Where Can I Take My Dog On United States Government Lands?

Wherever you travel for outdoor adventure chances are good that you will find yourself with your dog on land owned by the federal government at some point. Every state in the Union has at the minimum one national park or forest or shoreline or wildlife refuge inviting summer adventurers. With that mind here is a quick primer on what to expect when taking your dog to our national lands.

National Parks

As a general rule, dogs in national parks are welcome to go “anywhere a car can go.”

This method your dog can hike along roadways and walk around parking lots. In

most parks dogs can also go in picnic areas and stay in campgrounds. sometimes

dogs will be permitted on short trails around a Visitor Center or a campground.

Two of the best national parks to hike with your dog are Acadia National Park in

Maine and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. If you are traveling in Canada this

summer, you will find most of their national parks extremely dog-friendly.

National Monuments

These parks are a notch below national parks in terms of prestige and are a mixed

bag for active dog owners. Some, like Dinosaur National Monument or White Sands

National Monument, allow dogs on most trails while others, Devil’s Tower or Cedar

Breaks for example, ban canine hikers from all trails.

National Forests

National forests, under the stewardship of the Department of Agriculture and not

the Department of the Interior like national parks, offer the meatiest hiking

opportunities for dog owners. Dogs are permitted on most national forest trails,

although access can sometimes be far away. Many times national forest lands

surround national parks so you can get your dog on a trail after being cooped up

when visiting there.

National Grasslands

These parks are cousins of national forests and you can expect to have your dog

join you on your hike. Hiking opportunities are limited, however, as there

typically aren’t many trails in a national grassland.

National Recreation Areas

As the name implies, these lands are managed to maximize public use – for humans

and dogs. Many trails in national recreation areas are open to off-road vehicles,

mountains bikes, and horses. These types of trails will always be open to dogs as

well. You can expect to find good canine hikes in almost any national recreation

area. Do your research, however, as many national recreation areas are developed

chiefly for boating and fishing.

National Seashores and Lakeshores

Dogs are seldom allowed on trails at a national seashore but happily most (the

southeastern national seashores are an exception) allow dogs on the beach year-

round. National lakeshores are good bets for canine hikers as dogs are allowed on

many trails in these parks along the Great Lakes.

National Wildlife Refuges

Although these lands are managed chiefly for the protection of birds and animals,

most have trail systems ideal for short day hikes. Expect your leashed dog to be

welcome at most of the more than 500 national wildlife refuges in America.

National Historical Parks

These parks are hidden gems for canine hikers. There are few bans on dogs in

national historical parks. In addition to learning a thing or two about American

history, these parks often characterize interesting hiking: the rolling hills of eastern

Pennsylvania in Valley Forge Historical Park, the mountains of Harpers Ferry

Historical Park, the wild Potomac River of the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical

Park to name but a few. National Battlegrounds are also good places to get out and

analyze with your dog.

National Trail Systems

The United States Congress has designated more than 900 trails as “National Trails.”

Such trails can be recognized as Historic Trails for their significance to our heritage,

as National Recreation Trails or as National pictureque Trails. The most famous of the

National pictureque Trails, that must be 100 miles long, are the Appalachian Trail and

the Pacific Crest Trail that crosses the spine of the Pacific Cascade Mountains from

Canada to Mexico. National trails often include local and already private land and

while dogs are often welcome throughout, check before setting off on a multi-day

adventure to make sure your dog can legally complete the trek.

Copyright 2006

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