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A Dog Friendly Guide to Yosemite

A Dog Friendly Guide to Yosemite

I partnered with to bring you this dog-friendly guide to Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite was California’s first national park and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The park covers an area the size of Rhode Island and sees some 4 million visitors annually.

Of course, visiting with a dog means that you won’t get to experience it quite the same way, but there is still plenty to explore and you can catch all the iconic spots with your dog in tow.

While you’re visiting Yosemite, consider making the short drive to Mammoth to spend time among some of the tallest peaks in the west.

Filled with alpine lakes, meadows, and hundreds of miles of trails, both you and your dog will be happy spending a few days in this outdoor mecca.

Trails Where Dogs are Allowed in Yosemite

Because Yosemite is a National Park, dog owners can expect some stricter rules when they choose to visit the park with their pets.

As with all national parks, the rules for dogs remain the same:

  • Dogs must remain on a six-foot leash at all times
  • Don’t leave your pet unattended
  • Clean up after your pet (which is a given no matter where you hike)
  • Dog-friendly areas are restricted to paved paths only*

*not all paved paths in Yosemite allow dogs. Check before you go.

Pets are not allowed in the following areas:

  • On shuttle buses
  • In lodging areas
  • Inside public buildings
  • On snow-covered unpaved roads
  • In all walk-in and group campgrounds
  • In areas as posted

Short Dog-Friendly Hikes in Yosemite

The following short hikes will lead you to vistas of Yosemite’s most famous sights, including, Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall, and Yosemite Falls.

Bridalveil Fall – A short hike along a paved path will take you to the base of this iconic site, made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. The best time to visit the falls is during the spring. Don’t forget the rain gear! The mist from the falls can get you surprisingly wet.

Lower Yosemite Fall Loop – This one-mile loop takes you to the 320-foot plunge that makes up the lower portion of the tallest waterfall in North America, standing at 2,425 feet from the top.

Peak volume happens during spring and early summer. A great bang for the buck hike, you’ll be rewarded with nice views of both the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.

You can extend the hike to Cook’s Meadow to see another view of Yosemite Falls, as well as Half Dome.

Mirror Lake/Mirror Meadow – Dogs are allowed on the first mile of this hike to Mirror Lake, until the pavement ends. While the lake fluctuates in size depending on the time of year, there is always some water.

Go early for calmest waters to see a beautiful reflection of the surrounding cliffs.

Longer Dog-Friendly Hikes in Yosemite

Most of the dog-friendly trails in Yosemite are less than a mile, however, there are a couple options for longer excursions.

Big Oak Flat Road to Hodgdon Meadows Campground – The Old Big Oak Flat Road overlaps with the start of the main trail through the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Dogs are welcome along the 5.4 miles to Hodgdon Meadow Campground.

Wawona Meadow Loop – This 3.5-mile loop circles around a golf course and features gently rolling hills. Plan for a spring trip to see beautiful wildflowers.

Chowchilla Mountain Road – A hidden dog-friendly hike in the park is Chowchilla Mountain Road that starts at Highway 49 at the golf course. If you have it in you, follow the 12-mile out and back road over Chowchilla Mountain and into Ponderosa Basin.

Photo of Twin Lakes in Mammoth Lakes by moonjazz.

Dog-Friendly Hikes in Mammoth

Just outside of Yosemite you’ll find plenty of dog-friendly trails to explore. Mammoth is a great place to spend some time with your dog because there are fewer restrictions since land is managed by the National Forest Service.

Barney Lake Trail – Arrive early to score a parking spot for this popular alpine lake hike. At just 5.4 miles, Barney Lakes is a great way to start off the day. You can also backpack at the lake.

Minaret Lake Trail – This long 13-mile trail requires a full day or overnight trip, but is well worth it for the alpine lakes, waterfalls, and views along the way. The gradual grade makes it a great option for those just starting out with longer hikes or backpacking.

Duck Lake via Emerald Lake Trail – This 7.5 to 10-mile out and back trail features several alpine lakes and with a steady elevation makes for a nice challenge.

Dog-Friendly Hotels in Yosemite

There are no pet-friendly hotels located within the park itself, so pet-friendly accommodation options will be located a short distance from the park.

Since travel today looks a bit different from normal, I encourage you to keep your safety and the safety of others in mind. Please travel responsibly.

If you do decide to travel during the pandemic, here is how I recommend doing so safely:

  • Wear a face mask. 
  • Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands regularly
  • Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures, and status of local businesses.
  • Fill up with gas before you leave
  • Bring your own food and limit trips to local shops
  • Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans

Tenaya Lodge – This award-winning dog-friendly resort includes a kennel if you want to hike on a trail that does not allow dogs. Other amenities include dog massages, a dog bed, and bowls.

Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn – If you prefer something classic and familiar, the Best Western Yosemite Gateway is located just 15 miles south of the park’s entrance and set on seven acres in the Sierra Nevada.

Yosemite View Lodge – Set just outside of the national park, on the Merced River, the Yosemite View Lodge is about as close as you can get to staying inside the park with your dog.

Dog-Friendly Cabins and Camping in Yosemite

If you don’t mind something more rustic or want a place to stay where the whole family can gather together, there are plenty of dog-friendly cabins and camping options inside and near Yosemite.

Yosemite’s Creekside Birdhouse – This custom built cabin is located inside Yosemite and features a hot tub, WiFi, and modern amenities.

The Redwoods in Yosemite – Visitors have their pick of a number of pet-friendly cabins managed by the Redwoods in Yosemite. They have all kinds of options to suit various needs and amenity preferences.

  • Hodgdon Meadow Campground
  • Dirt Flat Campsite
  • Horseshoe Bend Camping

Dogs must be leashed at all times when in the campgrounds.

Where to Stay with a dog in Mammoth

Mammoth is just a short drive from Yosemite and makes for a great base area for your visit, especially if you’re traveling with your dog, since there are plenty of pet-friendly accommodations.

Keep in mind that during the winter, the road between Mammoth and Yosemite is closed, so make sure to check the schedule before planning your visit.

Sierra Meadows Ranch – Located on 17 acres between Mammoth Creek and the base of the Sherwin mountains, Sierra Meadows Ranch offers cozy stand-alone cabins with fully-equipped kitchens.

Tamarack Lodge – This rustic, yet comfortable pet-friendly lodging is just steps away from nature in a secluded lakeside setting. You can choose to stay in a cabin or lodge room, depending on preferences.

The Mammoth Inn – The newly remodeled bed and breakfast is centrally-located in a residential area of Mammoth, just steps away from restaurants, shopping, and outdoor activities.

Camping in Mammoth

  • Lake George Campground
  • Old Shady Rest Campground
  • Minaret Falls Campground

Looking for more pet-friendly travel guides?

A Dog-Friendly Guide to Bend, Oregon
A Dog-Friendly Guide to the Olympic Peninsula
Traveling to Canada with a Dog from the US
A Dog-friendly Guide to Jackson Hole
A Dog-friendly Guide to Lake Tahoe

Have you visited Yosemite National Park with your dog?

What were some of your favorite places to visit?

Dog Friendly Guide to Yosemite and Mammoth Pinterest Image

Leather Halters

Monday 10th of May 2021

Great post. Loved reading this helpful article.

Jen Sotolongo

Monday 10th of May 2021

Glad you enjoyed it!

Dog Boarding

Friday 26th of March 2021

First, let me say thank you for following the rules. You set a good example for everyone else by keeping your dog on the proper trails. The park needs more people like you visiting. As someone who has worked in Yosemite (four years backcountry restoration crew) I can tell you that as awesome as pets are, they just affect the land negatively. Why aren't pets allowed on most trails: A short answer is a smell. Animals rely so much on their sense of smell and pets just mess that all up. Take dogs for example. They mark everything. Animals will smell that and not go in that area because they will feel threatened so it changes their behavior and it leads to other environmental impacts.

Jen Sotolongo

Monday 29th of March 2021

Thanks for the kind words and the super interesting information! I had always just assumed dogs weren't allowed on many trails in NPs because, ahem, so many owners don't follow rules or pick up after them. I never thought about marking and how it affects the wildlife!


Friday 5th of March 2021

Thanks for all of the great info on your blog. I’m hoping you can give me your input on something. We’re planning a visit to a national park soon. It’s mostly dog-friendly, but there’s a cave tour we’d like to take that obviously won’t allow dogs. The lodge in the park offers outdoor, self-serve kennels. I’m having fits of anxiety over the idea of leaving my dog alone all by herself, even for a few hours. She’s 8 months old, and since we adopted her a few months ago she’s basically become my fourth child. I don’t know if these types of kennels are a common feature of national parks. Have you seen them before? Would you feel comfortable leaving your dog in one? Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

Jen Sotolongo

Friday 5th of March 2021

Kennels seem to be pretty common features at national parks. I haven't used one myself, so I'd read reviews from other dog owners on sites like Trip Advisor to see if folks recommend them or not. If they don't, I'd skip the cave tour and find something else fun to do. As for your dog being alone for a few hours, I imagine that you've left her alone before when you go to work (or in the future when you go back to work) or run errands. If she's not crate trained, then I'd get on that immediately. She'll be totally fine alone.