We love our pets. They are a part of the family and leaving them at home when you go on vacations can have you end up feeling guilty.

There is one type of vacation that dogs are welcomed and sometimes even encouraged: Camping. Camping and hiking trips are made that much better with our furry friends bounding along on the adventure. On public lands though, there are different sets of rules depending on the destination. Dogs are often welcome on developed campgrounds and hiking trails, however, backcountry may have different regulations than what you expect! Before you camp with your dog, make sure to do the proper research and make it an enjoyable trip for all.

Is my dog allowed?

There are different regulations depending on where you go. While this guide is a good place to start, always make sure to double check with the specific park or camp area you are visiting to see the regulations. The last thing you want is to have to turn around with a disappointed family and pet in tow!

National Parks
There are very few National Parks that will not allow you to visit with your dog. Any developed areas or lodging is typically fair game for any of our pets. However, they also do not want you to leave your dog alone on a campsite. It has to stay by your side at all times while you are at the national park.

It becomes a little dicier if you intend on going deep into the backcountry. You can often not camp in the backcountry with dogs. There are very few, if any, exceptions to this rule. It is important to follow this because these rules are in place to protect certain species that your dog may intentionally or unintentionally disturb or harm. Make sure if you intend on backpacking or heading into more rugged territory that you check with your park and see the regulations. If you are unsure, check out this National Park Service map to see what your park’s rules are!

State Parks
The rule is almost the same as with National Parks. Dogs are almost always fair game in any developed campground and hiking territory, it is only when you head into the backcountry that regulations prevent it.

camping dogs

Many State Parks feature beaches which can be fun for the whole family, except your dog. This can vary by state and it is important to check, but it may be best to leave your furry friend at home. A good rule of thumb to think about if you are unsure whether or not it is allowed: dogs are welcome where cars are welcome. Campgrounds and some hiking trails are fair game, beaches and backcountry are probably off limits.

Top tips for camping or hiking with your dog

So, you have found a good campsite or camp area that will allow your dog. How do you actually go about preparing to bring them there?

Book a pre-trip vet visit

Once you have officially secured your site or route, take your dog to the vet for a checkup. This is especially important if it has been a while since the last visit. While at the appointment, ask your vet specific questions about the location you are heading to see if there are any known risks. The vet will make sure your dog is healthy enough for the trip. You should also ensure that they check if your dog’s flea and tick medication is up to date, as there will most likely be a lot more where you are headed!

Have pet specific medical supplies

It is always important to think ahead and prepared when camping or hiking. When a pet comes along on the trip, it requires extra preparation. Pet first aid kits can be bought at nearly every pet store and are an essential piece of your toolkit. There may be a lot of overlap with human first aid kits, but it is important to have the pet specific first aid book to show how to deal with emergency situations that will differ with your pet compared to humans.

Bring a tether and stake

Many dogs are comfortable and well behaved off of a leash. You would be able to trust them to not run off or cause trouble. However, many campgrounds and camp areas require dogs to be secured to the campsite. You will not want to be holding a leash for the entire duration of your stay, and you will not want to tie your dog down with a standard 4-6ft leash. You can find long leashes anywhere from 15-50 ft long. It is going to depend on how big your camp area is, but a 20-30 foot long leash should be enough room for your dog to move without letting it get too far off.

Decide where they will sleep

Where will your dog sleep? In your tent or your car? There is likely to be wildlife roaming about at night, and often, camp rules require that the dog sleeps with its owner. It is very important because leaving your dog outside could be dangerous for it, and the last thing you want is for them to have a run-in with a skunk!

Bring collapsible water and food bowls

Picking out easily carried water and food bowls is a great idea for camping and hiking. It is convenient for you as well as makes it easier for your dog to eat or drink out of as opposed to any make-shift dishes. There is a wide range of great options. I normally only bring one dish and it doubles for both a food and water dish, though every dog is different!

Don’t forget pick-up bags

Please apply the leave no trace principles to your dog as well. Bring bags to pick up their poop and keep the area clean for the next visitors. It makes it a more enjoyable experience for all and leaves the least amount of impact on the environment.

Bringing your dog while camping is a very rewarding experience! Like all things, it is important to think ahead and prepare, but your furry friend will love to be a part of the adventure.


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About the author

Jim Mckay

Communication Specialist

Jim McKay is one the founders of GoAllOutdoors, a group of passionate outdoorsmen who are trying to make it easy for people to unplug and get outdoors.