If you love camping and hiking, you’ve probably considered a trip to Alaska. From the highest mountain in North America to coastal glaciers, Alaska holds plenty of natural wonders across its millions of acres of wild land. And while you could fly in, there are many people who consider the drive to Alaska to be one of the best road trips you can take in North America.
And if you have the time to drive, it becomes easier to bring along your furry family member. But just because you can, should you?
I’ve been considering that very question and have ultimately decided to bring my dog, Glia, along for the adventure. But to help you make your own personal decision, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
3 big reasons you SHOULD bring your dog on your adventure to Alaska!
The biggest reason I am choosing to bring my dog with on my Alaska road trip is for companionship. I am planning for a large portion of this trip to be a solo road trip and having Glia along gives me a companion for the long stretches of time spent driving, camping, and hiking.
If you are used to traveling with your dog and your dog travels well, it can feel a little lonely to leave them behind. Especially for an extended period of time. So it can be a big perk to have your dog by your side as you journey to Alaska.
2. Ability to Travel Longer
Bringing my dog along means that it is easier for me to spend a longer time on the road, as I don’t have to worry about finding a dog sitter for her. I am lucky to have family members who will watch her, but I still worry about leaving for too long.
If I didn’t have family members willing to watch her, then I would need to consider paying for an in-home pet sitter or boarding her. And that’s not cheap, especially not for 2+ weeks. By bringing Glia with me on the road, I can take my time driving and come back home when I am ready.
3. Most Hikes in Alaska (and on the Road to Alaska) are Dog-Friendly
Many of the hiking trails in Alaska allow dogs. There are a few key exceptions (which I’ll list below), but dogs are allowed on trails in many of the common hiking areas, such as Chugach State Park, Chugach National Forest, Denali State Park, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and more.
Dogs are also allowed on trails in most of the provincial and national parks in Canada that you will likely pass on your drive to Alaska.
4 reasons you SHOULD NOT bring your dog to Alaska.
So the reasons listed above are big factors for me and it takes a lot of negatives to get me to leave my dog behind. But there are a few negatives to taking a dog along on a road trip to Alaska.
1. The Wildlife: Moose
Alaska (and the Canadian Rockies) are a remote and wild place filled with a lot of different species of animals. The two of most concern when hiking with dogs are moose and bears.
Moose hate dogs. Dogs are similar to a natural predator of moose, the wolf. So while moose are unlikely to threaten a solo hiker or group of people who are giving them a safe distance, they may approach a hiker with a dog. Especially if a dog is barking and/or off-leash.
Many off-leash dogs will run up to moose and then run back to their humans. This can result in the moose charging not just your dog, but you. In most deadly attacks by moose, dogs were present.
If hiking in moose territory, it is recommended to keep your dog leashed and close to you. I always hike with my dogs leashed anyway, but there are Alaska hiking trails that allow dogs to be off-leash as long as they are under voice control.
If you see a moose while hiking with your dog, it is recommended to leave the area immediately.
Here are a couple more posts about how to stay safe hiking with dogs in areas where moose live.
- Why Dogs cause Moose to Attack Humans – Wildlifexteam
- What to Do About Aggressive moose – Alaska Department of Fish and Game
2. The Wildlife: Bears
Alaska is home to two types of bears: black bears and grizzly bears. While both should be respected and avoided while hiking, grizzly bears are the more concerning of the two. Especially when hiking with dogs.
Again, the biggest risk of a bear encounter is with an off-leash dog. Keeping your dog leashed can help reduce how threatened a bear feels by your dog. Dogs can provoke defensive behaviors in bears, especially when they are running or if they are barking at the bear.
The other issue with bears is that you are not supposed to run from a charging bear. If a grizzly bear attacks, you are supposed to stay silent and try not to move to reduce the severity of the attack. Most dogs will instinctively run or fight. So make sure you have bear spray with you if you plan to hike with your dog in grizzly (brown) bear territory.
Here are some good links to information about hiking with dogs in bear country:
- Hiking Safety: Encountering Predators on the Trail – GoPetFriendly
- Living With Bears – Alaska Department of Fish and Game
- Dogs in Grizzly Country: Best Practices to Keep Pets, People, and Bears Safe – BearTracks
3. The National Parks: Kenai Fjords and Denali
There are three national parks in Alaska that are accessible by car: Kenai Fjords, Denali, and Wrangell- St. Elias. Dogs are allowed to hike on trails in Wrangell- St. Elias, but NOT in either Kenai Fjords or Denali.
There are some amazing hikes in both parks where dogs aren’t allowed on trails, including the Harding Ice Field in Kenai Fjords National Park. So ask yourself if you are truly willing to skip some of these amazing experiences.
Personally, I found a couple of nice compromises.
- There are some viewpoints where you can see Mount Denali from the Curry Ridge Trail in Denali State Park. And you can drive a few miles into Denali National Park to see some of the park on the park road. Be aware though that personal vehicles are only allowed to drive as far as Mile 15. And dogs are not allowed on the shuttle that connects visitors to the rest of the park accessible by the 92.5-mile road. (As of 2023, the park road is closed at mile 43 due to a landslide in that area.)
- There are boarding/pet-sitting options in Anchorage and Seward. So I plan to board Glia or get a pet sitter for a day so I can hike the Harding Ice Field trail.
4. Bringing a Dog With Limits Dining and Tour Options
Traveling with a dog, especially solo travel, always limits the ease of eating at restaurants and the ability to join tour groups. I am used to skipping some of these activities, but make sure that you are willing to adjust your travel style for your dog. Or that you have a good option for care for your dog while you participate in a tour or go out to eat at a fun restaurant.
Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?
For me they do and I am planning to bring my dog with on a road trip to and around Alaska. But your decision might be different.
If you do bring your dog with to Alaska, make sure to plan ahead so you can have the best dog-friendly trip.
- Make sure you have dog-friendly lodging
- Know the rules about leaving a dog unattended (even just for short breaks for you to run inside and use a restroom)
- Plan extra time to let your dog out of the car to stretch their legs and take potty breaks
- Double-check hiking trails and planned destinations to ensure dogs are allowed.
- Bring a good leash that’s comfortable to hike with.
If you’re still in the planning phases of your road trip to Alaska, check out Go Pet Friendly for some dog-friendly ideas. And for general trip planning to Alaska, Adventures of A +K has some great guides for road-tripping to Alaska.