Welcome to Pawsitively Intrepid's National Park Adventure

Have you ever wanted to take a great American road trip with your dog? So did I! But the timing never seemed right. Then the perfect life opportunity came to take a few months off in between jobs. Inspired by some great blog posts written during the celebration of the United States National Parks’ 100th year, Glia and I have planned a 3 month road trip to visit all 46 of the National Parks in the contiguous United States. 

Since we can’t drive to them, we have excluded Dry Tortugas (several miles off the coast of Florida), as well as the parks in Alaska, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Additionally, our visits to 2 of the 46 National Parks (Channel Islands and Isle Royale National Parks) will be limited to visiting the mainland headquarters. In addition to not being able to drive to the island parts of these parks, both Channel Islands and Isle Royale have protected ecosystems and do not allow dogs. But we do hope to find nearby dog-friendly activities to share with our readers. 

As we visit each National Park, we will be creating a blog post with information on exploring that National Park with pets. If the park is not that pet-friendly, we will aim to provide some alternative hiking trails and activities to explore. If you are looking for a brief overview of the national parks and their pet regulations, read our post – National Parks and Your Pet. For more in-depth information about each park, follow the links below.

The National Parks:

Trip Progress (* = Visited Park)
37/46 National Parks Visited 80%

Hot Springs National Park was our first National Park visited on this trip – and it’s dog-friendly! 

Big Bend is a beautiful, vast National Park along the Rio Grande in a remote area of Texas. Click here for our post about Big Bend NP. 

Guadalupe National Park sits on the border of Texas and New Mexico. Our visit here, was beautiful, but windy. Check out our blog post here

Visiting Carlsbad Caverns is an almost mystical experience. The main cave is the fifth largest chamber in North America. 

Saguaro National Park can be enjoyed with a scenic drive on either the West or East side. Numerous hiking trails (a couple that are dog-friendly) branch out from the scenic routes. 

This famous, breathtaking canyon is a sight everyone should see at least once. And since the south rim is relatively dog-friendly, you can easily take your pup with you to visit Grand Canyon National Park

This often overlooked, dog-friendly national park is located just a few hours away from the Grand Canyon. Here you will find an ancient petrified forest, beautiful colored landscapes, and several hiking trails that you and your pup can explore together. Petrified Forest National Park is definitely worth the visit. 

This unique national park is home to the ancient cliff dwellings of the ancestral Puebloans. While the cliff dwellings themselves are off limits to dogs, Mesa Verde National Park is still worth the visit. 

One of the small handful of dog-friendly national parks, Great Sand Dunes National Park is on our list of top national park destinations. From sand dunes reaching over 700 ft in height to the trails heading into the Sangre de Cristo mountains, this park doesn’t disappoint. 

Rocky Mountains National Park is set among the tall peaks of Colorado’s famous mountains. With snow-capped peaks rising up to just over 14,400 feet, these are some of the tallest mountains in Central North America. 

Only hours away from more famous national parks like the Grand Canyon or Rocky Mountains, is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. A canyon carved over the course of 2 million years, this park is home to the tallest cliff in Colorado and the mighty Gunnison River. And happily dogs can enjoy a large portion of the scenic overlooks with their humans.

Split into 4 distinct regions, Canyonlands National Park is a mesmerizing collection of rock formations, canyons and rivers. The easiest district to visit is Island in the Sky, a region that offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.  

Arches National Park contains over 2,000 natural stone arches scattered across its 76,000 acres. Dogs are limited here, but the arches are worth a visit. 

Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden oasis in south central Utah. Amid all of the red rock are fruit orchards that have been tended since the 1800s. Set in the Waterpocket Fold, a unique geological feature, Capitol Reef is well worth a visit. 

Bryce Canyon National Park is home to the largest collection hoodoos on earth. If you aren’t familiar with them, a hoodoo is an irregular column of rock. These hoodoos (and Bryce Canyon) are part of the Grand Staircase, an extensive area (roughly 100 miles x 200 miles) of sedimentary rock layers that stretch from Bryce Canyon National park through Zion National Park and into the Grand Canyon. Find out more about visiting Bryce Canyon National Park with pets. 

