Planning a Grand Canyon Adventure With Your Dog

Posted by Jessica Roberts

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park should be on every person’s and pup’s bucket list. The 277-mile-long, 6,000-foot-deep geological wonder is impossible to capture in photos or words, but those who see it in real life can’t help but “ooh” and “aah” and “woof” with excitement. Bringing dogs to the Grand Canyon isn’t quite as simple as showing up with a leash and a bottle of water, though. If you want to experience the seventh wonder of the world with your best bud by your side, here are Fido-approved tips for planning your Grand Canyon adventure!

When to Visit

Find peace and serenity in the off-season. Photo by Robert Magnusson on Unsplash

The best times to visit the Grand Canyon are the months that bookend the sweltering summer season. As a result, March through April and September through November are peak season, when you and Fido can expect large numbers of tourists. If your pup isn't a fan of crowds or high temperatures (same here, Fido), plan your visit during the off-season.

Winter at the Grand Canyon offers both benefits and drawbacks. Private vehicles are allowed on Hermit Road, the 7-mile, dramatically scenic route inside the park with nine designated viewpoints, only during December, January and February. But peace and serenity aren’t the only things you’ll find along the road. Expect freezing temperatures, shorter days and snow from November through March.

If your pooch isn't into cold temperatures, either, consider planning your visit during late spring or in October, when school is in session and the days are mild. The weather at the higher elevations can change drastically in a very short period of time, so be prepared with supplies to keep canines warm if you’re visiting during the cooler months.

The North Rim is closed to vehicles in winter, but the pet-friendly South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is open year-round, and roads are drivable except in inclement weather.

Getting to Grand Canyon National Park

"RV there yet?" Photo by @thedoginus

To get to Grand Canyon National Park, the majority of people take the scenic drive from Phoenix, Las Vegas or Sedona and reach the park via the South Rim. As the Grand Canyon shuttles do not permit pets on board, plan to park at one of the Visitor Center parking lots. Entrance to the park is $35 per single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers (human and canine).

To make your drive extra epic, rent a pet-friendly RV and tour the Grand Canyon in comfort and style. Just remember that parking is at a premium on the South Rim when it’s busy, especially for RVs over 22 feet and vehicles with trailers, which have fewer parking options. Plan for longer than a day trip and reserve a spot for your airstream or motorhome at the Trailer Village RV Park.

Where to Stay

Camp at the Grand Canyon? Why yes we can-yon. Photo by @eileenchai

Though some visitors attempt to see the Grand Canyon in one day, National Lampoon-style, most argue that at least a two-day trip is required to make the visit worthwhile.

In addition to staying in an RV or airstream, tent camping is extremely popular for two- and four-legged visitors. Mather Campground is the only tent campground within the Grand Canyon Village. Though dogs are permitted at all 327 campsites, they are typically fully booked up months in advance, so early reservations are a must. The campground lies beneath a shady canopy of ponderosa pine, pinyon and juniper trees. Best of all, it's only a 1-mile walk from the rim. Park your RV or pitch a tent here, and you and Fido can take a morning stroll over to the Greenway, a paved walking and biking trail that leads to scenic overlooks. You’ll be amazed by the spectacular sunrise views on the canyon walls.

Canine campers are welcome at Mather Campground for no additional fee, but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. There are showers and laundry machines on site as well as flush toilets, fresh water and a free dump station.

If “ruffing it” isn’t Fido’s style, there are a handful of pet-friendly accommodations in the area, including Yavapai Lodge inside the park at Grand Canyon Village and the cabins at Hualapai Lodge on the West Rim. He can also trade camping for glamping at Under Canvas Grand Canyon.

Exploring the Grand Canyon

It's just gorges up here... Photo by Lisa

Placing third on our Dog-Friendly Ranking of the 10 Most Visited National Parks, Grand Canyon National Park offers a once-in-a-dog's-lifetime opportunity to witness the monumental wonder. The most "pupular" portion of the park is the South Rim. Leashed dogs are welcome to join you above the rim on the 12-mile paved Rim Trail, which includes the iconic Yavapai, Hopi, Mojave and Mather Points. 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 furry bestie. Make sure to snap lots of legendary photos (and tag #BringFido to share them with us)!

