When we visited Yosemite for my husband’s 30th birthday, we wanted to bring the whole family – and that meant our pup, Samurai. With a few rare exceptions (noted below), dogs are ONLY allowed on paved trails and developed areas, to ensure the safety of Yosemite’s wildlife. But don’t let that stop you from bringing your furry friend. Yosemite Valley is a lovely place to explore with a dog in tow.
We enjoyed a leisurely walk along the Valley Loop Trail, a paved path that includes boardwalks over fragile meadows and lovely views of many Yosemite icons: Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan and other granite giants. The access path to Lower Yosemite Falls is also paved, with picnic areas and benches. For the rare unpaved treat, bring your leashed dog to the Wawona Meadow Loop, an easy 3.5 mile hike that begins at the Big Trees Lodge. Visit in winter for beautiful snowy vistas, or come in spring for colorful wildflowers.
Other hidden dog-friendly paths include Chowchilla Mountain Road; Wawona’s Four Mile and Eleven Mile Fire Roads; Carlon Road from the trailhead to Hodgdon Meadow; and on the Old Big Oak Flat Road from Hodgdon Meadow to Tuolumne Grove parking lot. For breathtaking views of the valley, drive to paved overlooks at Tunnel View or bring a picnic to Olmsted Point.
We chose to camp in the valley, but plenty of local hotels just outside Yosemite allow dogs for a small fee. Be sure to ask ahead when you make your reservations. Check out all of Yosemite's pet guidelines to make sure you have a safe and happy trip – and remember to store your dog food in the bear-safe food lockers!
Tips for the Trip
Make sure you pack enough water and snacks for yourself and your dog – you will both need extra water in the high elevation. Pack a 6-foot stationary leash, portable bowl, and enough waste bags to clean up after your pooch. To stay safe, never leave a dog unattended in a campsite or car. If you want to explore unpaved trails on your own, kennel services are offered in Yosemite, and at most pet-friendly hotels. Enjoy!