Is Yellowstone National Park Dog Friendly?

Who better to experience the great outdoors with than your dog? Find out how to travel to Yellowstone with your four-legged friend.

By | Posted: August 21, 2014, 6 a.m. PST

I love to travel, but I hate being away from my dogs. So when my husband surprised me this year with a dog-friendly vacation from Orange County, California, to Yellowstone, Wyoming, in an RV, I was definitely nervous about bringing the dogs. My first question was is Yellowstone dog-friendly?

 

Yellowstone RV trip. Photo by Melissa Kaufman

 

 

My husband had already made the travel arrangements before I found out about the trip, because it was a surprise. Once I found out where we were going, I started doing research. There was not a lot of information about what you could do with your dogs once you were in Yellowstone;  the park had a good page on what you can’t do with your dog in Yellowstone, plus this helpful video. 

 

 

So here is what we did, which worked out perfectly.

We stayed outside the park because there was less chance of a bear encounter. You can, however, camp in the park with your dogs. Dogs and bears are not friends. Although dogs can outrun bears while we humans cannot, the bear will track down the dog in the end with their incredible sense of smell. We stayed in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana. It is a great town with car rental places, RV Parks, hotels, shops, grocery stores and more. It is very close to the West Entrance of Yellowstone.

There is no doggie daycare in or around Yellowstone. The closest one was too far away to be convenient. We couldn’t leave our dogs in the RV, because they definitely would have started barking and we would have been kicked out. Solution: we rented a vehicle each day and we and the dogs toured the park together. You can take your dogs into Yellowstone National Park, but they must be leashed, they can only be in the front country and within 100 feet of the campgrounds, roads or parking areas.

Yellowstone Park is very large, however, in the front country there are two circles shaped like a figure eight that most people tour. 

 

Yellowstone Map

Yellowstone Interactive Map

 

We toured the park in two days, a total of about eight hours each. The first day we did the lower loop, which has Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake , and we did the upper loop the second day. There are signs indicating all the scenic sites, so you just drive from site to site. The dogs are allowed in the parking areas for all of these sites, so you can walk them around and allow them to use the natural facilities. Most of the sites are close to the parking areas. Our dogs were alone perhaps a few minutes to 15 minutes at the most. My husband and I would sometimes trade off if the site was farther from the parking area. We kept the windows cracked. It wasn’t too hot, and we went in July.

 

There are many turnouts, and they are pretty big. So at any point you can stop the car and walk your dogs a little bit. The dogs are not allowed into the park in undesignated areas because, as you can imagine, the wildlife is right there at the side of the road. We saw elk, bison and even a bear. Our dogs had their faces glued to the window most of the time taking in the incredible scenery and wildlife. The rest of the time they were napping. I recommend that you bring food in and picnic. You can buy food at some spots, which are a couple of hours apart. You may not want to leave your dogs in the car long enough to fight the lines to get food.

 

Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Melissa Kauffman
 

 

I also recommend that you start in the morning. It gets very dark there at night. Although there are rangers, they are not abundant, and it is a wilderness. There is no cellphone reception through most of the park. Two young men accidently locked themselves out of their car, and they had to wait until we drove out of the park to tell the nearest ranger to send someone to help them. You don’t want to be stuck there alone at night with bears roaming around!

 

 

Dog in an RV. Photo by Melissa Kauffman
 

 

By the end of the trip, our dogs were official RV dogs. They got the on-the-road routine down and were enjoying it. And, we learned things about our dogs we didn’t know, like exactly how many times they go to the bathroom. I sorely missed my doggie door by the end of trip! We loved having them along for the vacation. It made it extra special. About a week after the trip, we noticed the dogs hung around with us more rather than spending time with each other. I guess it made us much more of a pack!

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