The United States of America is a large country with lots of diverse landscapes to explore. After spending several months roadtripping with my dogs, I have found big differences in the numbers of dog friendly trails from region to region. But by following a few simple guidelines, you should be able to find a dog-friendly hiking trail wherever you are.
How can you find dog-friendly hiking trails wherever you travel? Start by looking for areas of land that are typically dog friendly, such as National Forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, and (depending on the state) State Parks. Additionally, online resources, such as AllTrails, GoPetFriendly, and BringFido, can be used to search for dog-friendly hiking trails in a certain region. And don’t forget that you can scan Google maps for nearby green spaces and click on those areas’ websites to check for trails and dog laws.
Once you find a trail of interest, make sure to visit the website for that trail to confirm whether or not dogs are allowed and to find out what other regulations apply to hiking in that area. For example, do dogs need to stay on leash for the duration of the hike?
Since one of the easiest ways to find good dog-friendly hiking trails is to look for areas of public land, let’s get started by discussing the general differences in dog policies amongst different types of public land.
Which public land areas typically have dog-friendly hiking trails?
There are several types of public lands throughout the United States. Learning all of the abbreviations, like BLM, NPS, and USFS, can sometimes feel a bit like deciphering alphabet soup. But learning about which types of federal land allow dogs can help you find great dog-friendly hiking trails to explore.
Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails
Dogs are NOT allowed on Trails
|National Forests||National Parks|
|Bureau of Land Management|
|State Parks||Some exceptions to the State Parks:|
California, Hawaii, New Hampshire
National Parks (NP)
These are the areas that most people tend to be familiar with. They include well-known parks like Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite.
Yellowstone was the first National Park, established in 1872 “as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Today, the National Park System (NPS) comprises more than 400 areas.
While each of these national parks, monuments, and other sites have different dog-policies, the majority do not allow dogs on most hiking trails. When dogs are allowed, they are required to be on-leash. These regulations are mostly in place to help protect wildlife and conserve the park.
We have visited 40 of the United State’s National Parks and have created reviews on dog-friendly activities in all of these. But if you are looking to truly hike with your dog, check out our list of the The 6 Most Dog-Friendly U.S. National Parks West of the Mississippi River. We have visited fewer of the parks in the eastern half of the United States, but we have been to Cuyahoga, Indiana Dunes, and Shenandoah (all of which have dog-friendly hiking trails.
National Forests (NF)
National Forests are managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Their mission is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to mee t the needs of present and future generations.”
While National Forests tend to be a bit more rugged and less developed than the National Parks, as a general rule they are also much more dog-friendly.
National Forests can be a great alternative for dogs that want to travel to areas near the National Parks, as many National Parks have National Forests right outside of the NP boundaries.
You can find an interactive visitor map for the National Forest system on the Forest Service website. As you can see, there are plenty of hiking trails to choose from, especially in the western half of the United States.
Please check the regulations for the particular trail you want to hike, as there are a few trails closed to dogs and some with leash requirements.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
If you haven’t been out West, you may not even be aware that BLM land exists. There really isn’t much BLM land in the eastern half of the United States. Just check out this map of where BLM land is located.
But depending on where you are looking to hike with your dog, this land is another great resource for finding dog-friendly hiking trails.
The BLM was established in 1946 as asuccessor to the General Land Office (established 1812) and the U.S. Grazing Service. The BLM manages 245 million surface acres (or 1/10 of America’s land base). This organization manages “public land for multiple uses (such as energy development, livestock grazing, mining, timber harvesting, and outdoor recreation) while conserving natural, historical, and cultural resources.”
Happily, dogs are generally welcome to join in for adventures on BLM lands. And with so much land out west, this makes for a lot of hiking opportunities.
BLM-managed lands offer numerous opportunities for hiking ranging from small foot paths through untrammeled wilderness to National Historic Trails with developed trail heads and interpretation centers. No matter what type of experience you are looking for, you can find it on BLM-managed lands. Dogs are welcome on most BLM-managed trails. Please check the trail website or call the local BLM field office for specific leash policies.https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/hiking
State Parks (SP)
State Parks are often dog-friendly. In my home state of Minnesota, dog’s are allowed on hiking trails in all 67 State Parks. But make sure to keep them on a 6-foot leash. You can even complete the MN State Parks hiking club with your pup.
However, each state is different. When we visited California, there were several state park hiking trails closed to dogs. And when we looked through GoPetFriendly’s great article overviewing State Park dog policies in all 50 states, we saw that Hawaii and New Hampshire also had some notable exceptions. There are also several more states that just have one or two state parks off-limits to dogs.
As a result, we recommend checking each state’s official State Park website for any dog-related updates before traveling to a State Park.
State Forests (SF)
Not all State Forests are developed enough to have hiking trails. But the ones that do are often dog-friendly, just like National Forests.
While I have to admit to underutilizing State Forests in my own state of Minnesota, they are another great resource for those looking to find more hiking spaces to enjoy with their pup.
Apps and Websites to Help You Find Dog-Friendly Hiking
If looking for a National Forest, BLM area, State Park, or State Forest doesn’t result in the discovery of some great dog-friendly hiking trails in your area, the following are some great resources.
AllTrails is a pretty thorough database of hiking and walking trails in the United States. You can type in the name of the city your are in and then search through trails via list or map format. And to make things easier for those of us hiking with dogs, you can filter the results in order to see dog-friendly trails only.
You do have to create a free account to fully use AllTrails. But once you have an account, you will gain access to a description of the trail and information such as trail length and elevation change. Other reviewers can also leave trail reviews.
And if you prefer to search for trails on your phone, AllTrails has a mobile app that you can add to your smartphone.
Find out more about AllTrails on their website.
GoPetFriendly is an amazing resources for people traveling with pets. You can search your location and find multiple resources for dog-friendly activities in that area. This website is for more than just hiking trails, and you can find dog-friendly attractions and highlights for each state.
Check out GoPetFriendly.com.
Another website dedicated to dog-friendly travel, this website is similar to AllTrails in that it allows you to search for hiking trails in a specific location. On this site, all results will be dog-friendly without having to select a filter. The trails are also rated to help you select the best one.
This link will open up BringFido’s hiking trail search page.
And don’t forget, you can always scan your area on Google maps for green areas which indicate parks and natural areas. Although many of these areas near cities are golf courses, you can find some gems this way.
Facebook Hiking Groups
Facebooks groups are another great way to find local trails. This year I joined a group called Hiking Minnesota and we have found several great hiking trail recommendations from the discussion in that group.
Still Trying to Find Great Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails?
If you are still looking for inspiration for your next dog-friendly adventure, check out this list from the U.S. Department of the Interior about the “Best Dog-Friendly Public Lands.”
Or check out some of the dog-friendly hiking trail reviews and guides posted here on PawsitivelyIntrepid.