If you are planning a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with your dog, it’s important to known the park’s rules for pets. If you are imagining frolicking on numerous forested trails with your furry friend, you will be in for a rude awakening when you reach the park’s entrance. Here’s everything you need to know about taking your pet to the park.
Limited Areas for Pets
To protect wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has had strict rules in place regarding pets in the park since its founding in the 1930s. Its restrictions echo others enforced in larger parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. In Great Smoky, the only places pets are allowed is in campgrounds, picnic areas and along the road. In these areas, they must be on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet. Don’t forget to bring bags to clean up after your pet.
Two Trails for Pets
Pets are not allowed on any trails in Great Smoky, except for two - the Gatlinburg Trail and Oconaluftee River Trail. At 3.8 miles roundtrip, the Gatlinburg Trail starts at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and stretches to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. It runs along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, passing over one pedestrian bridge and by a few old home sites.
Pets can stretch their legs on the Oconaluftee River Trail, as well, which is 3 miles roundtrip. It starts at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and extends to the outskirts of Cherokee, N.C., following the river. Although there are a few small hills, the trail is generally flat.
Never Leave Your Pet Unattended in Your Car
Because of pet restrictions, it can be difficult to figure out what to do with your pet when you want to hike and explore the park. Park officials say pets should not be left unattended in cars or RVs. This advice is important to heed and can become a matter of life or death for your pet during the warmer months.
On an 85-degree day, temperatures inside your car with the windows slightly open can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the Humane Society. After 30 minutes, temperatures can reach 120 degrees. In both scenarios, your pet can rapidly experience irreversible organ damage or die.
Boarding Your Pet
Gateway towns to Great Smoky like Gatlinburg offer a mixture of day and overnight boarding for pets, in case you want to board your pet while you explore the park. Be sure to do your research and reserve your pet’s spot in advance to ensure you have your pet a guaranteed spot to stay.