• Hannah Smentkowski

Bringing Your Dog to Joshua Tree National Park: How to Make it Work

Updated: Dec 17, 2021


A Catahoula Leopard Dog hiking in Joshua Tree

Surprisingly to some, national parks are not very dog friendly, and Joshua Tree is no exception. 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 this situation so I could still enjoy my time in Joshua Tree National Park.


 


 

Why aren't dogs allowed in National Parks?


a dog hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

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 their 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 your 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 to in Joshua Tree National Park?


A black and white image of a Catahoula Leopard Dog sitting in Joshua Tree

If you just really want to bring your dog to Joshua Tree, or if you're 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 a park ranger, get it?) check out the pets section on Joshua Tree National Park's website.



 

How I Managed to Bring My Dog to

Joshua Tree National Park


A Catahoula Leopard Dog panting with a blue sky background

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 the 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 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 29 Palms 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 without having to leave your dog in an uncomfortable spot.

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


 

A Catahoula Leopard Dog wrapped in a blanket at Joshua Tree National Park

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! You can comment below, DM me on Instagram, or email me with any comments or questions.


Until Next Time,

Happy Trails!



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