issue of pets thoroughly.  Below is their general guidance on visiting national parks with your dog.

Visiting National Parks with your dog 

In general, pets are permitted but must be restrained either on a leash not exceeding 6 feet in length, caged or crated at all times. Park Superintendents and Managers have the discretion to further restrict areas open to pets (i.e., trails, buildings, campgrounds may be off limits).

Restrictions on pets in parks are as much to protect your pet as to protect park resources. Following are some of the reasons parks give for regulating the presence of pets:
–When a loose pet chases a squirrel or raccoon, the wild animal’s ability to survive is threatened, and when it is threatened, it may react aggressively.
–There is a strong possibility in parks such as Yellowstone that your pet could become prey for bear, coyote, owl, or other predators.
–There is a possibility of exchange of diseases between domestic animals and wildlife. –Dogs, the most common traveling companion, are natural predators that may harass or even kill native wildlife that is protected within the park’s boundaries.
–The “scent of a predator” that dogs leave behind can disrupt or alter the behavior of native animals. –Pets may be hard to control, even on a leash, within confines of often narrow park trails and may trample or dig up fragile vegetation.
–Dog and cat feces add excessive nutrients and bacterial pollution to water, which decreases water quality and can also cause human health problems.
–Finally, lost domestic animals sometimes turn to preying on park wildlife and must be destroyed.

Some park webpages have lists of nearby kennels where you can leave your pet during your stay in the park. You can access information on the parks you plan to visit by going to the “Visit Your National Parks” website at http://www.nps.gov/parks.html. It is always best to check with the park(s) you are planning to visit for specific information and restrictions for pets.

Because specific regulations concerning dogs vary for each national park, it is imperative to check them for the park you plan to visit.  If you want to take your dog along on hikes, make sure they are allowed on the trails you choose.  Below are links to pet regulations for some of the most visited parks.

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Olympic National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yosemite National Park

Zion National Park

It is clear that the National Park Service has carefully considered where dogs can enjoy the parks with you. The same careful consideration by you in planning your trip will ensure that visiting national parks with your dog is an enjoyable experience for all.  Share your dog’s National Park adventures with us.


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