What you need to know Before Bringing your Dog to Yosemite National Park

National Parks in the USA are generally not friendly towards dogs or other pets, but did you know that Yosemite National Park is one of the best parks to bring your four-legged friend?! It’s true! Yosemite National Park is unique in its ability to offer you jaw-dropping views without even leaving the Valley. This means that you (and your best furry friend) can enjoy America’s top National Park together!

Yosemite is known for its lush, powerful waterfalls, historic granite rocks, giant sequoias and some of the best camping in California. While there are plenty of epic trails in Yosemite (find our recommendations here), Yosemite is so accessible that you can step out of your car, enjoy the incredible views, and never even have to set foot on a trail! Keep reading for everything you need to know about visiting Yosemite with a dog (or any pet)!

How to get to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is located in central eastern California and is known as one of America’s best parks. Yosemite attracts visitors from all over the world!

If you’re coming from San Francisco, the drive to Yosemite takes about 3-4 hours. From Los Angeles, your drive will be longer at 5-6 hours. You could also fly into the closest airport and rent a vehicle at Fresno Yosemite International Airport only an hour away. For us, we drove from Reno, Nevada after visiting Lake Tahoe on our 7-day Northern California Road Trip. Whatever route you take, you’re in for a beautiful, scenic drive to Yosemite National Park!

Where to stay in Yosemite National Park

I might be biased, but I think that EVERYONE needs to experience camping in Yosemite National Park! Yosemite has some of the best camping in all of California, and reservations sell out as soon as they’re dropped. If you’re lucky like us, you’ll find last minute cancellations on the Recreation.gov website. Campgrounds become available 5 months in advance on the 15th of each month. You’ll find more information on the Recreation.gov website. We stayed at Lower Pines and North Pines campgrounds and LOVED them both!

Yosemite National Park Day-Use Reservations & Parks Pass

During Yosemite’s most popular busy season, day-use reservations are required for 1 vehicle to drive through the park between 5AM-4PM. This means between April 13th – October 27th you will need to have a peak hours reservation if you’re visiting the park. Please read here about timed entry to Yosemite National Park. Pro tip, try to arrive before 5AM!

In addition to this, you will also need to make sure you have your America the Great Parks Pass. You can also opt to purchase a 3-day or 12-month Yosemite National Park pass at the park gates.

What you need to know before bringing your dog to Yosemite

It’s very important to remember that US National Parks are not very dog-friendly! As pet-owners, we need to do our best and obey by the National Park rules when bringing our pets to Yosemite. The general rule is that pets can only walk on paved spaces, are allowed at most campgrounds and have to be on leash.

Rules when travelling with your dog to Yosemite National Park:

  • Dogs need to stay on a 6ft leash at all times.
  • Don’t leave your dog unattended.
  • Clean up after your dog, pick up waste and throw out pet waste in the trash.
  • Stay alert for wildlife.

Where your dog is not allowed in Yosemite National Park:

  • Walk-in and group campsites prohibit dogs.
  • Dogs are not allowed on shuttle buses.
  • Dogs are not allowed inside of buildings or in-park lodging.
  • Dogs are not allowed on unplowed roads covered in snow.
  • Dogs are not allowed on most trails, including the paved Vernal Falls trail.

Dog Friendly Hikes and Scenic Viewpoints in Yosemite:

While the lists above may seem like a lot of places that dogs aren’t allowed in Yosemite, remember that this is still one of the best National Parks in the US to bring your dog. You can camp with your dog in Yosemite and find pet-friendly stays. I’ve come up with the best dog friendly hikes and scenic views in Yosemite that you can bring your dog to share with you after our first trip in May 2024!

Tunnel View Lookout

Tunnel View is the most famous lookout in Yosemite National Park. Made famous by artist Ansel Adams, this iconic lookout gives you an incredible look out towards Yosemite Valley with El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls. This spot is iconic for a reason, and is an easily accessible lookout only steps away from a large parking lot.

Glacier Point

My favourite place in Yosemite is over an hour drive from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. This is one of the best spots for sunset where alpine glow on Half Dome is incredible as the sun goes down. This is a popular spot so we visited twice for sunset and sunrise, but so worth it! Make sure to check out Geology Hut and walk the trails around Glacier Point with your dog. 

Cooks Meadow

Another one of my favourite spots in Yosemite is right in the valley! Cooks Meadow is a 2-mile trail that takes you through the meadow and across beautiful boardwalks. This iconic view with Yosemite falls behind you feels like paradise. You can continue this loop trail to Sentinel Bridge.

Lower Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls is an awesome, short 1.25-mile trail to one of the most epic lookouts in the park. The paved hike is dog-friendly, so you can bring your dog right up close and personal to the falls with you! Experiencing Yosemite Falls and seeing how powerful the falls are is incredible.

Sentinel Bridge

Sentinel Bridge is part of the Cooks Meadow trail, and this was the spot where we watched the alpine glow at sunset fall over Half Dome. You should know that dogs are not allowed to swim in bodies of water at Yosemite, so Sentinel Beach isn’t allowed either. Pro tip: ask your campground ranger on a hot day if your dog can cool off in the river – safety comes first on a hot day!

Valley View

We watched the sunrise come up from Valley View through the valley, and would you believe this photo was taking from a parking lot?! Valley View is one of the easiest, best views and a dog friendly spot too.

Mirror Lake, Wawona Meadows, El Capitan Meadows

The above locations are spots that we unfortunately did not have enough time to visit, but we know that they are all dog friendly as well! Mirror Lake is an iconic 5-mile loop trail that leads you to beautiful lake scenery with still, reflecting water. Dogs can hike with you to the lake, but not around the lake. Wawona Meadows is 3-miles, forested trail that leads you to a scenic meadow in the valley. El Capitan Meadows is a great stop along the road as well.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Yosemite with your Dog

Yosemite National Park truly is one of the most dog friendly National Parks in the USA with the most spectacular views and best camping in California. You do not need to leave your dog at home when you’re planning your visit to Yosemite and we encourage you to bring your furry friend along for the adventure! Our dog, Rosie, had a blast and we made some incredible memories!

I hope we’ve inspired you to take this adventure yourself to explore the incredible Yosemite National Park! Make sure to watch our road trip story highlights on InstagramTikTok and watch us on YouTube from this iconic California adventure!

Looking for more of our road trip inspiration? Read our blog on The Best 7-Day Northern California Road Trip Adventure Itinerary. Check out our famous 8-day Utah Road Trip or our iconic 10-day Washington & Oregon Coast road trip!

Comments (1)

  • Sandra

    June 14, 2024 at 4:59 pm

    So glad you wrote this blog. I can’t imagine leaving my adventure pup behind on this trip! Thanks!

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