Skip to main content

These national parks are stunning in the fall – and allow your dog to visit, too

These 4 beautiful national parks have pet-friendly attractions

A man, a woman, and a dog hike in the hills overlooking the ocean
aaronj9 / Shutterstock

With cooler fall temperatures just around the corner, pet parents dream of taking their dogs on long outdoor adventures. Some might even be planning pet-friendly getaways. Autumn is certainly a wonderful time to get outside and enjoy nature, and where better to do this than in a U.S. national park? Many of these wonderful parks are pet-friendly. Here we highlight four national parks that are incredible in the fall and perfect for both of you.

An Irish Wolfhound stands by a lake
84kamila / Shutterstock

Are dogs allowed in national parks?

The good news is that most national parks do allow pets in some areas and under certain conditions. Only a few deny pets in all parts of the park — so you can easily plan an outing or vacation for you and your four-legged friend. However, it’s important to follow the rules, especially when it comes to hiking and wildlife. The National Park Service uses the acronym B.A.R.K. to sum up the four basic principles you should follow while in the parks with your pets. It stands for:
  • Bag your pet’s waste
  • Always leash your pet
  • Respect wildlife
  • Know where you can go

The goal here isn’t to limit your ability to enjoy nature alongside your best hiking companion but to keep everyone safe, including the animals who live there year-round.

Bass Harbor Head in Acadia National Park, Maine
Owen Casey / Pexels

Acadia National Park, Maine

Fall is the perfect time to visit Acadia National Park. The weather in the park in early September is lovely, with daytime temperatures in the low 70s, perfect for hiking with your dog. While this park attracts millions of visitors every year, the crowds thin out in the fall, making it a more enjoyable experience. The fall foliage is spectacular, and according to the National Park Service (NPS), the best “leaf peeping” dates typically fall between October 13 and 22, although this can change slightly from year to year.

About the park

Acadia National Park shelters the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline of the U.S. Visitors can enjoy 27 miles of historic motor roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads.

Pet policy

While many areas of the park don’t allow pets, 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads are open to dogs. You can also do day hikes with your dog on Isle au Haut, a community off the coast of Maine and part of the national park. Pets ride for free on the ferry to the island. Once there, you and your dog can have fun exploring the island’s beautiful forests and pathways.

Fall colors in U.S. national park.
redtbird02 / Shutterstock

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

October is a terrific time to visit Shenandoah National Park, with its more than 500 miles of hiking trails. Fall visitors can drive along the park’s Skyline Drive and stop off to take in the awe-inspiring colors from several vantage points. Pet parents and dogs will have fun exploring the network of hiking trails and be rewarded with cascading waterfalls and gorgeous panoramic views.

About the park

Shenandoah National Park extends along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and encompasses nearly 200,000 acres of protected lands.

Pet policy

Of the 500 miles of hiking trails in this park, less than 20 miles are off-limits to pets. That leaves lots of trails for you and your dog to explore. Dogs are allowed in most places in the park and there are pet-friendly rooms available in the lodges within the preservation.   

Congaree National Park South Carolina
Leslie Cross / Unsplash

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

This wonderful park is located in the midlands region of South Carolina. It has a humid subtropical climate with mild winters and warm, wet summers. The National Park Service highly recommends visiting Congaree National Park from September through November when the average daily temperatures are in the low 70s and there’s low humidity. The flies also are not a problem in the fall, making it a great time to visit with your dog. Fall colors peak here between October and early November.

About the park

According to the NPS, Congaree National Park is the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern U.S. Because the majority of the park lies within a floodplain, the terrain is generally flat with only slight elevation changes. So, hiking here won’t be too strenuous for you or your dog.

Pet policy

Congaree National Park welcomes pets. Dogs are allowed on all trails, including the boardwalk and in the campgrounds.

Couple looking at map on fall trail with dog.
kurapatka / Adobe Stock

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

This national park is home to lots of deciduous forest, making for a spectacular color display in the fall. Typically, the last two weeks of October are when you’ll enjoy the gorgeous reds, oranges, and yellows in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

About this park

This might be one of the lesser-known national parks in the U.S., but it’s a valuable refuge for native plants and wildlife. The Cuyahoga River winds through this park that includes deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. It’s also home to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail that takes visitors along the same path mules walked to tow canal boats loaded with goods and passengers.

