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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

The National Parks Hate Dogs

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

“There is nothing so American as our National Parks.” - President Franklin D. Roosevelt

It was a big joke between Zac and I at Mesa Verde National Park this summer that they hated dogs. Everywhere we went, there was a sign that said “no dogs.” The only places dogs were allowed were on paved sidewalks and walkways, and a lot of them were closed for construction. When we would walk up to a new trail to see if we could hike it, we would see the “no dogs” sign and immediately say something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, because Mesa Verde hates dogs.”

This is absolutely not a jab at the national parks. I repeat, this is not a jab at the national parks. I love the national parks. In fact, Zac and I recently got a scratch off map to keep track of which ones we have visited. We hope to visit more of them to continue with the scratch off map.

Pay no attention to the national parks that are partially scratched off. We got a bit excited for the scratch off map and got ahead of ourselves. Now, those items may be higher on the list than they were before - because they are causing my OCD to go through the roof.

Instead of being against national parks, this post is simply to provide awareness to those who travel with dogs and want to explore the national parks. There are definitely some limitations when towing around dogs. Be mindful of them while planning your trips - before taking Fido along - to ensure the most exciting and memorable trip possible for everyone.

Now, although it was an ongoing joke at Mesa Verde, Zac and I both do fully understand why dogs are only allowed in certain parts of the national parks. I will say that it was disappointing while there, realizing over and over again that the places we wanted to go were off limits because of Buzz. However, we understood it.


One of the biggest limitations is that dogs are allowed primarily in fully developed areas to help with preservation. Although we feel that Buzz would continue to keep the trails and parks preserved, we understand that not all dogs would. We also know that dogs could be detrimental to important restoration that takes place in the national parks.

According to the National Park Service, pets are allowed:

  • In fully developed areas

  • On paved trails

  • In most campgrounds

  • In some lodging facilities

The National Park Service has an article that provides additional reasons Why Even Nice Dogs Must Stay On A Leash. It provides a story about two dogs that unfortunately killed a river otter in one of the national parks. The leash rules are there to help protect the dog, the national park wildlife, the visitors at the park, and to minimize the possible spread of diseases.

I truly do love National Parks (and know that they love pets). To further solidify that, they even have a B.A.R.K. Ranger Program, which stands for bag your pet’s waste, always use a leash, respect wildlife, and know where you can go.

They also have a list of the national parks that allow dogs and those that do not. The parks that allow dogs are pictured in green, while those that do not are listed in red. I only see green. This means that, although the pets are limited, they are allowed in nearly all of the national parks, monuments, and historical sites.

I did not include Alaska, Hawaii, or the Virgin Islands, but all of their national parks are also green, indicating they are dog friendly as well. For the record, I didn’t even realize that the Virgin Islands had any parks up until reviewing the map. How cool! It seems as though all of the national parks are actually pet friendly.

The fact of the matter is that the national parks are great places to visit. They are educational and help capture some of the most beautiful views in the states. They are a wonderful way for travelers to get outdoors and explore in a safe environment. Dogs can enjoy the beauty of national parks as well, but they are held to stricter rules. Reviewing the rules for each national park prior to traveling to them is a great way to ensure that each visit will be an exciting experience both for people and dogs.

Now, Buzz and I are off to do some research for our next national park adventures - although he most likely will not be catching the plane with us to Alaska. I do think it would be pretty cool to see him up against the Alaskan sled dogs in a race, though. I’ve got just over a month to try to talk Zac into the idea. Wish me luck!

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