Most Dog-Friendly National Parks on the East Coast

Posted by Billy Francis

From the Blue Ridge Mountains to Coastal Maine, Fido is invited to explore many of the national parks in the eastern U.S. Your pup can hike part of the Appalachian Trail, help you paddle through cypress swamps and become a B.A.R.K Ranger during a visit to one of the pet-friendly national parks on the East Coast.

For a park in your neck of the woods, check out the most dog-friendly national parks in America’s Heartland and on the West Coast.

Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor, ME
“This place gets 16 paws up from us.” Photo by BringFido/Frank

Acadia National Park on the magnificent Mount Desert Island in Maine is arguably the most pet-friendly national park in the country, and an oasis on the East Coast for canines. Leashed pups are welcome on 100 miles of dog-friendly hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage trails at this incredible national park. Wander winding pathways to rocky beaches like Little Hunters Beach or woodland trails like Gorham Mountain and Jordan Pond Path. In addition to epic hiking opportunities, Acadia is full of unique national park experiences for you and your dog. Be the first to see the sunrise in the continental United States from the peak of Cadillac Mountain, trot down historic roads with Carriages of Acadia or see the national park’s wonders from the water aboard the Sea Princess on a tour narrated by an Acadia Park Ranger.

When you’re finished inside the park for the day, spend the evening stargazing with your dog at Under Canvas Acadia. This pet-friendly glamping destination nearby allows dogs inside a luxury yurt.

New River Gorge National Park

Glen Jean, WV
“Onwards!” Photo by BringFido/Limart

New River Gorge National Park is a spectacular national park to visit during fall, but it’s always a big hit among mutts in the Mountain State. Leashed dogs are welcome on all 28 hiking trails at New River Gorge, which range from easy strolls on flat surfaces to longer hikes on challenging terrain. Begin your adventure on the boardwalk at Canyon Rim Visitor Center and get your first glimpse of the iconic New River Gorge Bridge from the observation decks. Then, see the spectacular New River carve its way through the Appalachian surroundings from the epic Endless Wall Trail. Pups who prefer shorter hikes can get up close to rock formations on the Tunnel Trail or go for a waterfall hike on Sandstone Falls Boardwalk. Then, jump in a jet boat with your Jack Russell and enjoy zoomies underneath the New River Gorge Bridge with New River Jet Boats.

Grab a beer and toast your latest adventure at The Freefolk Brewery before enjoying an affordable stay at Quality Inn New River Gorge just outside the park.

Shenandoah National Park

Waynesboro, VA
“I think there’s a squirrel three miles that way.” Photo by BringFido/Deborah

With 480 miles of pet-friendly trails to explore, you’ll need to plan multiple visits to Shenandoah National Park with your pooch. Stride out with your Saluki on a section of the Appalachian Trail, which spans more than 100 miles inside the park. Hawksbill Summit via Appalachian Trail takes intrepid explorers to Shenandoah’s highest point and provides astonishing views of the park’s 60 peaks. Lands Run Falls Trail will take you and your dog on an easy hike through the woods to a pretty waterfall. Pups who prefer a chauffeur can catch a ride along the park’s famous Skyline Drive and stop to stretch their legs at 75 scenic overlooks along the way. If you want to see where more than 90 streams inside the park end up, rent a canoe with your canine at nearby Shenandoah River Outfitters.

Grab a bite at The Cracked Pillar, then head to one of the most popular pet-friendly lodgings in the region, The Village Inn Harrisonburg. Fido will find lots of grassy space to sniff around outside.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Arden, NC
“I swear I’ll be serious this time…JK!” Photo by BlueRidgeNPS

Spanning the 469 miles between Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway is lovingly referred to as “America’s Favorite Drive.” Fido can be one of 15 million visitors to the longest linear park in the country each year, where he can go from sniffing butts to hiking along the Big Butt Trail in Black Mountain, NC. This tricky trail is just under six miles out and back and welcomes pups with a good recall to romp off leash during the off-season. For an easier hike, Stewart Knob Trail is a popular woodland hike with an awesome overlook that dogs and their owners will both enjoy. If you want somebody else to lead the way, sign up for the Waterfalls and Blue Ridge Parkway Tour from Asheville Hiking Tours to see three waterfalls, learn about local history and sniff out native edible plants around the parkway.

After your hiking tour, take a pitstop with your Pitbull at Holiday Inn Asheville East Blue Ridge Pkwy, conveniently located just a mile away from an entrance to the parkway. There is a half-mile walking trail with waste stations accessible from the property.

Fort Pulaski National Monument

Tybee Island, GA
“What are you lookin’ at?” Photo by

Originally built to protect the Port of Savannah, Fort Pulaski National Monument was once home to both sides during the Civil War. Nowadays, you can explore the fort with your four-legged travel companion alone or take an interpretive program to learn more in-depth history. The park boasts a variety of pet-friendly trails to explore, including the Lighthouse Overlook Trail that leads to views of the Savannah River and the historic Cockspur Island Lighthouse, and North Pier Trail through scenic woodland to Fort Pulaski's original construction village. Get a different perspective of Fort Pulaski in a kayak or paddleboard rental from North Island Surf and Kayak.

Book a campsite or a pet-friendly cabin at River’s End Campground and RV Park. After you’ve settled in, let your pup loose at the on-site dog park.

Congaree National Park

Hopkins, SC
“Don’t worry, I’ll lead the way.” Photo by @ashleyynoonan

For a few weeks in late May and early June, synchronous fireflies light up Congaree National Park near Columbia, SC. Dogs are not allowed on the Fireflies Trail or boardwalk during the event, but you can still enjoy the incredible show at the much less crowded and pet-friendly Kingsnake Trailhead. When the fireflies aren’t performing, canine visitors are welcome on all of the national park’s 11 trails that showcase the swampy surroundings and range from the easy Boardwalk Loop Trail to the longer Oakridge Trail. Pups who love to paddle can learn about the park’s wildlife and wonders on a guided canoe tour down the Congaree River with Palmetto Outdoors, just be sure to bring Fido’s life jacket on the three-hour expedition.

Located on two secluded acres near Congaree National Park, this pet-friendly camper welcomes friendly dogs to relax in the fenced space outside or cozy up by the indoor fireplace.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg, PA
“Imagine if that thing fired tennis balls…” Photo by BringFido/Janet

Gettysburg National Military Park is home to more than 1,300 monuments, including two commemorating heroic canines. You and your pooch can pay a visit to Sallie, a brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier who served as a regimental mascot and faithfully stood guard over the dead and wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, and see the Irish Wolfhound mourning the loss of his masters at the Irish Brigade monument. Both of the statues can be reached on the pet-friendly trails that wind around the park. Then, take a walk through the actual battlefield or a driving tour of the historic sites commemorating the battle that became a major turning point in the Civil War. Although dogs are not permitted in park buildings, they can join you at most of the outdoor memorials.

Wind down at the Wyndham Gettysburg. This welcoming hotel allows dogs to explore the grassy areas outside and provides bowls upon request.

Which is Fido’s favorite national park on the East Coast? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by BringFido/Nicholas.