Dog-Friendly National Parks & the B.A.R.K. Ranger Program
Dog-Friendly National Parks & the B.A.R.K. Ranger Program
Tips for taking your RV dogs to the U.S. national parks.
By: Howard & Katelyn Newstate
One of our favorite things about RVing is that we’re able to bring our four-legged family members with us all across the country on grand adventures! We travel full-time with three dogs: Piper, Ella, and Scout.
Our nine-year-old puggle sisters, Piper and Ella, have visited Alaska twice, watched the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Maine, swam in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and visited three countries, all by RV! Our Mexican beach dog, Scout, has also crossed many states off her doggie bucket list, loves looking out the windows of the RV on travel days and now she can add official ‘B.A.R.K. Ranger’ to her list of accomplishments.
It’s a pretty sweet life to be an RV pup, if you ask us!
As we continue on our journey of visiting 51 National Parks in 52 weeks in a special Winnebago Vista NPF Limited Edition, we’re always excited when we come across a national park that offers dog-friendly activities. Most national parks prohibit dogs on hiking and nature trails. There are a number of reasons for this, but most importantly, it’s to protect your dog and the wildlife from each other.
However, many national parks do allow dogs in campgrounds, parking lots, and picnic areas, but they must always be on a leash and you should always check the rules of the specific park you’re visiting. The National Park Service has a great interactive map indicating every unit (National Park, Monument, Seashore, etc.) that is pet friendly to help you plan your visit.
Be sure to watch the video at the end of this article to see us out exploring the national parks with our dogs!
National Park B.A.R.K Ranger Program
Several national parks now offer the B.A.R.K. Ranger Program, giving your pup an opportunity to be sworn in.
B.A.R.K stands for:
- Bag your pet’s waste
- Always leash your pet
- Respect wildlife
- Know where you can go
Each park puts their own spin on the program, so be sure to inquire at the Visitor’s Center to see what B.A.R.K. Ranger activities are offered. We’ve compiled a list, which can be found below, of national parks that offer this super cute program.
Our dog, Scout, recently became a B.A.R.K. Ranger at Redwood National and State Parks and was sworn in by Ranger Steven. We purchased her official Redwoods B.A.R.K. Ranger tag, which Ranger Steven presented to her after reading her oath. After a quick signature and stamp, it was official! If you travel with your dogs, it’s a great way to collect a fun memento from the various parks that offer the program
We celebrated her new role by playing on the dog-friendly beaches at the park as well as taking a walk amongst the Redwoods on the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway. Once a month from October to May (the first Saturday of each month), the park closes the roadway and turns it into a dog-friendly hiking and bicycling route. This is one great example of special pet-friendly activities you can find at parks across the country.
More Great Pet-Friendly Activities Across our National Parks
1. Acadia National Park
As we mentioned, Piper and Ella have watched the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain which is inside Acadia National Park in Maine. This is a must-do (with or without your dogs) when you visit this park, just beware that you do need reservations to drive to the summit May 24 - October 22, 2023.
This is one of the most dog-friendly national parks we’ve visited. Not only do they offer the B.A.R.K. Ranger program, but they have over 100 miles of dog-friendly hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads you can walk with your dog. The on-site restaurant at Jordan Pond was even dog-friendly! We loved exploring the beauty of Acadia with Scout.
2. Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis offers all kinds of fun B.A.R.K. Ranger events throughout the spring and summer such as painting with your pet, a puppachino crawl, picnic with your pet, exercise with your pet, and even a Pet Halloween Costume Parade!
They’ve really embraced the pet-friendly aspect of the green space that surrounds Gateway Arch by offering these amazing and totally free programs! If you’re planning a trip to St. Louis this summer, make sure you check the list of events on the park’s B.A.R.K. Ranger website.
3. Grand Canyon National Park
While dogs are prohibited on all the trails below the rim at Grand Canyon National Park, they are allowed on trails above the rim, inside both Mather and Desert View Campgrounds and throughout developed areas.
We’ve taken our pups to the Grand Canyon which made for quite the grand photo op! Grand Canyon National Park even has an on-site kennel so that you can board your dog if you’re planning a longer (or overnight) hike down into the canyon.
4. Hot Springs National Park
While this park doesn’t have as many hiking trails as some of its counterparts, dogs are allowed on ALL 26 miles of trails at Hot Springs National Park! This would be a great one to get your dog sworn in as a B.A.R.K. Ranger and then hit the trails to celebrate!
5. Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest touts themselves as one of the most dog-friendly national parks in the system since their name begins with ‘pet!’ Dogs are allowed anywhere their humans can go in this park, including all trails. The only exception is the interior of buildings.
While these next two parks don’t currently offer the B.A.R.K. Ranger program, it is worth noting that they both have dog friendly activities.
6. North Cascades National Park
We hiked the Thunder Knob Trail with our crew back in the Summer of 2021. This was a great trail with beautiful views and a little water crossing that we all loved. The park’s website also indicates that dogs are allowed on the section of the Pacific Crest Trail that’s located within park boundaries.
7. White Sands National Park
Sledding with your dog? We’re in! White Sands welcomes pets to explore the park on leash and only asks that they do not come inside the Visitor Center. We took our three sledding on the sand dunes, which was a core memory for all of us
The B.A.R.K. Ranger Program is offered at the following National Parks in addition to several National Monuments, Historic Sites, Seashores, and Recreation Areas:
- Acadia NP
- Biscayne NP
- Bryce Canyon NP
- Death Valley NP
- Gateway Arch NP
- Grand Canyon NP
- Great Sand Dunes NP
- Great Smoky Mountains NP
- Hot Springs NP
- Indiana Dunes NP
- Joshua Tree NP
- Olympic NP
- Petrified Forest NP
- Redwood National & State Parks
- Yosemite NP
- Zion NP
We are looking forward to discovering even more pet-friendly activities across our national parks as we continue our tour this year.
What are some great national park hikes or activities you’ve done with your pets?
Check out this video to get a look at how we visit national parks with our pups:
Howard and Katelyn Newstate have traveled over 80,000 miles in their Winnebago Navion Class C RV, exploring from Alaska to mainland Mexico since 2018. Joined by their adventure pups, Piper, Ella, and Scout, they share how to “Live Like a Local” in every New State they explore. For more information on their travels or the 51 Parks in 52 Weeks tour, visit NewstateNomads.com/NationalParks
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