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Getting outside with your friends, four-legged and otherwise, is a great way to have a new adventure and enjoy some quality time with others.
But once you get off the trail and back to camp it is good to have some systems in place to make it an easy and enjoyable experience when you are sharing it with a dog.
Here are some tips and tricks to make camping a breeze with your furry friend.
Research Before You Go:
Depending on where you are going, different parks have different regulations that you will need to know.
One common theme, though, is that you should never leave your dog unattended at a campsite or in a car.
You will probably be spending 24/7 with your dog, which is great, but making sure there are plenty of hiking trails and activities that you can both participate in prior to going will ensure a much more enjoyable trip.
Nothing is worse than getting to a park or campground only to find out that your dog isn’t allowed! Make sure there are no surprises by looking things up.
In general, here are some of the main guidelines for different parks, but always check in with your specific destination before you go.
National Parks and Dogs:
While I was living on the road I heard a lot about dogs not being allowed in National Parks.
When we got our dog, I thought for a long time we couldn’t bring him with and didn’t do any digging to double-check.
Then I was looking at the regulations for some other park and came across the info that National Parks, in fact, DO welcome dogs and a lot of them are very accommodating. Lesson learned, always fact check what you hear. Now I am excited to take my dog to as many National Parks as I can, but some are easier than others.
For example, Yosemite National Park in California only allows dogs on paved roads (not trails) and most campsites except walk-in sites and group sites. Yellowstone, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Grand Teton National Parks are similarly restrictive for dogs. Acadia National Park in Maine has over 100 miles of dog-friendly trails!
Both are amazing parks and can be great places to go with a dog, but ultimately it comes down to what you want to do. If you are looking to hike a lot with your dog, try to find a location with plenty of dog-friendly trails. But if you don’t mind seeing the sites from a distance, there might be more options available in major National Parks.
National Park backcountry has its own set of rules when it comes to dogs. Most of the time your pet is not allowed to come with you into the backcountry of a National Park, so consider planning a more pet friendly trip and save the backcountry for when you can get a sitter.
State Parks tend to have similar rules to National Parks, but always check to know exactly where you and your dog can go.
Generally speaking, dogs can go where cars can go, so if its paved you are probably fine. If it’s a trail, make sure you check.
BLM and National Forests:
Often the holy grail for dog owners, the Bureau of Land Management tends to have the most relaxed rules when it comes to dogs.
What it comes down to is the mandate of each of these agencies.
The reason National Parks tend to be the strictest is that their goal is the conservation of land and wildlife.
Given all the people visiting National Parks, it is no surprise that they have such strict rules in regards to dogs.
If pups could roam freely, just imagine how quickly they would disrupt the natural ecosystem! Dogs don’t know they are trampling endangered plants or sniffing out skittish animals, they are just curious!
BLM, on the other hand, has a philosophy of multi-use land that includes recreation, sustainable resource harvesting, conservation, and wildlife protection.
They are interested in more purposes for the land and thus tend to be more open when it comes to different uses. You will find that most trails are pet-friendly, and a lot of places in the backcountry even allow your dog to be off-leash as long as they respond to voice commands.
If you and your dog want the freedom to roam then BLM and National Forest land is probably the place to go. What you will end up sacrificing are often some of the amenities offered at a more established place like a National Park.
National Recreation Areas
Like BLM and National Forest land, National Recreation Areas are often quite dog-friendly. These areas are generally on-leash-only but have better amenities than BLM or National Forest – making recreation areas the perfect in-between!
Rules for Camping with Your Dog:
No matter what adventure you are choosing, it is important to always keep these rules in mind when you are bringing your dog.
- Keep your dog on a leash in campgrounds and in developed areas, and anywhere else with a leash law. If your dog doesn’t respond to cues off-leash, then keep her on-leash even if she’s allowed to be free.
- Always clean up after your dog. Employ Leave No Trace ethics. Either pack it out or bury your dog’s waste at least 6 inches deep and 200 yards from any trails or water sources.
- Never leave your dog unattended. Whether in a car, at camp, or even on the trail, make sure your dog never wanders too far or is left behind.
- Research before you go! Make sure you know the rules and regulations of the park you are going to so that you are prepared with activities and know where you can and can’t go.
- Be respectful of others. Your dog doesn’t have the right to detract from the experience of others!
Camping With Your Dog:
Once you have sorted out all the details about where to go and what to do, it is important to know how you and your dog are going to deal with sleeping arrangements.
Camping with your dog can be an awesome bonding experience if you go about it the right way. Try out these tips to make your experience as positive and fun as it can be.
- Test your sleeping setup in the backyard first. Depending on the size of your dog you will need to make sure you have enough room in your tent and proper heating/cooling for them. If you have a big dog and a one-person tent, things could get crowded. Consider upping the size of your tent to accommodate both of you comfortably. Look into getting an insulated bed, like this camp bed, or a down blanket with a pad underneath. Your setup really depends on what you are doing. If you are just walking from the car a few feet to your tent you can bring a bigger, more luxurious setup, but if you will be out in the backcountry and have to carry everything for miles, a lighter setup will definitely be helpful.
- Know what wildlife you might encounter. If you are camping somewhere that only has chipmunks and birds, you can probably bet your dog won’t be harmed. But if you know there are bears, coyotes, rattlesnakes, wolves, etc. then it might be good to take precautions and always keep them leashed/close by so they don’t get into trouble.
- Be sure you have all the essentials. Sleeping setup, food and water, toys, leash….always double-check that you have all the supplies you will need for both you and your dog BEFORE you get to where you want to go.
Camping is a great way to get outside and be active with your dog. With a bit of planning, you will be sure to have a great adventure!
I’m a good ol’ Midwestern transplant that moved to Colorado for mountains and adventure. I love rock climbing, writing, and eating cookies. When I’m not on the side of a cliff you can find me walking my dog, Peanut, playing piano, and blogging about my climbing adventures on The Gobi Gazette.