25 July 2014

Is Your Dog Welcomed on your Next National Park Adventure?

Taking a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains is a fun, family friendly activity enjoyed by over 9 million visitors each year. Camping, hiking, fishing, waterfalls, wildlife viewing and much more ... but are these activities really OK for the "whole" family? What about the family dog?

Photo by Candace West.
According to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are really very few places your dogs are welcomed or allowed if you plan on hiking on one of their 150 official trails. There are actually only two short walking trails where they are allowed: the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail.

Dogs are not allowed on any other trails in the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including backcountry trails, and haven't been since the park was established in the 1930s.

Dogs are, however, allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas and along roads if they are on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and of course they can't be left unattended in vehicles or RVs and you must scoop the poop.

According to the Park Service, there are several good reasons your dog is not welcomed in the National Park:

• Dogs can carry disease into the park's wildlife populations.
• Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left behind by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed.
• Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dog, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively.
• Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes and bears. In addition, if your dog disturbs and enrages a bear, it may lead the angry bear directly to you. Dogs can also encounter insects that bite and transmit disease and plants that are poisonous or full of painful thorns and burrs.
• Many people, especially children, are frightened by dogs, even small ones. Uncontrolled dogs can present a danger to other visitors.

If including your dog on your next hiking adventure is important to you and the rest of the family, here is a list of nearby dog-friendly alternatives from the National Park website:

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