A Dog-Friendly Ranking of the 10 Most Visited National Parks in the U.S.

Posted by Lauren Barker

The National Park Service oversees 419 parks, 61 of which are major national parks. Each year they draw in more than 330 million visitors from around the world. Many travelers want their pets to share in these bucket-list experiences, but how dog-friendly are these natural wonders?

Because certain restrictions have been put in place to protect undisturbed natural areas, wildlife, other visitors and Fido himself, our national parks can seem a bit dog-unfriendly at first glance. Dogs are typically welcome in developed areas, some campgrounds, and on various trails, but the rules vary per park. In this blog post, we take a look at the top 10 most visited parks of 2018 according to the National Park Service and rank them on pet-friendliness. Grab your pup’s leash and let’s #findyourpark!

10. Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park, CO
These guys appreciate the epic views of the Rockies. Photo by @muddogmike403 & @the0nlynikib0nes

Rocky Mountain National Park, just outside of Denver, was the third most visited national park in 2018. While the park's trails, rivers and wilderness might seem perfect for dogs to explore with their humans, its natural conditions are highly preserved and protected. Unfortunately, only two-legged explorers can venture off the paved roads. Fortunately, Fido can still get his fill of nature on a scenic drive along the 48-mile Trail Ridge Road, which connects Estes Park on the east to Grand Lake on the west. He'll get to admire the expansive views of the Rockies in every direction, and might even spot bighorn sheep, elk and pikas. Your dog is also welcome on ski, snowshoe and hiking trails at nearby Grand Lake Touring Center, and on hiking trails at Lilly Mountain in Estes Park.

If one day isn't enough in the Rockies, dogs are welcome to camp with you at Winding River Resort Village in Grand Lake, CO. For a unique stay, book a night at Snow Mountain Ranch Yurts in Granby, CO where dogs can stay for an additional fee of $25 per pet, per night.

9. Glacier National Park

Kalispell, MT
"The mountains are nice; lunch would be nicer." Photo by BringFido

Glacier National Park on Montana’s northern border boasts snow-capped peaks and lush valleys carved out by glaciers over two million years ago. Only 25 active glaciers remain, but the landscape they’ve left behind is something to behold, making this the 10th most visited national park of 2018. Dogs aren't allowed on the park's trails, lakeshores or backcountry hiking. However, you can take your best friend with you on the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road. This 50-mile drive is usually open from late June through October, when the road is clear from snow. Stop for a picnic lunch at the dog-friendly Avalanche Creek picnic area, then cruise toward Logan Pass, the highest point in the park.

Along the way, watch for bighorn sheep, marmots, mountain goats and the occasional grizzly bear. You’ll also see mountainsides of wildflowers and waterfalls, and you may even spot the park's own Bark Ranger, Gracie. If your pup wants to hike, head south to Flathead National Forest, where dogs are welcome on 2,249 miles of trails. Spend a few nights at St. Mary East Glacier KOA and let Fido make friends at their Kamp K9 dog park. The KOA also offers on-site pet-sitting services for a minimal fee, giving you the opportunity to explore other areas of the park where Fido isn’t welcome.

8. Zion National Park

Springdale, UT
"Are you coming or what?" Photo by BringFido

Known for its iconic red rock slot canyons, rivers and sandstone cliffs, Zion National Park in southwest Utah was the fourth most visited national park in 2018. It ranks 8th on our list, as dogs are not allowed on the park’s shuttle system or many of its trails. But your pup is welcome on the Pa’rus Trail, a 3.5-mile round-trip paved path that follows the Virgin River from South Campground to Canyon Junction. Pause to take in the gorgeous sunsets reflected on The Watchman, Zion’s landmark peak. Canine adventurers can also join you on a drive through one of Utah’s most stunning landscapes along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.

If you want to spend the night, your pooch is welcome at the South Campground and Watchman Campground, as well as several hotels in Springdale, UT. You can also grab a bite to eat on the dog-friendly patio of MeMe’s Cafe in Springdale, a favorite of BringFido travelers!

