Dog-Friendly Fun at Gateway Arch National Park

At only 91 acres, Gateway Arch National Park is the smallest area of land to have received the designation of a national park. The park is comprised of the 62 acres formerly known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (which is where the Arch is located), plus another almost 30 acres of land that encompass the Old Courthouse, Luther Ely Smith Square, and a good bit of the surrounding streets (managed as easements).

The park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, to the pioneers who helped shape its history, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse.

Because of its small size, visiting this national park feels much more like visiting a national monument or a small city park rather than it does like visiting many of the other impressive national parks around the United States. For reference, the next smallest national park is Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas at 5,548 acres. And the largest national park in the United States is Wrangell- St. Elias in Alaska at 8,323,146 acres. The largest national park in the “lower 48” is Death Valley in California at 3,373,063 acres.

Despite the small size of the park, Gateway Arch National Park is still worth a stop if you are road tripping around this area. The man-made Gateway Arch is an impressive sight.

Standing 630 ft tall, the Gateway Arch is an icon of the St. Louis skyline. Built between 1963 and 1965, the arch was created to commemorate St. Louis’ role in the Westward Expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century.

So if you are near St. Louise, plan a morning, or afternoon, or evening to take in the sights at the United State’s smallest, most urban national park.

View from bridge over Mississippi River. (We walked from DraftKings RV Park in Illinois to Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri.)

Dogs at Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park ranks fairly high among the various US National Parks in order of dog-friendliness. Leashed dogs are welcome to explore the grounds with you (as long as you are properly picking up and disposing of dog waste of course). We spent around an hour walking through the park and taking pictures of the impressive arch rising high above us.

Unfortunately (although expected) dogs are not allowed inside the Arch, the Old Courthouse, or the other buildings at this park. But per GoPetFriendly, dogs are allowed on the first floor of the one-hour scenic riverboat cruises.

And in 2021, there was an entire day devoted to the B.A.R.K ranger program, where dogs could stop by the Arch West entrance, learn about the B.A.R.K ranger program, and receive a free T-shirt, dog bandana, and dog treats. That’s pretty dog-friendly.

B.A.R.K. stands for Bag your pet’s waste, Always leash your pet, Respect wildlife, and Know where you can go. At most parks with this program, you and your dog will complete an official pledge card at the visitor center and can then purchase an official B.A.R.K. Ranger badge at the park. Similar to the junior range program, but for dogs.

The following national parks have B.A.R.K ranger programs:

Dog-Friendly Activities in St. Louis and the Areas around Gateway Arch National Park

If you and your dog enjoy visiting new cities, there is plenty to do in do St. Louis. We didn’t spend much time in the city, so I recommend checking out these lists by BringFido and DowntownSTL for some recommendations of places to visit, eat, and stay with your dog in St. Louis, Missouri.

During our brief stay in the area, we parked our camper at the DraftKings RV Park across the river from Gateway Arch National Park. This allowed us to walk the bridge over the Mississippi River to the park and not have to deal with any downtown parking. This plan worked well for us, but I would like to offer a couple of words of caution: the bridge is full of broken glass and trash. You may want to have your dog wear dog boots (like these or these) to protect their paws from the glass. And make sure your dog has a good leave-it command to avoid them gobbling up a discarded portion of a fast food meal.

Staying on the Illinois side of the river, made for an easy walk over to the Malcom Martin Memorial Park for a morning view of the Arch across the river. Malcolm Martin was even nice enough to allow Sasha to take a quick rest on his lap. This park is small, but it was fun to get a good view of the Arch across the river with the full city skyline in the background.

Overall: Visiting Gateway Arch National Park with Dogs

Visiting Gateway Arch National Park with your pups is a great way to spend an afternoon (or evening or morning) in St. Louis, Missouri. Since all of the walkways are open to pups, you can get lovely 360-degree views of the arch on your stroll. The only things you will miss out on by bringing your pup with are a tram ride to the top of the arch and the ability to step into the Old Courthouse. But if you want to stay outside and keep your feet on the ground, grab your leash and dog and head on out to this unique national park.


Kate is the writer of Pawsitively Intrepid. She has spent the last 9 years working full-time as a veterinarian, treating dogs and cats. But as of June 2023, she is taking a year to travel with her dog, volunteer, and work on some passion projects.

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