Daily Press (Sunday)

Yes, you can take your dog to a national park

New online resources make planning a park-centric trip with Rover easier

- By Lauren Sloss

Ely MacInnes and her husband, Tom, began traveling in the western United States with their 85-pound mutt, Alaska, in March 2020. Driving and living in a recreation­al vehicle, they visited White Sands and Petrified Forest National Parks in New Mexico and Arizona before heading to California, Oregon and Washington.

They sometimes struggled to figure out where Alaska could and couldn’t roam, but often found that they could have wonderful experience­s.

“We could have a great time viewing the park from the car and doing the limited options that allowed dogs,” MacInnes said. “Most people think you can’t bring your dogs to national parks, but many national parks actually make it very welcoming.”

In June 2020, the couple started a Facebook group, U.S. National Parks With Dogs, to exchange advice and informatio­n about their travels and provide a forum for others to share their experience­s, positive and negative. The group now has nearly 5,000 members.

“We want to make sure everyone can enjoy the parks, whether or not they have a dog,” said MacInnes, adding that another pup, a blue heeler named Smoky Joe, is now part of her family.

For humans who like to enjoy the outdoors with their canine pals, planning a park visit has gotten easier in recent years thanks to a host of online resources, as well as expanded programs courtesy of the Park Service.

Here’s what you need to know about bringing your pup to the parks.

Yes, dogs are allowed in most national parks

First things first: Dogs are, by and large, allowed in national parks. But there are rules intended to conserve the land, protect the wildlife and keep dogs safe. In all parks, dogs must be on leashes no longer than 6 feet, and picking up and disposing of pet excrement is a must.

Then specific destinatio­ns may have their own rules. In Yosemite and Yellowston­e National Parks, dogs are largely restricted to developed car campground­s and paved roads, while others, including White Sands, have more areas open to dogs, although they must be leashed.

Whatever your destinatio­n, do your research

The Park Service website has a section dedicated to pet visitors, including a map that illustrate­s which parks allow dogs, and then most individual parks have sites with dedicated pet pages, offering the most reliable and current sources of informatio­n.

Danielle LaFleur and her husband, Brodin Ramsey, have been traveling with their dog, Chia, since March. They make a point to speak to park rangers on arrival to get the most up-to-date informatio­n and suggestion­s on which areas to visit.

“In Joshua Tree, the rangers directed me to a four-wheel-drive road that no one goes on,” LaFleur said. “We were able to do quite a bit of exploring there.”

Other resources include sites such as AllTrails and apps including BringFido (for dog-friendly hotels and more). And keep in mind that the rules exist for a reason: Breaking them can be detrimenta­l to your

dog and to other visitors’ experience­s, and may even lead to more restrictio­ns on dogs in the future.

Join the BARK Rangers

Another reason to chat with rangers is to find out if the park you’re visiting is a part of the BARK Rangers program, an initiative that started about 20 years ago with free books, badges and bandannas aimed at promoting good dog and park stewardshi­p.

“The program encourages pets and pet owners to engage in responsibl­e behavior in their national parks,” said Kathy Kupper, a public affairs specialist with the Park Service. Those principles are:

Bag your pet’s waste. Always leash your pet. Respect wildlife.

Know where you can go.

Individual parks may have additional caninefrie­ndly activities, including ranger-guided adventure walks.

Other federal lands are often more dog-friendly

Chris Chao and his wife, Melanie, have traveled with Pyro, their Siberian husky, to 51 national parks.

But the couple has consistent­ly found that other public lands, including areas overseen by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, are more open to dogs.

While national park sites are specifical­ly chosen for conservati­on purposes, other federal lands are more multipurpo­se, often allowing hunting and livestock grazing. As such, many national forests and

BLM sites allow dogs to be off-leash with their people, and trails are largely accessible to dogs when compared with those in national parks.

Of course, even if your dog is allowed off-leash, they still must be under control; your dog should not chase wildlife, livestock or other hikers.

“Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks,” Chao said, “are very dog-restrictiv­e, but in Sequoia National Forest, all the trails are dog-friendly.”

Adjust your expectatio­ns

“It’s a bit like traveling with a child. You’re going to have to plan stops and potty breaks,” Chao said.

In national parks with more restrictio­ns, this may mean skipping attraction­s and hikes, hiring a pet sitter

(Rover is one app for that), boarding your dog for the day, or tag teaming with a partner or travel buddy.

Halef Gunawan and his partner, Michael Demmons, sometimes take turns exploring while the other stays with their German shepherd, Kana. When the family visited Joshua Tree, Demmons went on a solo hike that he was eager to try, while Gunawan walked Kana around the visitors center.

However, they try to prioritize destinatio­ns where they can do things together.

“We don’t just want to leave her behind in the van; we want to include her,” Gunawan said. “I can’t imagine traveling without her now. It’s been such a wonderful experience for the three of us.”

 ?? ELY MACINNES ?? Ely MacInnes, seen with her dog Alaska at Grand Canyon National Park, and her husband, Tom, started the Facebook group, U.S. National Parks With Dogs, to exchange advice and informatio­n about their travels with others.
ELY MACINNES Ely MacInnes, seen with her dog Alaska at Grand Canyon National Park, and her husband, Tom, started the Facebook group, U.S. National Parks With Dogs, to exchange advice and informatio­n about their travels with others.

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