Zion National Park is a mecca of weeping rocks and rivers, of narrow canyons and razor edged trails. This stunning national park is located in the southwest corner of Utah. Approach from the east and you will follow the Virgin River as mountainous terrain rises on either side of you. Then pass through an impressive tunnel and the valley will open up before you. Find out more about bringing your pets to Zion National Park

Great Basin National Park is smaller than many of its neighboring parks, covering just over 77,000 acres and receiving approximately 90,000 visitors a year. But just because it is small, doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to see and do. From ancient bristlecone pines to the fascinating Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park has a lot to offer. 

As the official site states, Death Valley is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park. How hot you ask? The highest recorded air temperature was at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913. It was 134°F. While that was the hottest, summer temperatures can routinely top 120°F. And how dry? Average rainfall is less than 2 inches. How low?  Badwater Basin is the point of lowest elevation in North America, recorded at 282 feet below sea level. Find out more about Death Valley National Park

A land of intriguing rock formations and the park’s memorable namesake, the Joshua tree. These “spiky trees straight out of a Dr. Seuss book,” are not actually trees, but a member of the Agave family called Yucca brefivolia. They can be found outside of the national park, but the huge numbers of these trees contained inside the park boundaries are worth a visit. So get your dog and prepare to learn more about visiting Joshua Tree National Park with your pet.

While the actual islands of Channel Islands National Park are off limited for dogs, the mainland beaches are not. If your pup loves the ocean, consider visiting the area around Channel Islands National Park

Pinnacles National Park is a landscape of caves and rocky spires. This national park is also home to the California Condor. Find out more about this national park and visiting with dogs. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are operated together. They are a fantastic set of national parks that offer dramatic mountain views, rushing rivers and waterfalls, and some of the world’s largest trees. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are operated together. They are a fantastic set of national parks that offer dramatic mountain views, rushing rivers and waterfalls, and some of the world’s largest trees. 

Dramatic granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and several miles of paved trails (and even a few unpaved trails) that you can walk with your dog. Yosemite National Park is an iconic national park that everyone should visit at least once.  

From mountain views to boiling mudpots, Lassen Volcanic National Park is dramatic and intriguing. Pet-friendly activities are limited to roadside attractions, but don’t worry. There are plenty of dog-friendly trails located just outside the park in Lassen National Forest. 

Most of us have heard of the towering Redwood trees, some of the largest trees in the world. A walk with your dog along one of Redwood National Parks dirt roads is both humbling and awe-inspiring. 

Perhaps one of the most photogenic national parks, Crater Lake National Park is home to the deepest lake in the United States.

From rainforests to pacific ocean coastline to mountain peaks, Olympic National Park offers a diverse landscape to explore. 

Created to protect the active volcano it is named after, Mount Rainer National Park offers snow capped peaks, alpine meadows, and cascading waterfalls. 

Click here to read all about Glacier National Park.

Cuyahoga National Park is a dog-friendly urban escape. 

Acadia National Park is a very dog-friendly national park located on the coastline of Maine. 

Read all about Shenandoah National Park’s dog-friendly Appalachian mountain trails. . 

Information to be added as we complete each park. 

Find out more about visiting Mammoth Cave National Park with dogs. 

Best visited with a boat, find out more about Voyageurs National Park

Information to be added as we complete each park. 

Information to be added as we complete each park. 

*Four national parks were formed since we started our national parks journey: 

There were two main road trip routes that we considered for this journey. The first was a trip plan created by Randal Olson and can be found here

The second trip route, and the one that we choose to mostly follow, is this one (pictured on the left side of the screen), created by Travis Tamez for Isle Box.

This trip route is technically longer than the route by Randal Olson. However, this 2nd route means exploring Utah earlier in the spring when the temperatures are more moderate. It also provides a convenient  access point for a couple of the visitors who will be joining Glia and I on our trip. 

Since Glia and I want to RV the western half of the United States and backpack the eastern half, we broke this route down into 2 main road trips and 3 small ones. 

  • Purple Highlighting (Parks 1 – 36) = RV Trip
  • Green Highlighting (Parks 38 – 43) = Backpacking Trip 
  • Yellow Highlighting (Park 44) = Voyageurs Trip (mode of transportation still to be determined)
  • Blue Highlighting (Park 37) = Isle Royale Trip
  • Pink Highlighting (Parks 45 – 46)= Florida Trip (mode of transportation still to be determined)