Exploring the outdoors is always better when your four-legged hiking buddy is by your side. Dogs enjoy the exercise and fresh air as much as you do, but avid travelers know not every destination is dog friendly. The traditional rule is that U.S. National Parks do not allow dogs through their gates. The policy was put in place to protect natural environments and the wildlife that lives there. The National Park Service still prioritizes safeguarding the environment, but a new program called the B.A.R.K. Ranger Program now makes it possible for people to bring their pets into national parks.
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People have been wanting to vacation with their pets for decades, and the National Park Service has heard their plea. The first B.A.R.K. Ranger Program started in 2015 at Olympic National Park to allow responsible dog owners the opportunity to enjoy the park with their entire families—dogs included. The program promotes responsible pet ownership and respectful park behavior. There is no fee to sign a dog up as a B.A.R.K. Ranger, and all you need to do is pledge to follow the B.A.R.K. code of ethics.
Bag your poop
Always wear a leash (six foot max)
Respect wildlife (no chasing or scaring!)
Know where you can go (stick to the trails and dog-friendly areas!)
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Once your dog is officially sworn in as a B.A.R.K. Ranger, you’re both free to enjoy the park. Olympic National Park’s debut program was dubbed a success, and B.A.R.K. Rangers are now found at several other national parks and monuments across the country. George Washington Carver National Monument, Tuzigoot National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, and Valley Forge National Historical Park welcome dogs and their responsible owners year-round. There’s also the option to commemorate your trip by buying your dog an official B.A.R.K. Ranger tag. Dogs aren’t allowed in visitor’s centers, however, so it’s best to travel with a human friend that can keep the dog company while you’re inside.
Ranger Cristeal is smiling because little Oscar Wilde just earned his #barkranger badge! What about #olympicnationalpark makes you smile? #worldsmileday #npwest #findyourpark
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Dog-friendly national parks are becoming more common, and the goal is to extend the B.A.R.K. Ranger Program to as many parks and monuments as possible. Every B.A.R.K. Ranger is an advocate for responsible pet ownership, and the more there are, the better their message is spread.
As long as you and your dog are respectful of the park’s rules, there’s no reason to keep your hike-happy dog at home. Pet-friendly travel is becoming more popular, and dog owners love the idea of bringing their furry best friends on outdoor adventures. The next time you’re at a national park, ask about the B.A.R.K. Ranger program. And no matter where you’re exploring, remember to follow the B.A.R.K. policy of responsible pet ownership.
Featured image via Facebook/Petrified Forest National Park
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