Pets

Black and white image of a dog with a list of BARK principles below
Pets are family for many, but it's important to remember that not all visitors may feel this way, and wildlife view pets as either a predator or prey. Please follow the rules regarding pets to ensure an enjoyable experience for all.

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Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads, but must be kept on a leash at all times. The leash must not exceed 6 feet in length.

Two short walking paths permit dogs—the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. Pets are not allowed on any other park trails.

Pet excrement must be immediately collected by the pet handler and disposed of in a trash receptacle. Pets should not be left unattended in vehicles or RVs.

Why Are Dogs Prohibited on National Park Trails?

Large national parks that have extensive backcountry areas do not allow dogs on trails. These include parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and several others. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has prohibited dogs in the backcountry since the park was first established in the 1930s for several reasons:

  • Dogs can carry disease into the park's wildlife populations.
  • Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife. The scent a dog leaves behind can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Birds and other animals can be scared away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. 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 biting insects that 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..

Since I Can't Hike With My Pet in the National Park, Where Else Can I Go?

The Southern Highlands region offers an amazing variety of federal public lands for recreation and enjoyment. Some public lands outside the Smokies offer a wider range of recreational opportunities than are available here, including hiking with your pet. For maps and information about these national forests and recreation areas please contact the offices listed below. (By clicking on these links, you will leave the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website.)

Last updated: August 8, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg , TN 37738

Phone:

(865)436-1200

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