Full of breathtaking natural beauty and spanning over 747,956 acres, you’ll find several dog friendly trails Yosemite National Park has to offer.
Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that traveling with your dog means having to give Yosemite a miss. This couldn’t be further from the truth! You definitely aren’t barking up the wrong tree if you’re looking to plan a trip to this amazing national park with your dog.
Below, I’ve compiled the must-hit trails as well as all of the wondrous things you will witness along the way.
Visiting Yosemite with Pets: Rules and Guidelines
Yosemite is home to over 400 different species of animals, so it makes sense that the dog-friendly areas are closely monitored to ensure that the unique ecosystem remains well preserved.
There are a few basic rules and guidelines you will need to follow while exploring the park with your dog:
- You will need to keep your leash length under 6 feet
- Pets must be accompanied at all times
- Keep doggy bags on you at all times
- Respect areas where pets are not allowed. These include:
- Unplowed roads that have been covered in snow
- Undeveloped and wilderness areas
- Inside shops and public buildings – some dining establishments allow dogs in their outdoor seating areas
- Shuttle buses
- Walk-in campgrounds
- Group campgrounds
- Areas signed as ‘no pets allowed’
Generally, pets are permitted on most fully-paved roads and walks so long as signage doesn’t suggest otherwise. On our trip, I was surprised at how much of the park this actually covers! We found plenty to do within these guidelines and were more than satisfied with how many sightseeing activities we could check off of our list.
Short Dog-Friendly Hikes in Yosemite
If you’re looking for just a taste of Yosemite to start with, these shorter trails are a great introduction to the park.
Bridalveil Fall Trail
The Bridalveil Fall Trail is only a 0.5-mile round trip. This makes it a great first choice for beginner hikers, older dogs, and puppies. It’s a minimal effort walk with a massive payoff, offering a stunning close-up of the base of Bridalveil Fall.
As we learned the hard way, you’ll want to pack your spray jacket for this one! During springtime especially, the falls become thunderous. This is an absolutely spectacular sight to see but it does mean you’ll likely end up more than a little damp. If your dog loves the water, this will be a particularly fun walk for them as you battle the spray.
I highly recommend checking the trail conditions online before setting out on this hike, as sometimes the end of the trail is inaccessible due to the force of the water. Wear shoes with nonslip soles and stay aware of the path. The trail and its surroundings can quickly grow slippery.
Lower Yosemite Falls Loop
Looking to increase your step count but still hoping to chase some waterfalls? The Lower Yosemite Falls loop is a 1-mile loop that provides a breathtaking vantage point of Yosemite Falls.
As a paved trail, the Lower Yosemite Falls Loops is entirely dog friendly. You’ll see plenty of other humans and pooches along the way as this track is quite busy. Don’t let this dissuade you though. The view is more than worth braving the crowds.
These falls are one of Yosemite’s most popular attractions for a reason. Even the briefest of visits will quickly reveal why. Made up of two falls (Upper Yosemite Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls), Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America at 2425 feet. As the name suggests, this dog-friendly trail will get you up close and personal with the lower half of the falls. It leads right to the base and makes for a wondrous view. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for rainbows!
The falls flow the strongest between late spring and early summer, so remember to plan your trip accordingly if these are a major drawcard for you.
Lower Yosemite Falls Loop – Cook’s Meadow Extension
We did this slightly longer walk on our trip to Lower Yosemite Falls and could not recommend it enough.
The meadow itself is glorious in the springtime and the added views of other sections of the park are a nice bonus too. It’s still a very accessible round trip, at only 2.25 miles, but offers great vantage points over many of Yosemite’s key landmarks. You’ll be able to tick Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock off of your sightseeing list all in one go.
This trail is flat for the most part and does not really change in its elevation. This makes it another great pick for dog owners traveling with young children, as well as those with older dogs or puppies.
While the total Mirror Lake/Mirror Meadow hike is 2 miles long, your four-legged companion will only be able to join you on the first paved mile.
This is a little frustrating, as the full walk is an even more amazing experience, but the paved walk is still worth the stop if you have time to spare.
Mirror Lake sits at a low capacity for most of the year and hits its high point during the spring and early summer. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a still day, the reflection of the surrounding mountains on the surface of the water is breathtaking.
During the low season, the walk will still lead you through some fascinating natural landscapes. There are also educational materials regarding the surrounding land and its history dotted along the path for you to stop and enjoy.
Longer Dog-Friendly Hikes in Yosemite
If you’re a more experienced hiker or simply like a challenge, these longer hikes will be right up your alley.
