One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive on a fairly regular basis is to whether or not pets are allowed on the hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The quick answer to that question is, no.
However, I should mention that dogs are allowed on two short walking paths within park boundaries: the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail.
The Gatlinburg Trail is a 1.9-mile, one-way path that leads from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. The relatively flat trail runs through the forest along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Bicycles are also allowed on this trail.
The Oconaluftee River Trail also allows dogs and bicycles. The trail is 1.5 miles in length and follows the Oconaluftee River from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to the outskirts of Cherokee, NC.
The park prohibits dogs on backcountry trails for several reasons:
• Dogs can carry disease into the park's wildlife populations.
• Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife.
• Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness.
• Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes and bears.
• Many people, especially children, are frightened by dogs, even small ones. Uncontrolled dogs can present a danger to other visitors.
I should also point out that dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads, but must be kept on a leash at all times. For more information on bringing your pet into the park, please click here.
If you wish to bring your dog into the backcountry, there are many places outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that do allow dogs on hiking trails, such as Cherokee, Pisgah, Nantahala and the Chattahoochee National Forests. Each of these areas offer numerous outstanding hiking opportunities. Karen Chavez from the Asheville Citizen-Times published a guide book that covers more than 50 hikes for you and your dog in North Carolina.
Does your pooch need to be outfitted before your next hike? REI has a wide variety of hiking gear for your dog, including backpacks, booties and life jackets.
The Smoky Mountains Day Hikers Store