Dogs are not allowed to accompany you on trails below the rim. If you do plan to venture into the canyon, Grand Canyon Kennel South Rim operates from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Tips & Tricks for Fido

"Just 'strollering' by." Photo by @michaelcarnrike, @watsons_dogumentary

Stroll Shoshone Point Trail

The lovely and easy 2-mile out-and-back Shoshone Point Trail inside the national park leads to a picturesque overlook, perfect for a peaceful sunset picnic with your pup. This wide, unpaved dirt path is a good option on days where the more popular paved trails might be too hot for a pooch’s paws. At the end of the trail, the path opens to a large clearing with a covered picnic area, bathrooms and a peninsula jutting out over the canyon, providing a strikingly panoramic view. Despite the gorgeous scenery and ease of the hike, this is one of the quieter Grand Canyon trails. It’s not uncommon to see only a handful of visitors on the trail at any given time, even during the busiest months.

There is no sign at the Shoshone Point trailhead, but the location is marked on area maps. From the small parking lot, enter through the gate and follow the trail for a mile to the overlook. Before you set out, call the Visitor Center to make sure that the picnic area hasn’t been reserved for an event. As with all pet-friendly areas in Grand Canyon National Park, dogs must be leashed at all times and cleaned up after.

"I don't want to meet the dog who dug this hole." Photo by #ADVBeagles

See the Grand Canyon From the “Other Side”

Visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, affectionately known as the “Other Side,” is a pleasant way to view the geological wonder with your canine companion. Leashed dogs are welcome on the 3.2-mile Bridle Trail that connects the North Kaibab Trail and the Arizona Trail to the park’s North Rim entrance. The multi-use trail is appropriate for two- and four-legged hikers of all skill levels, and the forested setting is ideal for those hoping to see wildlife. Experiencing the canyon via the North Rim is also a great way to combine a visit to the Grand Canyon with other nearby dog-friendly attractions like Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park or Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

The North Rim entrance is open only from mid-May to October, as it is buried in snow the other months of the year.

Taking a break from the car at this awe-inspiring overlook. Photo by Catherine Arki

Experience Epic Views From Your Vehicle

Maybe hiking isn’t Fido’s favorite activity. Take the Desert View Drive instead! This 25-mile roadway allows you and your dog to experience the park without trekking for miles on hot pavement. A drive along Highway 64 brings you (and just about everybody else) to the park's South Rim Entrance. During peak season, traffic can back up for miles along this route. Fortunately, you can take a road less traveled. After a hearty breakfast at the pet-friendly Toasted Owl in Flagstaff, hop on Highway 89 North and enter the park through the lesser-used East Entrance. From here, head west for awe-inspiring vistas of the Painted Desert and the Colorado River, access to picnic areas and multiple panoramic viewpoints.

Leashed dogs are permitted on established roads and at the Desert View Campground.

"I am the coyote."Photo by Happy Tails Tours

Let Someone Else Do the Prep Work

If planning such an expedition is daunting, reach out to the pros at Happy Tails Tours. The Coyote - A Southwest USA 8 Day Tour takes you and your four-legged adventure companion on an epic expedition which includes a visit to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and more iconic spots while hiking, rafting and touring in jeeps as you go.

Tour rates start at $70.

A Grand Canyon Experience for the Adventurous Dog

Jeep to Tuweep. Photo by Flickr/au_ears

If you’re willing to go way, way off the beaten path, take your canine adventurer off-roading to Tuweep. This remote area is located in the Arizona Strip, an isolated region along the North Rim of the western Grand Canyon. Only high-clearance vehicles can negotiate the rough terrain, cell phone service is spotty, and a tow can cost you a few thousand dollars, so it’s important that your dog and your vehicle are prepared for the journey. It takes about two hours to get to Toroweap Overlook at the edge of the canyon, but from here you and your furry explorer will be treated to expansive views. To witness a sunset and sunrise like nowhere else in the world, pitch a tent with your pup at one of the 10 rustic Tuweep Campground sites instead of heading back right away. The unique campground is sheltered by overhangs of Esplanade Sandstone and features picnic tables and composting toilets to complete the full glamping experience.

Tuweep is part of Grand Canyon National Park's North Rim. Dogs must be leashed and are only permitted on established roads and at the campground. Permits are required to camp at Tuweep and can be purchased on the National Park Service website.

What was your dog’s favorite part about visiting the Grand Canyon? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!