Canine Campers: Bringing Dogs to the National Forest

The Gila National Forest is very dog friendly.  Dogs are welcome in all campgrounds, picnic areas and on most trails.

A mother and daughters with their dogs enjoy the morning sunshine.   Problems with dogs in many developed National Forest recreation areas have increased seriously in recent years.  The few rules that apply to dogs are meant to assure that you and other National Forest visitors have an enjoyable outdoor recreation experience.  Remember, pets need to be on-leash in developed recreation sites, including campgrounds, picnic areas, and trailheads. (36CFR 261.16j). These restrictions are to protect wildlife, natural resources, and other visitors' experiences. 

Camping with Your Pet

If you are camping with your pet and want to be sure that privilege remains available in the future, please practice the following:

  • Leave aggressive or unusually noisy dogs at home.
  • During the day keep your dog on a leash no more than 6 feet long, or otherwise restrict its freedom to roam at will. Domestic animals are not allowed to run loose in recreation areas where they will disturb others.
  • At night, keep your dogs and other pets inside an enclosed vehicle, in a tent or kennelled if weather permits.
  • Developed campgrounds are for people, not animals. Please do not bring more than two dogs or other pets to any one campsite.
  • Dogs may not be left alone at your campsite, picnic area or in your vehicle at any time.

A man takes a break in the shade while walking his dog in the forest.

When out on the trails, be sure you leash your dog whenever approaching other hikers, horses and pack stock. Horses and pack stock may spook at an inquisitive or boisterous dog, injuring the rider.  Hikers may not enjoy meeting your dog running loose on a narrow, steep trail.

Whether in camp or out on the trails, your fellow visitors' reactions will be a major factor in determining whether dogs continue to be welcome in developed National Forest recreation areas. Most complaints about dogs are about noise or dog mess. To avoid complaints from other forest visitors, consider these suggestions:

  • Never leave your dog alone in a closed vehicle or tent even for a short time. In summer, even a few minutes in the car can kill or seriously injure your pet.
  • Clean up after your pet. It will only take a few minutes, and there is no single action that will more favorably impress your fellow campers.
  • Whenever possible select a campsite on the edge of the campground and away from the shoreline.
  • Bring enough food and water for your furry friend. Store your pet's supplies as you would your own. Pet food left out may attract unwanted visitors such as bears.
  • Do not leave your pet's food dishes out.
  • No matter how well behaved your dog is, he must be on a leash at all times in developed areas.  Developed areas include but are not limited to roads, parking areas, camp and picnic sites, restrooms, play areas, Forest buildings, interpretive areas, fish cleaning stations, boat docks, boat ramps and piers, marinas, and trailheads.
  • Manage your pet. Do not allow your pet to bark, lunge, run up to, or sniff other dogs and people.

Pack out Your Pet's Poop - Picking up your dog's waste makes a positive impact in the appearance and health of our water quality and natural environment

Be sure to always pick up pet waste! It also protects the wildlife in the area. In additional, cleaning up after your dog will enable other visitors to have an equally awesome experience. A dog can have just as much, or more, of an impact on vegetation, wildlife, and nature as humans can. Some people see their dog as "just another wild animal" out in the woods but the number of domesticated dogs using trails can be much greater than the number of wildlife in any given area. It's true that carrying poop bags in your backpack can get smelly but it doesn't have to be that way. Placing the poop bag inside of a Ziploc bag will take care of that. If you are hiking for multiple days and can't pack the waste out, bury it in a cathole dug 6-8" deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails.

By practicing good dog etiquette and being a conscientious dog owner, you will know that you are helping keep the National Forests a "dog friendly" place.