Poll: Should Dogs Be Allowed in National Parks’ Backcountry?

There are more than 3,000 stories in Adventure Journal’s archives, most of which are evergreen, and occasionally we put the best of them back on the home page for new readers to see.—Ed.

U.S. national parks are inconsistent when it comes to dogs. Some allow them in developed areas, but not in undeveloped. Some allow pups on designated trails, but not others. Dogs are welcome in some national forest wilderness, but not most national parks’.

Take, for example, Yosemite’s policy:

Pets on a leash no longer than 6 feet are only allowed in developed areas; on fully paved trails and roads except trails signed as not allowing pets (pets are not allowed off the floor of Yosemite Valley, including the trail to Vernal Fall); and in campgrounds (except walk-in campgrounds and in group campsites). DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite operates a dog kennel in Yosemite Valley from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Dogs must be at least 20 pounds (smaller dogs may be considered if you provide a small kennel).

Or Dinosaur’s:

Dinosaur National Monument is located on the southeast flank of the Uinta Mountains on the border between Colorado and Utah at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. Dinosaurs once roamed here; their fantastic remains are still visible embedded in the rocks. Pets on a leash no longer than 6 feet are allowed within 100 feet of developed areas such as roads, parking lots, campgrounds, day-use areas, and river launches. Pets are allowed on the following trails along the Harpers Corner Road (Colorado side): Cold Desert, Plug Hat Butte and other trails at the Plug Hat Picnic Area, Echo Park Overlook, and Iron Springs Bench Overlook. In Utah, leashed pets are allowed on the River Trail. Pets are not allowed on the shuttle or in any buildings, on trails other than those open for pets, in the monument’s backcountry, or on river trips.

It distills down, basically, to: keep ’em leashed, keep ’em close, and keep ’em from the vast open spaces where other people like to go for escape. This makes some people happy, others not at all. For many of us, dogs are our most reliable companions and every bit as adventurous as the average human, without the neuroses. Why shouldn’t they be allowed?

Well, there’s the critter issue–you know, bears and such, like squirrels, marmots, deer, and other species that would be disturbed by the presence of a canine. And there’s other people, for whom the backcountry is a break from civilization and domestication. It’s an issue that divides–or potentially does–those who are typically on the same side. Let’s see where you AJ folks shake out:

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