Can I bring my pet to a national park?

Q & A: Can I bring my pet to a national park?

We know a lot of our fellow #parkchasers out there not only love the national parks, but you also love a furry friend. Today we’re posting a national parks Q & A session to answer this common question: “Is it okay to bring my pet to a national park?” We’ve wondered the same things after wanting to bring our ‘Adventure Kitten’ on camping trips with us:

Thankfully, the National Park Service provides some good resources out there to help pet owners enjoy the parks and have a safe experience with their pet. Today we’re answering those questions (and sharing some experience about how to travel safely with animals).

Is it okay to bring my pet to a national park?

The answer: According to the NPS, most parks allow pets in developed areas. Pets are not allowed on any trails or wilderness areas.

In addition, some parks may have rules that go above and beyond these restrictions. For example, in some parks, pets are allowed on boardwalks as they are considered paved areas. However in Yellowstone National Park, pets are prohibited on boardwalks and thermal areas.

It’s up to the pet owner to know the policies for the park you are visiting before you go. To read pet specific policies, visit the national park’s website and search for “Pets” under the Basic Information section.

General Pet Policies

The National Park Service posts these general pet policies for all national parks:

  • Pets are allowed in developed areas only. Pets are allowed on fully paved roads, sidewalks and bike paths marked pets allowed.
  • In all front country campgrounds (not in a walk-in, backcountry, or group campsite).

Pet owners must also follow these regulations in national parks:

  • Pets must be on a leash no more than six feet long (or otherwise contained like in an RV, vehicle or kennel)
  • Pet food must be stored as if it were human food 
  • Pet owners are responsible for cleaning up and disposing of all pet waste.
  • Pets may not be left in a situation where food, water, shade, ventilation, and other basic needs are inadequate. Park rangers can issue owners fines or confiscate animals if they are left locked in vehicles on hot days.
  • Pet owners must carry proof of vaccination while in parks and a ranger may request to see these documents.

Pet Restrictions

  • Pets are not allowed on any trails or in any undeveloped, wilderness areas. This is mandated by the Code of Federal Regulations and the Superintendent’s Compendium. No exceptions anywhere in the National Park Service.
  • Pets are not allowed in public buildings including, visitor’s centers, restrooms, on shuttle buses, on park boats, or public swimming beaches.
  • Pet restrictions in hotels and historic lodges vary. Contact your lodging provider before you arrive at the park.
  • If a pet is on a leash, it cannot be left unattended or tied to an object outside of a restricted area.
  • Pets cannot make unreasonable noise or frighten wildlife by barking, howling, or making other noise

What about service animals?

There are some exceptions for pets allowed into National Park Service buildings, beaches and trails for designated service animals. However, note that service animals must be clearly marked as a working animal when visiting a national park. The National Park Service follows ADA guidelines, therefore, dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals.

How do I know if I should bring my pet?

Before you travel, it’s important to ask yourself about the type of trip you’re planning and whether or not your pet will enjoy it. Ask yourself these types of questions:

  • What do I plan to do while I’m there? Are these activities my pet can do also?
  • If not, what is my back-up plan (e.g. leave the pet in the RV, have someone in the family stay back with the dog while the others hike)? Is everyone in my group okay with that?
  • How will my pet respond if we encounter crowds of people? Wildlife in our campsite or on a paved trail?
  • Do I have the right gear (leash, harness, food storage, etc.) to travel with my pet?
  • What will I do if the weather is too hot, too cold, too wet for my pet?
  • Is there somewhere else my pet can go while I travel that they will enjoy more than the park?

Yellowstone National Park posted this orientation video about traveling with pets in a national park. It’s a good orientation about pet regulations and why you may decide to leave your furry friend at home when visiting a national park.

Be a B.A.R.K. Ranger

Despite these regulations, the National Park Service wants all pet owners to enjoy visiting a park with an animal. Each year during National Park Week, the NPS celebrates BARK Ranger Day. It encourages dog owners to sign your pet up to be a B.A.R.K. Ranger.

B.A.R.K. stands for:

  • B – Bag your pet waste.
  • A – Always wear your leash.
  • R – Respect wildlife.
  • K – Know where you can go.

Along with becoming a B.A.R.K. Ranger, you can also sign up to be a BARK Ranger Ambassador, volunteering to help educate park visitors with pets on regulations and positive pet behaviors. The National Park Service has found the BARK Ranger program to be highly effective at reducing pet-related fines and incidents in the national parks.

To read more about the BARK Ranger program, check out Acadia National Parks website and the info from Bark Ranger Drift:https://www.nps.gov/articles/be-an-acadia-bark-ranger.htm

Kennels and Pet Sitters

If you know you’ll be visiting a national park on your road trip, but don’t think it’s the best place for your pet consider a local kennel or pet sitter. Many national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite maintain a list of nearby kennels and pet sitters that are equipped for pet ‘tourists.’ If the park you plan to visit does not have that information, send an email to the NPS office or contact them via Facebook. Rangers will be happy to direct you to local resources to make sure you and your pet both have an enjoyable vacation.

Can I bring my pet to a national park?

Have tips about deciding to bring a pet to a national park?

This is a topic we know many of you have personal experience with. We’d love for you to share what you’ve learned about bringing a pet to a national park with us. Here are three ways for us to hear more from you:

  1. Scroll down and leave a comment or question on this post.
  2. Hop over on Facebook or Instagram and tell us a story.
  3. Send us an email (we read every one!)
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Greg & Amy
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