Hiking offers a variety of benefits for the heart, mind, and body. Aside from the many known health impacts, time spent outdoors also can serve as a restorative and stress-relieving activity for the whole family (Spoiler Alert: even the dog!). It may seem as simple as deciding on your favorite trail and packing up your pooch for the adventure, but there are many things to consider to ensure an enjoyable experience for your pet, fellow hikers, and nature. Adequate planning and preparation, current pet and leash policies, and a comprehensive understanding of trail terrain and hazards are critical when opting to bring along your furry companion.

You can use this guide to plan for #DogOnAHike, a day sponsored by The Trail Posse to encourage people to get outside and hike with their dogs on Sunday, Aug. 26, which happens also to be National Dog Day in the U.S. There is absolutely no fee to participate. Just take your dog on a hike and make a post about your outing on social media, using the hashtag #DogOnAHike to encourage others to take advantage of all the outdoors have to offer.

While this guide is not exhaustive and location-specific inquiries are encouraged, this article can be used as a great starting point.


U.S. Forest Service (UFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed public lands are less restrictive regarding pets. With more than 440 million acres of land between the two agencies, they also serve as great places for outdoor adventures for humans and dogs alike.

National forests require that dogs be on a six-foot leash at all times when in developed recreation areas and on interpretive trails. There are no leash requirements in general forest areas. While certain areas do not require leashes, common courtesy and environmental factors always should be considered. When hiking with your pup, it is important to be cautious of wildlife, wild plants, other hikers/campers, and rugged terrain—all factors that can influence dog behavior and well-being. Dog waste should always be picked up and packed out. UFS and BLM lands have these general guidelines; however, location-specific rules and regulations should always be researched and followed.

National Forest Spotlight—Dixie National Forest, UT: If you and your furry friend ever find yourselves in the Southwest US, the Dixie National Forest is a must visit. With almost 2 million acres of stunning landscape, the Dixie National Forest offers 1,600 miles of pet-friendly hiking trails. Adventures are endless here, with more than 90 lakes, 500 miles of fishing streams, and plenty of opportunities for backpacking, bike riding, and scenic drives providing the most perfect destination for you and your pup. For more information:


Other notable dog-favorite national forests (click to visit):

Apalachicola National Forest, FL
Black Hills National Forest, SD/WY
Bridger-Teton National Forest, WY
Custer Gallatin National Forest, MT
Daniel Boone National Forest, KY
Eldorado National Forest, CA
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, WA
Monongahela National Forest, WV
Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie, and Croatan National Forests, NC
Shawnee National Forest, IL
Sierra National Forest, CA
Tonto National Forest, AZ
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, UT
White Mountain National Forest, NH


Pets are (mostly) allowed in developed areas, on some trails and campgrounds, and in some lodging facilities, generally requiring a six-foot leash at all times. Each park, however, has unique regulations, some prohibiting pets entirely (not including service-animals). Visit the following for park-specific regulations:


For more NPS regulations on pets:
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National Parks Spotlight—Acadia National Park, ME: Headed to the North Atlantic coastline? Then seeing the highest rocky headlands in Acadia National Park should be a sure thing on your itinerary. This park boasts more than 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads within the park that are all dog-friendly, (All pets must be restrained on a leash no longer than 6 feet). Visit the following for trail-specific regulations regarding pets in Acadia National Park:


Other notable dog-favorite national parks (click to visit):

Big Thicket National Preserve, TX
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH
Fort Matanzas National Monument, FL
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN
Hot Springs National Park, AR
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
National Mall, DC
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
Pipestone National Monument, MN
River Raisin National Battlefield Park, MI
Saratoga National Historical Park, NY
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Olympic National Park, WA


State and local parks generally have very similar regulations regarding pets as national parks while also requiring contact with specific locations and managing agencies for unique policies. Most differences in pet policies in state and local parks surround proximity to and rules related to water features. Commonly, dogs are allowed, on a six-foot leash, anywhere cars can go with specific sites even offering dog-specific amenities and features.

State/Local Park Spotlight—Alabama State Parks, AL: While a great day hike can be a fulfilling adventure for you and your dear doggie, visiting one of Alabama’s state parks for an overnight stay may be the perfect addition to your outdoor journey. Alabama State Parks have recently expanded dog-friendly accommodations in response to public interest in more pet-friendly options. In addition to dogs being allowed in all campgrounds and trails (restrained on a leash no longer than six feet), there are now more than 10 parks that offer dog-friendly cabin reservations to ensure a great night’s rest during your next adventure. For more information, visit:


Other notable dog-favorite state and local parks (click to visit):

Alafia River State Park, FL
Cheaha State Park, AL
Grayson Highlands State Park, VA
Frank Ortiz Off-Leash Dog Park, NM
Golden Gardens Park, WA
Frank Ortiz Off Leash-Dog Park, NM
Inwood Hill Park, NY
Norman F Kruse Park, MI
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV
Turtle River State Park, ND
Village Creek State Park, AR
Windmill State Recreation Area, NE


There are no overall regulations for these longer trails, so we’re providing some guidance for the three that comprise the so-called “Triple Crown” of thru-hiking.

Appalachian Trail: Dogs are allowed everywhere on the Trail except in three areas: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina; Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center in Bear Mountain State Park, New York, and Baxter State Park, Maine. For more dog-related advice for the AP, visit:

Continental Divide Trail: Dogs are allowed everywhere but where the trail cuts through Glacier National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone National Park. For some inspiration, read about Bethany and Grizby on the Ruffwear blog:


Pacific Crest Trail: Dogs are allowed on much, but not all of the PCT. Generally, they need to be on leash. The regulations affecting you and your dog vary depending on the agency that manages the stretch of the trail. There are no PCT-specific dog regulations. Some of the exclusions include Anza-Borrego State Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mount San Jacinto State Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park and the rim trail alternate in Crater Lake National Park (dogs are ok on official PCT that doesn’t visit the rim). For more dog information on the PCT, visit:



Planning a Vaction with Your Dog by Your Dog Advisor

Top dog-friendly trails in U.S. by Bring Fido:

Hiking Safety: Encountering Predators on the Trail:

Washington Trails Association guide for hiking with dogs:

State-by-state park policies for dogs by Go Pet Friendly:

State-by-state local pet policies by Pet Friendly Travel: