Dog Friendly National Parks in California

If there’s one thing that the United States is known for, it’s the beautiful national parks, and California is one of the best states to live in or visit if you love a good national park. What’s more, many of California’s national parks are dog-friendly, which means you can take your canine companion with you.

Whether you want to hike a mountain with your dog or just explore a gorgeous landscape, California’s national parks have something to offer for almost every type of dog owner. In fact, many of these parks will also have plenty of accommodations for you and your dogs.

If you’re interested in California’s dog-friendly national parks, you’re in the right place. Read on to learn about some of the best dog-friendly parks in the state. We cover some of the more well-known locations along with some of the hidden gems that California has to offer. Plus, we include some state parks as well.

What Is a National Park?

National parks are federally owned parks that the government has set aside to preserve the natural environment. The United States is home to hundreds of national parks and they’re some of the greatest parks on the planet.

These parks have been around since the late 1800s and continue to be a driving factor in tourism and exploration. They’re a great place to explore with your friends, and many national parks allow you to bring your dog with you as well.

National parks are not the same as state parks, so it’s important to keep this in mind. California is a massive state, so it’s home to a handful of national and state parks. The key difference is that state parks are owned by California’s state government, whereas the federal government runs national parks.

Are Dogs Allowed in California’s National Parks?

Dogs are allowed in most national parks across the country, including California. The federal government controls national parks, so the laws surrounding these parks are usually on the federal level. Still, each park has its own rules based on the type of park, so make sure you do some research on the park before you show up with your dog.

Dogs are also allowed in California’s state parks. These parks are similar to national parks, the main difference being that California’s state government is in control of the parks, unlike the federal government. California does have some unique rules for dogs in state parks, but they’re mostly the same.

What Are the Rules for Dogs in California’s National and State Parks?

According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, dogs must follow several rules to avoid being removed from national and state parks. If you fail to follow these rules, you can end up with legal fines and several other problems. We cover some of the most notable laws below. The good news is that most of the rules can be summed up into simple tips that you can follow when you visit a park like Joshua Tree National Park.

Things you should do include:

  • Have your dog on a leash that’s no longer than 6 feet
  • You have to pick up the waste and dispose of it
  • Dogs and other pets usually aren’t allowed in buildings
  • Dogs should remain on designated trails, pathways, and walkways

Rules will vary based on the national or state park that you visit. For this reason, always check with the park’s website or check with someone who works there before you visit.

Are Service Dogs Allowed in National Parks?

Yes, service dogs are allowed in national parks. They’re allowed in any national park because they’re protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That said, you do have to provide your paperwork to visit some national parks, like the Channel Islands National Park. This is because some national parks protect wildlife populations like foxes, which can become distressed or become hostile. Still, you shouldn’t have any problems visiting any of California’s national parks with a well-trained service dog.

What Are the Best Dog-Friendly National Parks in California?

Several dog-friendly parks are available in California. You’ll find large national parks run by the government and some smaller state parks run by California. Our list covers the best national parks for dogs in California, and we have also sprinkled in a few of California’s beautiful state parks.

1. Yosemite

One of the most popular national parks in California is Yosemite – how could we even have this list without mentioning one of the largest national parks in the country? People travel from across the United States to visit this park, and it has some dog-friendly areas that are worth visiting; in fact, it’s about the size of Rhode Island.

Your canine companion is welcome on all paved trails and other recreational areas; they just have to be well-behaved. Your dog is also allowed to accompany you on some hiking trails if you’re up for some mountain adventures. Some trails you can try include the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail. This bike trail is around 11.5 miles and takes you through the beautiful landscape that Yosemite has to offer, including destinations like Yosemite Falls and El Capitan.

2. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park isn’t exclusive to California as it shares property with Nevada. However, both the California and Nevada sections are dog-friendly and allow you to venture through most sections with your canine companion. The park is loaded with great dirt trails and mountain hikes that you can climb through. Our favorite aspect of this park is that you’re allowed to enjoy almost every aspect of the park with your dog, so you don’t have to worry too much about going into the wrong areas.

Death Valley National Park does have a lot of walking, so make sure you and your dog are ready to brave the heat. Also, consider the temperature of the park because, during warm seasons, it can be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be unsafe for many long-haired dogs. That said, we recommend visiting the park at least once, even if it’s just to experience the starry sky. With minimal light pollution, you won’t see the stars until you see them out in the desert.

3. Donner Memorial State Park

One of the best dog-friendly options in California is Donner Memorial State Park. In fact, it’s one of the best dog-friendly options because dogs are welcome just about anywhere on the property. Some great trails we recommend trying include the Zig Zag Trail and Lakeside Interpretive Trail. This park is also loaded with plenty of activities for you and your dog to enjoy. From fishing along Donner Lake to visiting some of the famous monuments like Pioneer Monument, there is plenty of opportunity for you and your canine companion to enjoy nature at Donner Memorial State Park.

The last thing to note is that your dog can also accompany you to over 150 campsites free of charge. Therefore, you don’t have to worry too much about bringing cash or additional supplies. While this is a state park, we felt that it’s worth mentioning due to its historic value to the state and because of how dog-friendly the trails are compared to some national parks.

4. Redwoods National Park

One of California’s most famous national parks is Redwoods National and State Parks. It’s located in the Redwoods region, which is home to many national parks, but none are as dog-friendly as Henry Cowell, which is one of California’s state parks. This trail is perfect for dogs that love to get out there and hike a trail or two. You can enjoy 6-mile loop trails or hikes through the Santa Cruz mountains. This gives you plenty of opportunities to explore nature, enjoy some of the planet’s best views, and exercise with your dog.

Some of our favorite trails to consider include Powder Mill Fire Road Trail, Meadow Trail, and Pipeline Road Trail. There are also some free campgrounds that your dog can accompany you to, and other campgrounds usually only cost about $20.

5. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a great trail for you and your dog. While it’s more limited than some of the other national parks for dogs, they can still accompany you to other areas of the park. The big rule of thumb for Lassen Volcanic National Park is that your dog can follow you anywhere your car can go. While they can’t follow you on hiking trails or near the lake/pond, it’s still a great experience if you’re up for a drive and more interested in looking at views as opposed to walking through trails or hiking.

What makes this one of the best national park options for dogs is the view and the flora. You’ll find gorgeous lakes and meadows with plenty of wildflowers. That said, it can get cold during the winter season, so plan your travel accordingly.

6. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is one of California’s hidden gems when it comes to going with your dog. Many people won’t go to the park because of the rules that don’t allow your dog on park trails but they can go within 100 feet of most roads and campgrounds. While this isn’t ideal, there’s still plenty to see at Joshua Tree National Park. Additionally, there are dozens of dirt roads that you can walk on with your dog. Some of these roads lead to great views and spots where you can relax and enjoy the view. Check out some roads like Queen Mine Road and Geology Tour Road for some interesting sights to see.

Joshua Tree National Park is also a great destination for vacations as well. If you want to hike the rest of the park or want to spend some time away from your dog, there are plenty of boarding options available in the nearby town.

7. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park is a must-visit place if you like trees. While this might seem obvious, since most national parks have trees, Sequoia is home to the largest trees in the United States. If you look up at them, you’re guaranteed to be in awe of how tall the average Sequoia tree can be. While dogs aren’t allowed on any of the park’s trails, you can take them around the surrounding forest. This will have a similar effect to walking on any of the trails, so it’s a good workaround.

Additionally, your dog can be close to campgrounds if they’re on a leash. The leash must be less than 6 feet long, but this is the only requirement; you should just make sure you pick up after your dog and avoid littering.

8. Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is a great dog-friendly park that you can visit without having to worry about breaking the rules or taking them on a path. Pinnacles National Park allows you to take your dog around any path that has pavement. This includes parking lots, campgrounds, and picnic areas. Depending on the hiking trail, you might be able to bring a dog with you, but this isn’t true for all trails, so check with park personnel before you bring your dog. You must also keep the dog on a leash that’s less than 6 feet long.

What makes Pinnacles National Park a great place to visit is its vast hiking trails and beautiful cliffs. While it’s one of the smaller national parks in the country, it offers challenging hiking trails for people who seek adventure. We only recommend this one if your dog can handle a rock scramble or two.

Visit California’s Best Dog-Friendly National Parks Today

National parks in California aren’t just for people. They’re beautiful destinations that you can visit alongside your canine companion, which can help both of you grow closer together. Plus, California is a big state and has plenty of different options for all types of dogs. Have a hiking dog? Enjoy a trip through Yellowstone or one of California’s other famous national parks. Would you prefer a simple walk on a path? Plenty of dog-friendly parks like [insert park] are available.

So, what are you waiting for? Visit one of California’s dog-friendly parks today.