Sydney Explores the Ins & Outs of Touring America’s National Parks
Mates, while National Parks is hot spots for humans, particularly in summer, not all are welcoming to us four footers. In fact, some parks won’t even let us visit even if we’re riding in the car with our humans. (It’s all true, cross me paws).
Luckily, Sydney’s on the case and I’ve sniffed out a number of terrific spots all over the country where we can hike with our humans, swim in fresh water ponds and generally take in the sites and smells of America’s wilderness.
The general rule to note for almost all parks is that you must be on a 6 foot or less leash at all times. Parks want us on the leash to keep us on the trails so we don’t upset the balance of the natural vegetation or frighten wildlife that could turn aggressive on us. We’re also never to be tied up or left unattended as we could end up on a mountain lion’s luncheon menu.
If you’re not allowed on trails at all, tell your human to check the rules & regs. The majority of national parks are just fine with us being passengers with our humans (and, in fact, most points of interest are seen from the comforts of the car). If your human is intent on hiking a non-pet friendly trail tell ‘em to check the website of the park. Some parks maintain a list of close-by kennels where we can have a spa day while mum & pop hit the trails.
In fact, hittin’ the website before you hit any trail is the best guideline, as policies change occasionally. Some parks allow us in campgrounds and visitor centers but not on the trails. So humans need to do their homework before you strap on those tidy new hiking booties.
Sometimes you have to think outside the box (and away from the Grand Canyon) for more pup friendly places, national park wise. Here are a few of my faves.
This is the life mates, and they love us here. In my opinion, this is the best of the best when it comes to canine outdoor adventure. With the exception of human swimming beaches, ladder hiking trails like Precipice Trail, pups is welcome throughout the park. And it’s HUGE. Most of the hiking is on wide gravel carriage trails through the twisting island mountains—it’s glorious but don’t forget your booties to protect those tootsies.
Favorite hikes to research are Jordan Pond, Bubble Rock Trail, the Ocean Trail to Otter Cliff, and Cadillac Summit. And trails across Somes Sound (America’s only fjord) are less traveled (you might even have them all to yourselves). Trust me mates, you’re gonna love Acadia.
A gorgeous part of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, the Shenandoah National Park is more of a planned park than other wildlife destinations. During the Great Depression, Shenandoah was designated a national park and Roosevelt’s “Tree Army” planted hundreds of thousands of tree slopes that had been cleared for farms and firewood.
One of the most scenic of all scenic drives is on the 105 mile Skyline Drive that is the only public road in the park. And we are welcome just about everywhere. Only 20 of the over 500 miles of hiking trails are off limits to dogs. A note to your human—Old Rag Mountain, which is widely known as one of the best hikes on the East Coast is off limits to four footers—so be sure to clue them in.
These 33,000 acres along the banks of the Cuyahoga River are filled with winding trails on easy to hike paths covered in crushed limestone (the size of dog biscuits!)
The main trail is Towpath Trail, just about 20 miles along the route of the historic canal. The hike is a mix of meadows, forests and the remains of locks and villages. The Buckeye Trail is about 33 miles through the ravines and ridges of the valley.
The best dog friendly areas are in the north end of the Cuyahoga Valley, in the Bedford Reservation. A five-mile trail traverses the Tinkers Creek Gorge area, which features Ohio’s most spectacular canyon noted for its hemlock forests. There are many short detours off the main trail and lots of easy walks. Then there’s the 2.2 hike around the Ledges and a short 1.25 mile loop through the Brandywine Gorge that goes to the lip of Brandywine Falls and a 160 foot drop to water level. It’s grand.
These hot springs have been visited for centuries and were prized for their alleged healing properties. Lucky for us, wide trails were built so visitors could add daily walks to their health regimens.
There are more than 30 miles of great trails, most interconnect in jogs through Hot Springs Mountain and West Mountain that flank the city. The mountains are not high (about 1,000 feet) but some of the climbs are vigorous and there is little to no water so make sure your human packs in plenty of water for you. The Sunset Trail goes to the highest spot in the park but does not double back so your humans may want to arrange a car shuttle. Back in town, catch a ride on the Duck Boat, an amphibious vehicle that welcomes pups for a cruise on Lake Hamilton.
Sorry mates, no elephants here. The caves is named for the length of its passageways and Mammoth Cave is the longest know cave system in the world. Evidence of humans in these caves go back 4,000 years.
While us pups aren’t allowed a caving license, we can sniff our way through the over 70 miles of trails above ground. There are many short hikes near the Visitor Center and many longer treks on the North Side Trails. Most trails have been left in their natural state so the terrain is somewhat rugged though the hardwood forests. In the Big Woods you’ll find the White Oak Trail through one of the last remaining old growth forests in Kentucky.
These are just the beginning. Here’s a list of a few more National sites to check out.
Grand Canyon National Park (leashed, rim only) Arizona
Yosemite National Park, California. Leashed, Meadow Loop and Four Mile fire roads in Wawona, on the Carlon Road and on the Old Big Oak Flat Road between Hodgdon Meadow and Hazel Green Creek. Nowhere else in the park.
Redwood National Park (leashed, on Crescent and Gold Bluffs Beaches, picnic areas, Lost Man Creek, Point St. George, Lake Earl State Wildlife Refuge & Smith River National Recreation Area.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco - Voice control in Fort Funston (except in the 12 acre closure), Ocean each, Lands End, Fort Miley, the north end of Baker Beach, Crissy Field, Rodeo each, Oakwood Valley Road, Muir Beach, Homestead Valley, Alta Ave, specific trails in Marin Headlands. Everywhere else in the park is leashed.
Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests, Colorado - Off-leash on some trails.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado - Leashed, anywhere on the dunes, but them dunes is HOT. Footwear and common sense required.
Rocky Mountain National Park - Pets on a leash only in areas accessed by vehicles. No hiking.
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia - Leashed on all the trails.
Glacier National Park, Montana - Leashed, only in developed areas. One trail: the Apgar/West Glacier Bicycle Path (summer only)
Chaco Culture National Park, New Mexico - Leashed, on four backcountry trails and in campgrounds. No hiking on the lava, the terrain can injure you.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon - Leashed in developed areas only. No hiking
Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania - Leashed.
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota - Pets are NOT welcome!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Leashed, along developed areas and only on the Gatlinburg Train and Oconaluftee River Trail.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah - Leashed on developed areas only. No trails.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah - Leashed on developed areas only. Not allowed in any four-wheeled vehicle, on mountain bikes or in boats.
Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest, Utah - Unleashed on odd days in Millcreek Canyon.
Zion National Park, Utah - Leashed.
Appalachian Trail, Virginia - Dogs are permitted in most areas but are not permitted in certain protected areas. Check the website.
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington - Leashed on trails and campgrounds but not allowed in swimming areas.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington - Car travel only. Parking lots and campgrounds allowed.
North Cascades National Park, Washington - Leashed, on Pacific Crest Trail, Ross Lake and Chelan Recreation areas only.
Olympic National Forest, Washington - Leashed on all trails.
Grand Teton National Park - Developed areas only.
Yellowstone National Park - Leashed, within 100 feet of roads, parking areas and campgrounds. Thermal areas are hazardous to pets.
ENJOY YOUR NATIONAL PARKS!
photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com
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