7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Gatlinburg, TN
Dogs can join you on a hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by BringFido

Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. It is the most visited national park year after year, and ranks 7th on our list thanks to its two dog-friendly trails. The Gatlinburg Trail is a relatively flat path which follows the Little Pigeon River 1.9 miles each way from Sugarlands Visitor Center to the edge of downtown Gatlinburg. The Oconaluftee River Trail runs 1.5 miles each way along the Oconaluftee River from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center toward the town of Cherokee, NC. Dogs are also welcome at many of the campgrounds and picnic areas, and can join you on several scenic drives. Cruise around the Cades Cove Loop Road, where you’ll spot plenty of wildlife including black bears.

If it’s mountain hiking Fido wants, there are plenty of opportunities nearby to get his paws dirty. Cherokee National Forest and Nantahala National Forest both border the park and allow dogs on many backpacking and day-hiking trails.

6. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, CA
Dogs can take in the Yosemite Valley views. Photo by @misterporterhouse

The sixth most visited national park of 2018, Yosemite lies in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, four hours east of San Francisco. Yosemite’s granite monoliths, waterfalls, meadows and Giant Sequoias feel like another world. While dogs are not allowed on most trails, they are welcome to join you on two beautiful and easy hikes through Yosemite and at any reservable campsites (excluding group sites).

The Wawona Meadow Loop is a relatively flat path that runs for five miles through one of the park’s largest meadows. In the spring and early summer months, it’s often filled with wildflowers, and in the fall, the hardwoods lining the meadow turn vibrant colors. This trail sees a relatively low amount of foot traffic, making it an ideal hike for your pup. You can also take her on the Mirror Lake Trail, a paved path one mile in each direction that passes beneath the base of iconic Half Dome before arriving at Mirror Lake. If you’re visiting in late summer, don’t be alarmed to find Mirror Meadow instead, as the water tends to dry up at this time of year.

Dogs are also welcome in most developed areas, paved roads, sidewalks and bicycle paths, which means you can enjoy breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley with your furry sidekick.

5. Grand Teton National Park

Jackson, WY
Fido will appreciate the snow-capped peaks of the Tetons. Photo by BringFido

Grand Teton National Park lies just north of Jackson, WY and an hour south of Yellowstone National Park. Many visitors combine these parks into one trip, which helped make the Tetons the eighth most visited park of 2018. The Teton mountain range is one of the most recognizable in the U.S., with its jagged edges standing out among a landscape of open valleys, rivers and lakes.

Dogs are welcome anywhere a car can go in the park, and can be on leash within 30 feet of any paved roads. Take your furry friend on a scenic drive, winding along the Snake River past the Tetons. Use the frequent pull-offs for breathtaking puppy-and-me photo opportunities. Chances of spotting bison, moose and elk from the car are high, so pay attention. Stop for a picnic lunch at one of seven pet-friendly picnic areas like Colter Bay or Jackson Lake Overlook. If you're spending the night, you have a choice of six dog-friendly campgrounds. The popular Jenny Lake Campground typically fills up by 10 a.m., so make sure to snag a site before exploring the park.

If Fido really needs to stretch his legs, drive west to Bridger-Teton National Forest and hike the Shadow Mountain trail, a 4.5-mile out-and-back hike with spectacular views of the Tetons. Then head south to Jackson for dinner, dessert or a brew on the dog-friendly patio of Silver Dollar Bar & Grill. Snap your pooch’s photo under one of the famous antler arches at Jackson Town Square before ending your day back at your campsite with an evening fire.

4. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, WY
"So that's what Old Faithful looks like." Photo by @thedoogledog

Yellowstone became the first National Park in 1872, preserving and protecting some of the earth’s most unique geological features -- geysers, hot springs and fumaroles -- and wildlife like bison, elk, moose and bears. It was the fifth most visited park of 2018, and ranks a close 4th on our list. This natural wonder is most well known for its famous geyser, Old Faithful. True to its name, the geyser erupts at predicted intervals around the clock. Dogs may not walk on the boardwalks or trails within the park, but there's a shaded area located about 100 yards away where you and Fido can view the spectacle. Once he’s marked Old Faithful off his bucket list, your pup can enjoy a leisurely drive along Yellowstone Loop, where he can watch for wildlife and steaming fumaroles.

After a day in the car, let your dog stretch his legs on the trails at Henry's Lake State Park, just 15 miles west of Yellowstone. Spend the night at one of 12 dog-friendly campgrounds or at Mammoth Hot Springs and Cabins, where dogs are welcome for an additional fee of $25 per stay.

3. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon, AZ
Enjoy the majesty of the Grand Canyon with your dog. Photo by BringFido

Arizona's famed Grand Canyon National Park ranks second among the most visited parks of 2018 and third on our list. There’s nothing quite like walking up to the edge of this massive fissure in the earth and peering down into it, or watching the sunrise or sunset along its rim. While your furry friend might not find the views as breathtaking as you do, he will enjoy hiking and camping in designated pet-friendly areas throughout the park.

Leashed dogs can join you on the three-mile pathway along the South Rim, which includes numerous lookouts in all directions so you can get that perfect shot for Fido’s Instagram. If you’re visiting in warmer months, hit the trail early in the day to avoid the heat, and pack plenty of water for you and your pup. While dogs are not allowed to accompany you below the rim, South Rim Kennels will look after them while you venture down the canyon on foot or by mule.

If you’re spending the night, reserve a campsite at Mather Campground, Desert View Campground or Trailer Village RV Park. You can also book a pet-friendly room at Yavapai Lodge, where pets are welcome for an additional fee of $25 per night.

2. Olympic National Park

Olympia, WA
Leashed dogs are welcome on Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park. Photo by BringFido

The ninth most visited park of 2019, Olympic National Park in Washington is a diverse land of temperate rainforests, Pacific coastline and glacier-capped mountains. It also boasts five pet-friendly trails, beaches, campgrounds, picnic areas and both paved and dirt roads for Fido to explore.

Peabody Creek Trail is a 4.7-mile out-and-back hike that begins at park's Visitor Center in Port Angeles and follows Peabody Creek. This trail gets muddy, so bring a towel for wiping paws. For a short and easy hike, take your pup on the Madison Falls Trail, a 0.3-mile out-and-back hike to a beautiful waterfall. Dogs are also allowed on Spruce Railroad Trail and Quinault Loop Trail. After your hike, head to the beach! The Kalaloch Beach and Nature Trail welcomes dogs on leash. End the day with a photo of your happy pup in front of the Tree Root Cave at dog-friendly Kalaloch Campground.

In addition to the dog-friendly trails at Olympic National Park, there are 250 miles of trails where your furry explorer can get his paws in the dirt at Olympic National Forest, which borders the park to the south. The park and the forest just ask that you keep your pets out of the brush, where they can spread seeds of invasive plant species.

1. Acadia National Park

Acadia, ME
Fido can be the first in the U.S. to see the sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Photo by BringFido

The seventh most visited national park of 2018 tops our list for pet friendliness, Acadia National Park, located on the coast of Maine, features rocky beaches and outcroppings along the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of acres of woodlands, and the east coast’s tallest granite peaks. More importantly for Fido, it boasts more than 100 miles of dog-friendly hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage trails where pets are permitted. If your pup is an avid hiker, take him on the 7.1-mile roundtrip hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. If you hit the trail early, you may be one of the first to see the sunrise in the United States that day. Mark that off your pooch’s to-do list!

After your morning hike, hop aboard the pet-friendly Isle au Haut Ferry and Mailboat to beautiful Isle au Haut. You and Fido can spend the day hiking and exploring the island’s rocky shoreline, wooded uplands, marshes and a freshwater lake. Dogs are only allowed for day hiking, so you’ll want to catch the late afternoon ferry back to the mainland, where you'll find three campsites in Acadia that welcome dogs for no additional fee - Blackwoods, Seawall and Schoodic Woods. Reservations are highly recommended for each.

A word of warning while you’re in the park: Keep Fido on a leash and close by at all times. Wandering snouts are good at locating porcupines. Ouch!

BARK Like a Ranger

A BARK Ranger badge and bandana. Photo by Facebook.com/GeorgeWashingtonCarverNM

If you’re planning your own national park adventure this year and want to bring Fido along, start by visiting one of the park’s visitor centers and becoming a BARK Ranger. This program encourages dogs and their owners to pledge to protect the parks and themselves by following four simple steps. Remember these and you’re sure to enjoy a memorable trip with your best friend!

Bag your poop. Always use a leash. Respect wildlife. Know where you can go.

What's your favorite pet-friendly national park? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by BARK Ranger Gracie.