Best Dog-Friendly Public Lands

8/23/2018

Don’t worry about finding a dog sitter when you head out for an outdoor adventure. You can bring your furry companion along for all kinds of fun on America’s public lands.

Service dogs are permitted on all public lands, while most national parks allow pets in developed areas. Other locations -- such as national wildlife refuges, national forests, and wild and scenic rivers -- also welcome pets on designated trails and parts of the backcountry at various times throughout the year. Don’t forget to check out rules and regulations for each location to know exactly where your dog is allowed.

If you take your dogs on a trip into the great outdoors, make sure to always bag their waste and have a leash handy if required. This ensures you will Leave No Trace and protects your pup, wildlife, and other park goers.

Check out these dog-friendly lands across America where all puppies are welcome!

Acadia National Park in Maine

Ever wonder what’s running through your dog’s head when you’re on a hike? Now you can catch a glimpse into a dog’s mind through Acadia National Park’s informational video produced from the viewpoint of a dog. This adorable video is a reflection of Acadia’s commitment to creating a dog-friendly park. Over 100 miles of hiking trails, 46 miles of carriage roads and three campgrounds at this Maine park are open to pets. Owners and their dogs are also encouraged to join the Bark Ranger Program to make sure your puppy pals have a fun and safe time in the park. Acadia National Park in Maine offers an abundance of thrilling trails and experiences your dog will cherish fur-ever.

A black and white dog looks at the camera while sitting on a rocky shoreline with the ocean behind it.
Dog grinning from ear to ear in Acadia National Park. Photo by Barbara Robbins (www.sharetheexperience.org).

Ridge to Rivers Trail System in Idaho

The smell of wildflowers and the warmth of the sun would make most people smile, and these two dogs are absolutely beaming. The Boise Foothills rise above Idaho's capital and largest city, providing a postcard backdrop that inspires and soothes the soul. An interconnected network of roads and trails through these hills links not only neighborhoods with public lands but also connecting people with the natural environment. With over 190 miles of trail, the Ridge to Rivers Trail System provides a variety of experiences and opportunities. Dogs are welcome in most Bureau of Land Management areas in the west, and your pup will love the opportunity to frolic in nature. Before you head out, be sure to learn about dogs and trails etiquette.

Two dogs sit with their tongues out in a field of wildflowers
Two dogs bask in the sun. Photo by Jeff Cundick, Bureau of Land Management.

Valentine National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska

Get outdoors with your pup at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska. Dogs are welcome along with their people on most of the refuge as long as they are kept on a leash. If dogs are in a moving car, the refuge asks that windows be kept partially rolled up so dogs can’t jump out. All of these precautions protects wildlife, the native habitat and your dog. During hunting season, don’t forget to bring along your pup if it’s a trained hunting dog.

A dog sits in a boat covered with dry grasses
Trained hunting dog on the watch. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River in Alaska

Bring your dog along for a rugged adventure along Alaska’s Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River. Let your dog explore the majestic wilderness of the Last Frontier. Beaver Creek flows through the White Mountains, which are made up of massive, white limestone formations up to several thousand feet thick. Wind, rain and freezing temperatures have weathered away the surrounding rock to expose the jagged cliffs and peaks seen along Beaver Creek. To get to the river, you’ll have to hike a limestone ridge, but with stunning views like this, your pup will agree that the extra effort is totally worth it.

Two hikers and their dog walk along the ridgeline
Two packrafters and their dog hike a limestone ridge while crossing White Mountains National Recreation Area after floating Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River. Photo courtesy of Seth Adams.

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is a puppy’s paradise. Of the park’s 500 miles of trails, fewer than 20 miles are closed to pets. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times, but they’re otherwise free to bask in the beauty of the wild. Pets are also welcome in campgrounds, so take them on your next overnight trip! When bringing your four-legged friend along, always take into consideration your dog’s endurance and potential reaction to bears, deer or snakes. Be especially careful with your dog around mother bears with cubs -- always observe safe viewing distances with bears (50 yards) and deer (25 yards). If you do encounter a bear, don’t run but detour around it if possible while keeping an eye on the bear. Remember to take enough water for your dog. With a little preparation, your dog will have the most pawsome time of its life.

