Visiting Yellowstone National Park with Dogs

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 11/11/20 •  11 min read
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Have you ever considered taking your dog on vacation? What about a vacation to a national park? If you answered yes, then you’ve come to the right place to learn more about traveling with your pup in national parks.

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In this article, we’ll be looking specifically at traveling with your fur baby to Yellowstone National Park, looking at the restrictions and different options for pet-friendly hotels, hiking with your pal and more.

Yellowstone—a Few Facts

Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S. This beautiful, rugged park sits on 2 million acres of land that covers the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and was established by Congress back in 1872. This was the very first national park in the U.S., and possibly also the first national park in the world. Yellowstone is known for its natural beauty, wild and rugged wilderness, amazing mountains and its wildlife. You’ll probably have heard about Old Faithful and other famous places within the park.

This wonderful national park is open year-round, so you can experience the park all different times of the year. Each season offers its own beauty and activities—from enjoying the beautiful fall foliage to pristine snowiness in winter. Summer and spring have their own special beauty with wild flowers, wildlife and awe-inspiring mountains in the background. Don’t forget you’ll have to pay the park fees when visiting Yellowstone. A weeklong pass to the park costs $35 (this does not include the Grand Teton National Park). The park fees go to help take care of road repairs, monitoring and caring for the park’s wild animals, campground maintenance and more. You won’t have to pay an additional fee for dog!

So, is it a good place to take your dog on vacation? Let’s take a look.

Dogs: Yellowstone National Park

So, what about this national park–Yellowstone dogs allowed? Yes, but the park has several restrictions that are enforced at all times. And when we say “enforced,” we mean strictly enforced. First things first—according to Yellowstone’s website, pets “are prohibited throughout most areas” in the park. They strongly urge pet parents to leave their dogs at home. However, you can still visit the park with your fur baby if you follow these rules:

1. Pets can travel in your car and must stay within 100 feet of roads, campsites and parking lots. You can’t take your pup for a walk just any place you feel. You must observe this rule for you and your dog’s safety, along with the safety of the local wildlife. Remember, the park is home to various types of animals and you’re a guest in their home. Be respectful of them and their needs at all times.

2. Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet long and pet parents are responsible for cleaning up all of their canine companion’s waste. In other words, you need to pick up your fur baby’s pooh and throw away in garbage bins located in the park. Your dog should also be socialized in order to deal with other dogs you may meet in the park.

3. You can never, ever leave your pet unattended outside. Ever. Again, this is for his safety and the safety and wellbeing of the park’s wildlife. Dogs can be left in the car, but only with proper ventilation and temperature controls. Dogs can also stay in a tent with you, but their food and dishes must be cleaned and put away, in order to avoid attracting wild animals such as bears, mountain lions, etc.

4. Dogs (and other pets) are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry—so no hikes with your fur baby in the wilds of the park. Pets are also not allowed on boardwalks throughout the park.

These rules are restrictive; however, remember they’re to keep you and your pet safe, while also keeping wildlife and the beauty of the park enjoyable and safe for everyone

Pet Friendly Yellowstone

What can you do even with all of the pet restrictions? You’ll be surprised! Let’s take a look!

If your pup enjoys traveling in the car, then you’re in for a treat. Remember, your dog can ride in the car with you while traveling through the park. There are many areas of Yellowstone where you can drive and enjoy the scenery and the wildlife—safely from the road, with your fur baby in the car. Consider taking the “Grand Loop,” which is a road that takes you through the park and to the park’s major attractions. The loop is long—so you may not be able to complete it in one day. And don’t forget—if the weather’s not too hot, your pup can safely stay in the car while you take a short visit to some of Yellowstone’s natural wonders.

The Loop takes you to Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the park. The geyser comes by its name honestly, as it erupts pretty much on a predictable time schedule. The park is also home to another million (or more) geysers—but Old Faithful is the most famous. Dogs are allowed within about 100 yards of Old Faithful—so they can stretch their legs as you enjoy the area. Next, you can enjoy a stop at the Lower Geyser Basin area. Here, you’ll find many large geysers bubbling and boiling away. This can be a dangerous area, so your canine companion should stay in the car at this stop. You won’t want him to burn his paws or accidentally fall into an extremely hot boiling geyser.

Another popular area on the Loop includes the Gallatin and Washburn Mountain ranges. In this area you’re sure to enjoy the beautiful mountain peaks as you drive through. You’ll also find alpine lakes and meadows—just beautiful to see but remember to keep your dog in the car. There are many other attractions to see on the Grand Loop. You and your pup can enjoy most of the sites from the car and even a few together out on a short walk. Be sure to watch for signs indicating dogs are not allowed in that area and remember the rules are strictly enforced.

