Read this before you go camping with your dog!

dog camping

With summer here, I begin to hear the call of the wild. I used to love hiking with my dogs (that’s my Lab-Shepherd mix, Annie, pictured) — but when I first began traveling with them, I was surprised to learn how many national parks, wilderness areas, and campgrounds were dog unfriendly. It didn’t seem democratic … or American to keep dogs out of the wilderness!

I did some research about camping with dogs and here’s what I found:

Not all national parks
welcome dogs. The National Park Service has a great interactive map where you can search for parks by state and check out their pet policies. (When you find a park, click “Plan Your Visit,” then “Things to Know Before You Come.”)

Campground network KOA has posted some helpful tips about backpacking and hiking with your dog. For example: If your pet will be carrying his own pack, make sure it’s no more than 20-30% of his body weight.

The Web site is also a good source of Camping with Your Dog 101 sorts of information. It includes an interactive map of state park campgrounds and a directory of outdoor organizations dedicated to preserving wilderness areas. lists hiking trails in the U.S. and Canada by state/province, and includes dog rules for each.

Some books I found useful when planning vacations with my dogs: Hiking with Dogs: Becoming a Wilderness-Wise Dog Owner, by Linda Mullally, and Hiking with Your Dog: Happy Trails: What You Really Need to Know When Taking Your Dog Hiking or Backpacking, by Gary Hoffman.

Before you hit the road with your dog, make sure you’ve got ID tags for him and a good 6-ft. leash so he can explore safely. Also check out our pet travel tips for safe flying and driving.

I’d love to hear from people who took their dogs camping or hiking. Send me some pictures and tell me where you went and what your experience was like.