Wawona Meadow Loop Trail
The Wawona Meadow Loop Trail is a slightly different experience from other walks in the park. This 3.6-mile loop will see you setting off across from the Wawona Hotel, making your way past the established golf course and through the surrounding meadows.
I know that the words ‘hotel’ and ‘golf course’ might set alarm bells ringing for some nature lovers – you didn’t come all of this way to see that!
Rest assured, this is only a very brief part of the trail. You’ll feel completely immersed in your surroundings in no time. For an even more magical experience, plan your trip for the warmer months to enjoy the spring wildflowers that sprout in the meadow and all of the local fauna that calls the trail home. Deer are particularly common, as we discovered, so be sure to keep your dog leashed and calm if you happen to cross paths with a herd.
If your dog is sensitive to the heat then this trail is a fantastic choice. The majority of this walk is flat and under tree cover, so you’ll just need to be sure to pack enough water for you both.
Chowchilla Mountain Road
This trail is a little bit different from the other options on the list. You might have noticed it’s named Chowchilla Mountain Road, not Chowchilla Mountain Trail. That’s because this dirt path is open seasonally to off-road vehicles as well as bikers, hikers, and dogs.
Chowchilla Mountain Road spans 12 miles in length and winds over the summit of the mountain, so be prepared to get your heart pumping!
Because of its mixed usage, the dirt path is not in the best condition. I highly recommend wearing proper footwear as well as remaining aware of what is going on underfoot. Weather can also have a big impact on this route.
As there are no rest stops or water sources along the path, be sure to pack a reasonable amount of supplies for both you and your dog. The track is not a loop and the side trails are not dog-friendly.
Tuolumne Grove Nature Trail
This track is part of the larger Big Oak Flat Road, but only the 5.4 miles between the trailhead and Hodgdon Meadow Campground are considered to be dog-friendly.
The hike will bring you up close and personal with the towering giant sequoias that Yosemite is renowned for. You’ll get to pass the iconic Tunnel Tree plus explore the stunning grove. These giant trees are enough to capture anybody’s attention, and your dog will love the sights and sounds of the surrounding forest.
While you won’t experience any unusually extreme conditions, the Tuolumne Grove Nature Trail is often classed as a moderate hike. Water and ice can quickly change the conditions of the trail depending on the weather, and there is a steep uphill section on your return journey.
Other Dog-Friendly Must-Sees
While hiking and getting out amongst nature is obviously the main draw of visiting Yosemite, don’t overlook all of the beautiful lookouts and vantage points that can be accessed by a car. You never know what you and your dog might spy during a well-timed drive-by!
Glacier Point offers jaw-dropping views out over Yosemite Valley. When visiting the park with your dog, this 7214-foot vantage point is one of the best ways to check off the key sights that Yosemite has to offer. From the overlook, you’ll be able to view Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and the surrounding high country.
Visitors to Glacier Point will want to carefully check the conditions before venturing out. The overlook is only open seasonally and access can vary depending on weather conditions. The season typically begins in late May and continues until October or November at the latest. These dates are only a rough guideline and are subject to change.
Note: The Yosemite Website currently states that vehicle and bicycle access to Glacier Point is prohibited until the 2023 season. While this means visitors with dogs will need to give it a miss this season, ultimately it was still worth the mention. If you’re planning a trip for the future, keep this spot in mind!
We’ve all seen Tunnel View through the eyes of Ansel Adams. Well, now you and your dog can experience it for yourselves!
This is definitely not a hike but still makes for a breathtaking stop. You’ll be able to spot El Capitan and Half Dome, as well as enjoy a different (and drier) view of Bridalveil Fall.
If Half Dome is one of your ‘must-see’ monuments, then you won’t want to skip a stop at Sentinel Bridge, where you’ll be able to view the amazing rock formation in all of its glory. On a clear day, you’ll also be able to witness its mirrored form below you in the Merced River.
This vantage point is easily accessed by people and dogs alike. Simply park in the designated spaces nearby and follow the pedestrian path to the bridge’s sidewalk. If you’re traveling in the busy season, you should just be able to follow the crowd. Try to arrive early if you don’t want to have to battle it out for a good spot.
Yosemite is a beautiful natural resource and an absolute must-visit for any hiker. While planning a trip to a national park with your dog can be tricky, Yosemite has plenty of options for the whole family to enjoy. It might actually be one of the easiest national parks to visit with a dog. So pack your gear – it’s time to get out and explore all of the dog friendly trails Yosemite has to offer!