What to Do if You Encounter Wildlife While Visiting Yellowstone

What happens if you and your dog encounter wildlife while enjoying the park? We have done a little research to help you out.

1. Never feed any wild animals in the park. Ever. You can be fined; not only that, but you can also be hurt or cause the animal stress that will cause them to get hurt.

2. Stay at least 100 yards from all bears—no matter what, especially if there are cubs in the area. They may look cute, but don’t approach them or allow your dog near them. You never know where the mother bear is—she could be very close. Mother bears are very protective of their young and will do whatever necessary to keep you and your dog away from her cubs.

3. Stay 25 yards or more from larger animals such as bison (buffalo), elk, deer and moose. These animals are unpredictable and may choose to charge you if they consider you a threat. So stay far away from them and keep your fur baby close, too.

4. Don’t disturb wild animals in any way or allow your pet to chase, bark at animals, etc. Just don’t let this happen. If your fur baby happens to be one that enjoys barking at other animals, you should keep him in the car, with the windows rolled all the way up. Then he’ll be safe and unable to case a disturbance for the critters in the park.

What about a bear encounter? How should you handle that? The bears of Yellowstone are wild and can easily harm you and your dog. These normally shy, solitary animals have been known to give chase and try to attack people; this is usually because they may view you as some type of threat and/or a food source. One major point—the park is home to about 600 grizzly bears—you don’t want to mess with a grizzly! And remember to keep your dog on a short leash—to keep him near you and easily accessible.

To avoid bear encounters, there are a few things you can do. Make noise as you and your canine friend are hiking. Suggestions include clapping, shouting or even singing. If a bear comes near you, don’t run, as they’ll see you as prey. Stay completely away from mother bears and their cubs—always. Don’t go hiking after twilight or in the dark. Carry bear spray and make sure you understand how to properly use it. And if you encounter animal carcasses, this could be a grizzly’s dinner.

Stay away from the carcass at all costs, as the bear could be nearby and think you’re trying to steal his food

Check Out Dog-Friendly Activities Near Yellowstone National Park

If you have an active dog, then staying in the car may only last so long before he becomes too antsy. In this case, you might want to consider some dog-friendly activities near Yellowstone. Be sure to check out West Yellowstone dog friendly areas and activities. The area offers dog friendly hikes near Yellowstone National Park. West Yellowstone is actually a small town that is located just outside the western gate of Yellowstone park. It’s a great spot for tourists and their furry companions.

Head over to the Forest Service’s office and find out about weather conditions, trail maps, trail conditions and more. You can even ask them what trails they’d recommend for you and your dog. They’ll also offer advice on how to handle wildlife encounters. This is a wilderness areas where bears, moose, elk, etc. live.

You’ll want to keep your pup on leash at all times to keep him safe and to keep your fur baby from stressing or harassing the wild critters. Not only that, but you’ll keep your dog safe by your side where he won’t run away from you and get lost. So, keep these things in mind when hiking in the area. You might also want to take bear spray with you. It’s also recommended that you and your pup wear bells, as it alerts the bears and other wildlife to your presence.

West Yellowstone Attractions

There are some beautiful places to visit in the West Yellowstone area. Here, you’ll find Earthquake Lake, where you’ll find the area has been created by geologic action over the ages. And yes, this area is prone to earthquakes—so be on guard.

In the same area, you’ll also come across Lake Hebgen, which offers a peaceful place to enjoy nature. This area, too, has been created by geologic action; in fact, in 1959, the bottom of the lake dropped about 20 feet due to an earthquake.

You and your dog will also enjoy a walk along the Madison River and in the Big Sky area. Big Sky is located in the Gallatin Canyon, where you’ll also find a river of the same name. You’ll find trails, campground, picnic areas and more in this beautiful area.

Pet-Friendly Hotels & Boarding Options

Back to Yellowstone National Park, as we noted earlier, your pup can stay with you at the campgrounds and pets are allowed in the cabins. Your pup can’t stay in any of the hotels in the park. However, there are some pet-friendly hotels near the park where you can both stay.

In the West Yellowstone area, you’ll find the Best Western Desert Inn, the Holiday Inn West Yellowstone, The Gray Wolf Inn & Suites, amongst others. Just be sure to check out each establishment’s pet policies before booking a room.

As you can see, Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas can be a fun place to take your dog on vacation. Just be sure to check out the rules, follow the rules and enjoy the beauty that Yellowstone has to offer. We hope you and your pup will have a wonderful and safe visit in Yellowstone!

Related Sources: Princeton.Edu NPS.Gov PBS.Org

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.

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