For the Love of our Pet Friendly National Forests

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Why are we so entranced with the National Parks? It seems they’ve dominated American family vacations forever. We even measure how well-traveled we are by the number that we’ve visited … so, you’ve been to Europe half a dozen times, but have you seen Yellowstone?

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And yet, in all our travels, we’ve only found one national park that we would classify as pet friendly – the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. With all the miles we’ve covered and the places we’ve been with the dogs, you’d think we’d have learned our lesson by now. Well, not quite yet, apparently…

Map of Bryce and Zion

In the southwest corner of Utah you’ll find Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks – two “must-dos” if you’re to be considered a serious traveler. And so, like moths to a flame, we were lured once again.

Buster and Ty with Bryce Canyon Sign

Bryce Canyon National Park

The scenery was nothing like we’d seen before. These ancient sand dunes solidified into sandstone mountains, and over millions of years they’ve eroded in the most unusual ways. The towers that are left standing are called hoodoos – which is as much fun to say as they are to behold.

Bryce Canyon National Park - Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park - Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park - Utah

And now comes the part where we pull the rug out from under you. (Don’t act so surprised – you knew this was coming!) According to park information, there is only one pet friendly trail in Bryce Canyon. It runs along the rim from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point and is a whopping 0.5 miles long.

Bryce Canyon National Park - Utah

Adding insult to injury, signs appear to contradict the information provided in the official park brochure. It’s tough to make out, but the sign in the background above says “No Pets or Bicycles on Trails.” Confused? So were we! We tracked down a ranger who said that the “trails” this sign is referring to are the ones below the rim – as far has he knew, leashed pets were welcome on the entire rim trail. Well, not according the the park brochure!

We chose to abide by the printed rules and did not take the boys beyond Sunset Point. That meant we saw a majority of the park by driving along the canyon’s edge and jumping out to take pictures at the turnouts with the rest of the tourists. Pets are welcome to join you for the ride and are allowed to get out to stretch their legs only in the paved parking areas.

Zion National Park

Things were a bit better at Zion. The Pa’rus trail is clearly marked as pet friendly and extends for 1.7 miles along the banks of the Virgin River. Beginning at the visitor’s center, you walk along the edge of the campground though the valley.

Zion National Park - Utah

Zion National Park - Utah

At Zion, you have to leave your vehicle and board a shuttle which takes you up the canyon to the popular sights. If you walk the pet friendly trail BEFORE you go see the really good stuff, the views are pretty nice.

Zion National Park - Utah

But the pet friendly trail won’t get you anywhere near this:

Zion National Park - Utah

Zion National Park - Utah

Zion National Park - Utah

Lessons Learned

The point of this rather long-winded rant is that our national forests are wonderfully pet friendly! Remember the map from above? Did you notice the unmarked patch of green between the two national parks? That’s part of the Dixie National Forest.

p style=”text-align: center;”>Dixie National Forest - Utah

Spread across southwest Utah in four different regions, all the trails in Dixie are free to use and pet friendly. And they have a lot to choose from! We opted for a five-miler in Red Canyon with plenty of ups and downs. It was about the middle of the road between the wheelchair accessible trails and those of the extremely difficult, all-day variety.

Dixie National Forest - Utah

Dixie National Forest - Utah

Dixie National Forest - Utah

This hoodoo reminds me of a plump grandma in her Sunday hat.

Dixie National Forest - Utah

Just look at how happy the boys are!

Dixie National Forest - Utah

One could argue the landscape in the national parks was more spectacular, but that would be slitting hairs over magnitudes of stunning. And, in the national forest we got to get out into the scenery and experience it – with the dogs. To me, that makes all the difference.

The next time you’re thinking of taking a trip to a national park with your pets, dig out the map and find a national forest nearby. You’ll want to plan to spend part of your time there.

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14 thoughts on “For the Love of our Pet Friendly National Forests”

  1. A dream of mine is to open a doggie day-care facility near national parks so people traveling with their pups can still go, and their pups will still get loving.

    Reply
    • I always thought that malls, parks, amusement parks, baseball, football venues, museums, etc. could all use places where you could PARK YOUR PET and they would be safe while you visited. When traveling it’s frequently impossible to take advantage of these places because you can’t leave your babies in your car!!

      Reply
  2. In the caves, only service dogs are allowed, but above ground at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, all trails are pet friendly!

    Reply
  3. All national parks should be dog friendly. We pay taxes so we should be allowed to bring leashed dogs and waste bags and use the parks. The dogs don’t hurt the trails anymore than pollution cars, kids and all people. If dog lovers email, call and write all their national parks, this will change. Dog lovers are tax payers so we must stand up for our rights.
    This works and we all need to get out and exercise with our dogs in beautiful places that we all pay for with our very high taxes.
    Please help make our national parks dog friendly, email, call and mail your local national park today.

    Reply
  4. Being a a dog lover and having working in national parks for over ten years, I can say that most parks in the system are dog friendly, and I am unsure why the author of this article did not contact the National Park Service directly for a list of dog-friendly parks and facilities. They would also explain why dogs are not allowed in certain areas of parks, i.e. historic structures, wildlife refuges, etc.

    There are a variety of reasons that dogs are restricted in national parks: 1)Dogs can potentially carry diseases which could affect the park’s wildlife. 2)Dogs can unknowingly threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left behind by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed. 3)Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dog, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively. 4)Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes and bears in some of the larger wilderness parks. In addition, if a dog disturbs and enrages a bear, it may lead the angry bear directly to the owner. Dogs can also encounter insects that bite and transmit disease and plants that are poisonous or full of painful thorns and burrs. 5) The other thing that you should keep in mind is that not all people are dog people like us. In fact, some people are afraid of dogs (like my father, who won’t even come to my house in fear of my dogs), and it is the responsibility of park officials to provide a safe, enjoyable environment for all visitors, even if they aren’t dog people. These rules are in place not only to protect your dog, but to protect you and other visitors as well as the environ of the park.

    There are a few parks I will name that are EXTREMELY dog friendly: 1) Cuyahoga Valley National Park 2) Valley Forge National Park 3) Saratoga National Historical Park 4) Point Reyes National Seashore 5) Cape Hatteras National Seashore to name a few…

    Visit http://www.NPS.gov for more information on dog friendly parks and facilities.

    Reply

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