• Hannah Smentkowski

Bringing Your Dog to Joshua Tree National Park: how I made it work



Surprisingly, national parks are not dog friendly, this means they can't go with you on most if not any trail. For a person who loves bringing her dog into the great outdoors (and has difficulty finding someone who can watch him while I'm gone) this has been an issue for me. On one hand, I want to go on long and beautiful hikes, on the other I want my dog to be by my side happily sniffing around in a new environment. In this post I want to give you some of the reasons why pets aren't allowed in the places and how I worked around it in Joshua Tree National Park.



Why aren't dogs allowed in National Parks?



Dogs aren't allowed on National Park trails because these areas are supposed to be preserved wilderness. Meaning any extra smells or interference with the local wildlife will cause an imbalance with the native ecosystems.

Anything from their urine to a bark can either scare native wildlife or attract more predatory animals to the area. Dogs are also predatory creatures, even if your dog is perfectly trained it is simply a precaution to keep them away from native prey species. Furthermore, the trails (especially in Joshua Tree) can have a lot of hazards for you dog, from spiny cacti to rattlesnakes to coyotes. Lastly, wild animals are vulnerable to diseases that dogs may carry, and vice versa.

So, if you care about your dog's health and the safety of the native wildlife, it's best to keep your dog off the trails in the park.



Where can I bring my dog in Joshua Tree National Park?



If you just really want to bring your dog to Joshua Tree, or if your like me and have no one to watch them for you, there are still some options. Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds and within 100ft of all roads and picnic areas. While this doesn't seem like a lot, you can still see so much of the diversity of the park from just off the road.

The best option is to take one of the 4 wheel dirt roads that are basically just giant trails that you can take your dog on. This is an extra bonus if you don't have a 4 wheel drive car, this way you get to walk a road you wouldn't have seen otherwise.

For more information on what roads to go on and a cute video about your dog being a "Bark Ranger" (instead of park ranger, get it?) check out the pets section on Joshua Tree National Park's Website : https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/pets.htm



How I managed bringing my dog to Joshua Tree National Park.



Since I definitely wanted to go camping and do some hikes in the park, we had to get a bit creative about our plans. The first night we stayed at Jumbo Rocks campground, during the day we walked and climbed some rocks around the campground, then we walked over to Skull Rock. Skull rock is maybe half a mile from the campground if you walk along the road to get there, it's also very close to the road so we could actually walk up to it with our dog. So there's at least one iconic structure you can see with your dog.

The next day we decided to stay at the Motel 6 in 29 Palms, that way we could leave the dog in the hotel room for the day while we went out and explored the park! The motel 6 was actually pretty nice and only 15 min from the park gate, so definitely worth it if you're looking to get some hikes in.

Travel tip: all Motel 6s let your dog stay for free! No extra charges!


Those are my tips on how I swung bringing my dog to Joshua Tree. I really think its best to stay in the park at least one night with them so they get some outdoor adventure time. Just make sure to bring extra water (our campground had zero potable water), something warm for your dog at night (it is freezing at night in the fall) and always keep them on a leash.

Let me know if you have any further questions on dogs in the National Parks, Joshua Tree, or anything outdoor related!


I hope to see you next week, until then,

Happy Travels!



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Hey there! My name is Hannah Smentkowski, I'm an adventure travel photographer, and a huge plant nerd! 

Here I share my traveling, camping, and hiking adventures in hopes of inspiring you to go outside and explore.

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