Pet policy

Dogs are allowed on more than 100 miles of hiking trails as well as on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

It’s an honor, not a privilege, to visit U.S. national parks with our dogs. These parks have strict rules to ensure the preservation of the natural environment. It’s important that pet parents obey these rules, which include keeping dogs on a 6-foot leash at all times, picking up poop, and steering clear of areas that are designated as off-limits to pets. By respecting park rangers and other visitors, everyone, including our pets, can continue to enjoy some of the most beautiful U.S. national parks.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Contributor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
Is getting a puppy for Christmas a good idea? You can’t return them like an ugly sweater
Here's what to know before you bring a puppy home this holiday
Woman snuggling Samoyed puppy in front of the Christmas tree

Of all the viral holiday videos to make their way around the internet, there’s nothing quite as heartwarming (and adorable) as seeing a new puppy jump out of a box on Christmas morning. It’s easy to see why many families feel inspired to get this surprise present for their loved ones and show up with a new furry friend during the holidays!
Getting a puppy for Christmas can seem like a special, even life-changing gift, but the cleaning and work accompanying them aren’t as cute. Many families -- especially kids -- aren’t prepared for the effort and expense of raising a dog, which unfortunately leads to pets being dropped off at shelters not long after the holidays.
If you’re considering gifting a puppy to your family this Christmas, make sure you do the research and consider the obligations that pet parenthood entails. Here’s what to know.

Why getting a puppy for Christmas isn’t always smart
Although raising a dog can be a rewarding and joyful experience, it also requires work, patience, and responsibility. Is your family ready to take this on? Are you willing to pick up the slack if they prove that they're not?
According to the shelter staff at the Marion County Humane Society in West Virginia, shelter admissions tend to increase every year at the end of January. Unfortunately, many of these pets are Christmas gifts that families weren’t ready to care for.
“People that got a new puppy or a new kitten, and they expect their young child to take care of them,” one shelter tech told WDTV. "Of course, if the kid doesn't do it, the parent doesn't want to take care of them, either.”
A lack of research is also a huge factor in unsuccessful pet adoptions. Not all dog breeds will do well in all homes, so consulting an expert or doing some reading is vital before taking action. And remember — a cute, tiny puppy can still grow into a huge, rambunctious dog (depending on their breed), so you’ll need to be prepared.
It’s also important to consider where you’re adopting your new pup from because not all breeders are reliable. As awful as it is to acknowledge, some people sell sick and injured dogs for a quick buck. Needless to say, a dog with health concerns can be as loving of a companion as any other — after treatment, of course — but you have a right to be informed about the condition of your new friend, including information about the puppy's parents.
Shelters can help you get to know your pup a bit before bringing him home, but rescued dogs will still need some extra time to adjust to their surroundings. The honeymoon phase may not be as happy-go-lucky as you expect, especially if there has been any past trauma for your pup. If this is the case, don't be upset if your new dog isn't matching the holly jolly spirit!

Read more
Best reptile pets: These are the 5 most affectionate reptiles you can welcome into your home
These friendly reptiles will make great additions to your family
Basking Chinese water dragon

When you picture an adorable pet, you probably don't visualize an iguana. Reptiles aren't generally considered the cutest of animals, but that doesn't mean you can't find a cuddly one. Whether you're looking for a new buddy for yourself or for your lizard-obsessed kid, there's a reptilian beast out there that will work great in your home.

With proper socialization, these guys can learn to be handled daily, some even by children. If you want a new pet that enjoys human company, consider one of the most affectionate slitherers — they're the best reptile pets for handling.

Read more
Why is my dog whining? 6 common reasons and what you can do to stop it
If you wonder "why is my dog whining?" — check out the possible causes
Sad dog resting his head near a shoe

Let’s be honest: No matter how much we love our fur babies, living with a dog that's a whiner can drive you crazy. Whining can be irritating, heartbreaking, and even anxiety-inducing for owners. Whether it's distracting you from work, making you sad to leave the house, or making you worry that something is wrong with your dog, figuring out why your dog is whining and what you can do about it is important.

No matter how disruptive it is, always remember that whining is a form of communication for our dogs, say training experts at the ASPCA. The key is to properly interpret the noise and figure out how to work with her on it; to try to answer the question, "Why is my dog whining?"

Read more