A bearded man sits on a low rock wall hugging a brown dog sitting next to him as they look out at a landscape of forested mountains.
A visitor and his dog enjoy view of Shenandoah National Park. Photo by Ignacio Texeira (www.sharetheexperience.org).

National Wildlife Refuges in Urban Settings

John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge is a green respite nestled within the urban setting of Philadelphia. The refuge is a thriving sanctuary teeming with a rich diversity of fish, wildlife and plants native to the Delaware Estuary. With more than 10 miles of trails, the refuge provides many areas for visitors to explore. With such wild spaces are few and far between within urban areas, John Heinz is a wonderful place for visitors and their pets, including dogs. As a reminder, pets must be leashed on a 6-foot leash or less at all times. This allows helps protect the wildlife and natural resources you’ve come to see. Dog walking is also allowed at Patuxent Research Refuge, located between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, which supports a wide diversity of wildlife in forest, meadow and wetland habitats. Different tracts offer over 20 miles of trails for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. A leash is required for pets and must be no more than 6 feet in length. The pet must be under control of the owner at all times and are not allowed in refuge ponds or waterways.

A white dog sits in the sun on a dirt path next to a small pond covered with lily pads.
This city dog enjoyed a quick escape to Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. Photo by Nate Adams, Interior.

Little Sahara Recreation Area in Utah

Does your pooch crave high-octane adventure? Let them tag along on your fat-biking adventure at Utah’s Little Sahara Recreation Area. Visitors and their pups to Little Sahare can enjoy hiking in the 9,000-acre Rockwell Outstanding Natural Area, fat-biking on the dunes, sandboarding or skiing down Sand Mountain, and wildlife viewing. Make sure to keep an eye for OHVs on some of the sand dunes.

A black and white dog runs alongside a man riding a mountain bike down a wide sand dune under a blue sky.
A dog runs down the dunes after a rider on a fat bike. Photo by Pam Jarnecke, Bureau of Land Management.

Sacramento River Bend Outstanding Natural Area in California

California’s Sacramento River Bend Outstanding Natural Area is a dog’s delight. From the lush riparian areas surrounding the Sacramento River and its tributaries to the rolling hills of the blue oak savanna, the Sacramento River Bend area is a perfect place to let your pup enjoy a little California sunshine. This area offers all kinds of dog-friendly activities from hunting, camping and hiking to horseback riding, cycling, boating, picnicking and wildlife viewing.

A tan dog and a white dog sit next to each other in a grassy field posing next to three dead pheasants.
Hunting dogs at Sacramento River Bend by Eric Coulter, Bureau of Land Management.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah and Arizona

Rover deserves a road trip too! Bring him along to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah and Arizona -- one of the best places for backcountry and water recreation in America. The cliff views are nothing short of majestic and your dog will love doggy paddling Lake Powell and exploring the expansive backcountry. While pets are allowed in most parts of the park, be sure to double check the spots that are off limits to pets before you head out. Remember your pet is just as susceptible to the heat as you. Since the desert sands get dangerously hot, accessorize your dog’s paws with some socks or pet booties. Keep your four-legged friend hydrated and cool -- a jump in the lake may be just the thing!

A little girl and a brown dog in a life preserve sit in the front of a kayak moving across the water towards another kayak floating next to a wall of white stone cliffs.
Don’t leave your dog at home on your next boating adventure. Their welcomed at Lake Powell and other parks of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Photo by Troy Marrs (www.sharetheexperience.org).

National Elk Refuge in Wyoming

Explore National Elk Refuge with your loyal companion at your side. Both pedestrians and pets on leashes are allowed on the main refuge road on the refuge's east side. The leash law is strictly enforced not only for elk and bighorn sheep, which may be close to the roadway, but for the number of small mammals and ground nesting birds that may not be visible from the road. As you enjoy Wyoming's gorgeous scenery, keep an eye out for the Jackson Elk Herd as well as moose, coyotes, pronghorns, curlews, sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans.

A group of caucasian children hug a large brown dog.
A dog basks in the the love and affection of his fanclub at National Elk Refuge. Photo by Lori Iverson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area in Colorado

More adventurous dogs might enjoy a whitewater float in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. Located just north of Montrose in west-central Colorado, the area’s diverse landscape ranges from adobe badlands to rugged pinyon and juniper-covered canyons. At the heart of the area, Gunnison Gorge Wilderness encompasses a spectacular black granite and red sandstone double canyon carved by the Gunnison River. Adventurous whitewater rafters and their pets hike a mile into the canyon to enjoy a multi-day trip with miles of Class III and IV whitewater rapids. The corridor is a gold-medal trout fishery with big browns and rainbows plying the waters. This is adventurous whitewater, so consider a doggie life jacket.

A bearded man sits in a large blue raft with a black down laying on a pile of gear.
There’s nothing like bringing your best friend on your next rafting trip. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico

If your dog loves rolling in the sand, try visiting the world’s largest gypsum dunefield -- White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. The park asks that you don’t bring them into the visitor center and never leave your pup in the car unattended. Otherwise your dog can experience all the amazing sights, sounds and smells the area has to offer. Always be aware of high temperatures and make sure your puppy gets plenty of water. As with any national park, don’t forget to keep pets on a leash at all times and clean up after them. The endless beauty and fun of the park are enough to make anyone -- or any dog -- jump for joy!

A woman with short blond hair smiles as her small brown dog jumps around her on top of a wide white sand dune.
White Sands National Monument is the perfect place for an adventure with your four-legged friend. The gypsum sand doesn’t absorb heat, which means you don’t have to worry about your pup’s paws burning. Photo by Michael Hamilton (www.sharetheexperience.com).

Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana

Let your dog run wild in Big Sky Country. Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is a dog’s idea of heaven with plenty of wide open spaces to run around and the Missouri River to cool off in. The Upper Missouri River Breaks are also a great spot to bird hunt with your retriever or pointer. Just make sure you follow state hunting regulations. The campgrounds along the river are also dog friendly.

A young woman wearing a purple backpack walks a brown dog on a leash away from the camera on a grassy hilltop overlooking a wide river and forest.
Enjoy the views and company of your pup at Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Photo by Alyse Backus, Bureau of Land Management.

Crooked Wild and Scenic River in Oregon

Take your pup along for an unforgettable fly fishing adventure on Oregon’s Crooked Wild and Scenic River. Thousands of people visit each year to enjoy the incredible fishing, camping and scenic views. Hike-in fishing and primitive camping areas of the North Fork provide ample solitude. The Chimney Rock segment offers 97 developed campsites and two group-use areas located mere feet from the Crooked River. This river is the perfect place to let your dog cool off (and judge your fishing skills) while you cast a line.

Two white men in waders stand in a shallow river fishing while a large brown dog sits on the grassy river bank.
Plan your next fly fishing trip to Crooked Wild and Scenic River, and don’t forget to bring fido. Photo by Greg Shine, Bureau of Land Management.

Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon

Life’s accomplishments are always more fun to celebrate with a close friend -- or pet! A list of dog-friendly public lands isn’t complete without mentioning our federal friends at the U.S. Forest Service (managed by USDA and not the Interior Department). Take a hike through the stunning Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon and enjoy the towering forests and mountain landscapes with your hard-working puppy. Dogs are welcome throughout the forest except for the Timberline Lodge, public buildings and swimming areas. Otherwise, go explore and take your doggy on an adventure of a lifetime.

A young white man kneels on a dirt trail and high fives the paw of a brown dog with a landscape of forests and mountains behind them.
High five! Paws up to celebrate another great hiking trip. Photo by Mike Hoderman Jr. (www.sharetheexperience.org).

Your puppy will love these beautiful public lands just as much as you will! Don’t forget to thank your dog for being such a good traveler with lots of tummy rubs and treats.