In many U.S. national parks, four-legged tourists aren’t allowed in the backcountry because they pose a threat to wildlife. Perhaps most importantly, they could become prey for larger animals like bears and coyotes. However, there are plenty of safe, fun ways to vacation with your dog in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Hiking Within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There are only two pet-friendly hiking trails within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Gatlinburg Trail – The Gatlinburg Trail is a nature walk through the woods. The hike is 1.9 miles one-way from Sugarlands Visitor Center. It runs through the forest along the Little Pigeon River, passing by foundations of several old homesites along the way. It’s the only pet friendly trail on the Gatlinburg side of the national park.
- Oconaluftee River Trail – The hike along the Oconaluftee River Trail begins just behind the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The center is located about 2 miles north of Cherokee, NC on Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441). To reach the trailhead, walk behind the visitor center and head towards the Mountain Farm Museum. The Oconaluftee River Trail travels around the museum, a collection of log buildings from various park locations. The structures, built during the late 1800s and early 1900s, depict a typical farm from the Smoky Mountains region. The 3.0-mile roundtrip trail is a pleasant walk along the river, under a canopy of eastern hemlock, red maple, yellow buckeye, beech, sycamore, white basswood, dogwoods, and tulip trees.
Hiking Outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
You dog is welcome on these trails outside the national park.
- Townsend Historical Trail and River Walk – The Townsend Historical Trail (https://www.traillink.com/trail/townsend-historical-trail/) runs along both sides of US 321 through Townsend, only 1/3 mile from Owl’s Hoot Chalet (https://smokiescabins.com/owls-hoot-chalet/). The 9-mile paved trail is a pleasant trail for dog-walking, passing by the visitor center, hotels, restaurants, and historical sites. Markers along the trail and a Shadows of the Past brochure at the visitor center describe the history. The trail also includes the Townsend River Walk (https://www.townsendriverwalk.com/), a ¼-mile, shaded, and scenic trail with markers identifying native trees and vegetation. The trail is a Certified Arboretum by The Tennessee Urban Forestry Council. It was established in 2004 by the Tuckaleechee Garden Club to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Nantahala National Forest – According to BringFido.com, if the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has left Fido panting for more, head south to Nantahala National Forest (about 70 miles from Owl’s Hoot Chalet, in North Carolina). There are over 530,000 acres of wilderness and 600 miles of trails to explore. But unlike the national park, your dog is welcome almost everywhere in Nantahala. The forest has many of the same features as the Smokies, like hiking trails, waterfalls, rivers, incredible lookouts, wildlife, and more. This article (https://www.bringfido.com/blog/nantahala-national-forest-dog-friendly-alternative-great-smoky-mountains-national-park/) has links to walking and hiking trails, picnic areas, and water activities in the Nantahala National Forest.
Dog-Friendly Water Activities in the Smoky Mountains
And when your dog is ready to cool down this summer, check out these refreshing options.
- Townsend Wye – Dogs are welcome at the Townsend Wye, the “Y” in the road at the intersection of East Lamar Alexander Parkway and Little River Gorge Road. If you are traveling from Townsend, the parking lot is on the left-hand side, just before the road forks towards Gatlinburg and Cades Cove. Locally known as just “the Y,” the area has a large swimming hole with a jump-off rock, small rapids, a few large pools, and enough space to spread out a picnic blanket or camp chairs. Be aware, though, that parking lots fill up quickly on a hot summer day.
- Smoky Mountain River Rat (https://smokymtnriverrat.com/) – Dogs tube for FREE at Smoky Mountain River Rat (Outpost A only); see their website for rules.
Of course, your dogs are always welcome at Owl’s Hoot Chalet in Townsend (https://smokiescabins.com/owls-hoot-chalet/) and will love the 5-acre meadow to run and play in. The meadow has plenty of sticks to play with, too 🙂 For more information, call Myra at 865-207-6071 for availability and details.
What are your favorite places to take your dogs in the Smokies? Leave us a comment with your ideas!
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