When Maria Yoder traveled to some national parks in the West last year, she said she left behind her dog, Rory, because the parks ban pets from the trails.
As a dog owner, Yoder, a Bar Harbor resident, said she is pleased that she lives near Acadia National Park. The park is unusual among national parks in keeping dogs and owners united on the hiking trails and offering some great hiking for dogs.
“It’s a great place for people to come with their dogs,” Yoder said recently, while walking with her Shiba Inu on the Compass Harbor Trail in Acadia. “I really like it.”
In fact, of the 59 national parks, Acadia is among only a few – Shenandoah in Virginia is another – that allow dogs and other pets on trails, as long as they are leashed, according to the National Park Service. Make sure your dog is on a long, sturdy lead though, since this will help when your dog is pulling.
Yoder, manager at Bar Harbor’s Made in the USA shop, said she became aware that Acadia is pet friendly when she researched her trip to the West and discovered that pets are banned from the trails in national parks such as Joshua Tree in California and Arches in Utah. Dogs are severely restricted in others such as Zion in Utah, which allows pets on only 1.5-mile trail and Yosemite, only a 2-mile paved trail.
Yoder keeps Rory on a leash and hikes trails such as Ocean Path, Gorham Mountain, Champlain Mountain and Great Head Trail.
“She is very popular,” she said. “People are always petting her.”
When they plan a trip to Acadia, dog owners are generally happy to discover that they don’t need to leave their pets at home or place them in a kennel if they want to hike.
Dogs in Acadia National Park are welcome on 100 miles of trails
“We didn’t realize it was so dog friendly up here,” said Alicia Fallon of Billerica, MA. “When we did, we brought the dog.”
Fallon, a field inventory operations trainer, and her husband, David, an email marketer, were hiking on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia with Charlie, a pug, beagle and boxer mix.
In 2015, they did not bring their dog on a trip to Acadia because they mistakenly believed dogs were prohibited on the trails, she said.
“There were dogs everywhere,” she said. “We started asking questions.”
Acadia is so welcoming that dogs can even hop aboard the Island Explorer, a fare-free shuttle bus that operates in Acadia late June through Columbus Day.
Pets are also welcome at Blackwoods, Seawall and Schoodic Woods campgrounds in Acadia but not at the Duck Harbor campground on Isle au Haut.
A couple from Goode, Va., Jeffrey Kornblum, a retired neurosurgeon, and his wife, Dianna Kornblum, a retired registered nurse, said their Golden Retriever, Roxie Moxie, was very confined when they visited Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, which generally bans pets from trails and various buses.
“We were inside the park for a week and the dog had no place to go,” Jeffrey Kornblum said.
In Acadia, their dog “has been wiped out, just like us,” at Blackwoods after a day of hiking, he said at the top of Cadillac.
“It’s great,” said Dianna Kornblum, adding that it is important to be a responsible dog owner.
Besides Cadillac, other best hikes for dogs in Acadia include Bar Island Trail, Compass Harbor Trail, Schooner Head Path, Great Meadow Loop, Beech Cliff Loop, and Ocean Path.
Dave and Andrea Gilmore of Hall Quarry said they often bring their two Standard Poodles- Jed and Henry – during their frequent hikes in Acadia.
“It’s great for them and us,” said Dave Gilmore while hiking the Norumbega Mountain trail.
Alex Bajcz, a PhD student at the University of Maine at Orono, and Kelsey Boeff, who obtained her master’s degree from the same campus, hiked Norumbega with their dog, Olive, a soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, and had also hiked Mansell Mountain with the dog. They said the dog loves climbing the trails in Acadia.
“She follows the trail,” said Bajcz. “I don’t know how she can do it.”
Dogs can’t get near the trails at some other noted national parks.
Great Smoky National Park, Yellowstone, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and several other national parks generally ban dogs from hiking trails, according to the park service.
Dogs are permitted on 12 miles of paved trails above the rim on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but they are banned from the inner canyon, shuttle buses and almost all North Rim trails.
It’s ruff if you can’t bring your dog on a hike.
In banning dogs from trails, parks cite factors such as possible clashes with native wildlife, pet escapes, possible bear attacks and maybe exchanges of diseases among animals.
To the north of Acadia, dogs and other pets are banned altogether from Baxter State Park, home to the spectacular 5,268-foot Mt. Katahdin.
In Acadia and other parks, dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet and owners must remove pet waste.
Dog owners sometimes violate the leash rule, especially in the back country of Acadia.
It can also get ruff when a dog is loose on the trails.
In August of 2015, rangers used a stretcher to rescue a dog who encountered a porcupine and was jabbed with quills in his face and paws, reported the Bangor Daily News. The incident occurred when the owner paused to pick blueberries and let go of the dog’s leash.
According to Charlie Jacobi, natural resource specialist for Acadia, surveys have shown that the percent of owners who abide by leash rules can be as low as 38 percent and as high as 55 percent.
Rules for dogs in Acadia National Park
Even in Acadia, dogs are banned from certain ladder or especially difficult trails such as the Precipice, Beehive, Perpendicular and Jordan Cliffs. Ten other trails, including Giant Slide and Acadia Mountain, are not recommended for pets.
Pets are allowed on all 45 miles of carriage roads, but there are other rules that affect access.
For example, pets are prohibited from beaches during the swim season and Wild Gardens of Acadia at Sieur de Monts.
It is advisable that any lively or disobedient dogs get obedient training before going on the trails as this will reduce the risk of them running off or biting hikers.
Rangers have been known to rescue injured or lost dogs in Acadia.
About 16 years ago late in March, for example, a ranger drove celebrity Martha Stewart and her dog off a carriage road, because the dog couldn’t walk. The dog needed the ride because it had just had foot surgery.
Stewart owns an estate in Seal Harbor on Mount Desert Island.
If you’re hiking a restricted trail or swimming at Sand Beach or Echo Lake when they’re off-limits to pets, you can always leave your dog with a local pet sitter such as Acadia Pet Services in Seal Harbor or Acadia Woods Kennel in Bar Harbor.
It’s not just Acadia National Park that is pet friendly. It’s also the surrounding community and businesses including many that allow dogs inside.
For instance, there’s Bark Harbor in Bar Harbor, a pet supply store that often features pictures of visiting dogs on its Facebook page. On its Web site, Bark Harbor even lists pet-friendly lodging and restaurants.
And the Eastern National store in the Hulls Cove Visitor Center offers “Bark Ranger” items like leashes, which are also available online at eParks, the online store for national parks (see eParks ad in sidebar).
While dogs are allowed on about 100 miles of Acadia’s hiking trails, people on bikes are prohibited from all hiking trails. Bicyclists, hikers and horses are allowed on carriage roads.
If you have a dog and are considering walking with them on Acadia’s hiking trails, we would recommend you check their health before your trip to ensure they are fit for it.