A nomadic dog owner’s inside tips on traveling with a pet
There’s no better place to hang with your dog than the great outdoors, and here in the US we’re spoiled with breathtaking parks and outdoor spaces. These majestic places offer endless opportunities to let Fido frolic, but public lands and parks all have different rules for pets and it can be tricky to sort out where they’re allowed, if leashes are required, etc. To help guide your road trip planning, we asked a well traveled dog owner for insider tips and some of his favorite dog-friendly places in the West.
Ever since his office closed because of the coronavirus, Tyler has been semi-nomadic, working remotely and driving around the American West in his Volkswagen EuroVan with his Australian Shepherd mix, Trevor. Luckily for Trevor, who’s an extremely active dog, Tyler’s lifestyle revolves around hiking, mountain biking, and climbing in some of the most fabulous landscapes our country has to offer. They go everywhere together — across the Rockies, the deserts of the Southwest, and all up and down the West Coast — which means Tyler has become intimately familiar with pet regulations in public lands.
Different places, different rules
Tyler first emphasizes that it’s important to recognize that national, state, and local parks in the US all employ different rules when it comes to pets, even differing from park to park. While many national parks do allow leashed dogs at campsites and on approved trails, the majority don’t allow any backcountry camping with dogs. Where pets aren’t allowed, it’s most likely to preserve the local habitat and protect wildlife, so please respect the rules wherever you go.
For letting your dog run wild and off-leash, Tyler recommends seeking out areas run by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Together, those agencies oversee 440 million acres of land, most of which is empty, free to access, and dog-friendly. “I like to camp in national forests and on BLM land whenever possible,” says Tyler. “There’s generally no pet restrictions, no other people, and it’s free!”
If you’re booking a car on Turo, remember to only bring your dog along if the host explicitly allows, or you may be subject to fines (use the Pet friendly filter to easily find vehicles that allow pets). Whenever camping with your animal, practice good pet etiquette, be aware of wild predators, and just use common sense. And wherever you go, always check the local pet regulations so your furry friend doesn’t have to stay in the car!
7 pet-friendly parks and areas of the West
Here are seven of Tyler and Trevor’s favorite pet-friendly spots they’ve visited this year.
1. Dixie National Forest, Utah
Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park are among the most-visited places in the Southwest, but dogs are not allowed in much of either park and trails are often crowded during peak seasons. Tyler has found Dixie National Forest, sandwiched nicely between the two parks, to be a welcoming alternative. This huge wilderness is covered by a pine forest, limestone rock formations, colored cliffs, and endless streams and lakes, and there are 1,600 miles of trails for you and your leashed pet to explore!
2. Flathead National Forest, Montana
Many of the iconic national parks Tyler visits aren’t especially accommodating with pets, so he likes to include stops to nearby dog-friendly destinations when planning trips. While Montana’s Glacier National Park has fairly restrictive pet policies, Flathead National Forest has over two million acres of dog-friendly wilderness. Canines are allowed throughout the majestic forest’s peaks, trails, and river systems, except for swimming areas.
3. White Sands National Park, New Mexico
“Trevor absolutely loved playing in White Sands,” says Tyler. “I brought a piece of cardboard to slide down the dunes with and Trevor couldn’t get enough of it!” White Sands’ shimmering gypsum dunes provide an almost alien environment for you and your dog to explore. It is a national park, so remember to keep your dog leashed on the trails. And Tyler notes to be mindful of the temperature in the summer months — the sand can get very hot and might not be suitable for some dogs’ paws.
4. Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
The stunning Mount Hood National Forest is just about an hour outside of Portland, Oregon, and is another one of Tyler’s favorite places to enjoy towering forests and mountain landscapes with Trevor in tow. Dogs are welcome throughout the forest except for public buildings and swimming areas. Dogs are even allowed on some of the cross country ski trails during winter, so if your doggy loves powder you can take them on the snowy adventure of a lifetime.
5. Garrapata State Beach, California
The rugged coasts of California’s Big Sur are a sight to behold, and Garrapata State Beach offers some of the region’s best vistas. While dogs are not allowed on most trails, they are allowed on the two-mile long Garrapata State Beach at the south end of the park. Tyler likes this beach because it’s one of the few park areas in Big Sur a dog can roam free. And the nearby idyllic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea is a dog-lover’s paradise where you can see hundreds of off-leash dogs at Carmel Beach on any given day.
6. Little Sahara Recreation Area, Utah
About two hours south of Salt Lake City, this BLM-managed recreation area offers an adventure-ready desert landscape for visitors and their pups to enjoy hiking, biking, and sliding down the expansive Utah sand dunes. Make sure to keep an eye for off-road vehicles in the dunes.
7. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
Leashed pets are allowed in most of Glen Canyon, including campsites and the bright blue waters of Lake Powell. Pets are restricted to trails above the rim in the nearby Grand Canyon, so if you’re keen to let your dog stretch its legs, Glen Canyon is Tyler’s pick for backcountry recreation.