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Dog-Friendly National Parks

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Tails are waggin' because National Parks are re-opening!! And if you live for adventures with your pup like we do, listen up! We've asked some of our favorite MLBR rescues to share their top parks for dog sniffing and exploring - and what better way to do that than to check out the Bark Ranger list.

What's a BARK Ranger?

Until recently, we didn't know it was an official thing. And by luck, one of our favorite dog mom's gave us the scoop! In 2015, two of Olympic National Park's stellar park rangers dreamed up an outreach program to cultivate community, start conversations about Leave No Trace, and to encourage mindfulness for official pet policies. It was such a big hit, the BARK Ranger program officially launched in the summer of 2016. Since then, the program has gained traction in more and more parks across the nation.

If you’re planning your own National Park adventure this summer and want to bring your four legged co-pilot along, start by visiting one of the park’s visitor centers and becoming a #BarkRanger This program encourages dogs and their owners to pledge to protect the parks and themselves by following four simple steps. Remember these and you’re sure to enjoy a memorable trip with your best friend!

  • Bag your dog’s waste

  • Always use a leash

  • Respect wildlife

  • Know where you can go

Bag your pet’s waste

Just because it’s poo and it will degrade, doesn’t mean it belongs on the side of a trail. The first reason is because it will damage the local ecosystem as it breaks down. The second reason is because it is unsightly, smells, and takes away from the experiences of fellow hikers.

Always use a leash

We enjoy watching our dogs do zoomies in the wilderness but a National park is not the place for off-leash play. Trails are often narrow and shared with other dogs who must be leashed for their own safety, whether that is because of dangerous terrain or health reasons, or because they are fear reactive, anxious, being rehabilitated, or in training. Children or adults who are afraid of dogs will also benefit from fellow hikers leashing their pets.

Respecting wildlife

Wild animals are typically not used to seeing domesticated animals in their home. Predators such as bears, cougars, coyotes may see off-leash pets as prey while large herbivores such as mountain goats and elk have been known to injure pets as well. This places both pet and owner in danger, so do not allow your dogs to approach, bark at, chase, or intimidate wildlife.

Knowing where you can go

Before you head out on your hike check to see if park is pet friendly – are they allowed on the trails? beaches? campsites? only on paved areas? National Park Paws, National Park websites, and ranger stations are all valuable sources of information for planning your pet-friendly trips in nationally protected lands.

Collect BARK Ranger Tags

Dogs participating in the program are sworn in as Bark Rangers, and their owners can purchase a special tag for their pup’s collar. Each participating park has their own tag, so your dog can collect them all!

Each nationally protected area may have additional site specific needs, depending on the location and ecosystem. Here are some of the places and events that are currently offering BARK Ranger programs:

Don’t see your local National Park or there aren’t any upcoming BARK Ranger events? Don’t worry – give your ranger station a call! Interest will help further expand the program and rangers may also be able to inform you of future events.

Already collecting BARK Ranger tags or have another location for us to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Tails, Happy Trails!


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