Are Dogs Allowed In the Great Smoky Mountain National Park?


Fall is a favorite hiking season for many of us dog owners, and with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park nearby it seems like an obvious destination to hit the trails with our pups. But many people aren’t aware that dogs are only allowed in a few areas of the park, and only on two trails.  

According to the National Park Service, dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads, but they must be kept on a leash at all times and the leash must not exceed six feet in length. Dogs are only allowed on two short walking paths—the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. Pets are not allowed on any other park trails, and they should not be left unattended in vehicles or RVs.

Large national parks, like the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, that have extensive backcountry areas as a rule do not allow dogs on trails. These include parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Rocky Mountains, and several others. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) has prohibited dogs in the backcountry since the park was first established in the 1930s. Here are the reasons the park cites for prohibiting dogs on hiking trails:

  • Dogs can carry disease into the park’s wildlife populations.
  • Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. A dog’s scent can signal the presence of a predator, which may alter the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed.
  • Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dog, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively.
  • Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes and bears. In addition, if your dog disturbs and enrages a bear, it may lead the angry bear directly to you. Dogs can also encounter insects that bite and transmit disease and plants that are poisonous or full of painful thorns and burrs.
  • Uncontrolled dogs can present a danger to other visitors. Many people, especially children, are frightened by dogs, even small ones.

Other Local Hiking Options Besides GSMNP

Fortunately, there are plenty of other beautiful places in and around Knoxville where you can hike freely with dogs. For example, Ijams, Forks of the River, and House Mountain, which is Knox County’s highest point, all offer pet-friendly trails.

Visit Outdoor Knoxville’s hiking page for a comprehensive round-up of trails within and just beyond the city limit. And don’t forget about our extensive greenways and parks throughout Knoxville, plus the seven dog parks that offer great opportunities for dogs to run, sometimes swim, and socialize.

Whichever outdoor adventure you choose, be sure to that your dogs are wearing a collar with ID tags at all times, are licensed, and are current with all vaccinations including Rabies, Distemper and Bordetella. And you definitely want to make sure your pups are on effective heartworm, intestinal parasite and flea/tick prevention products since their risk of exposure is higher in wooded areas.

If you’re not certain which prevention products are best for you dog, feel free to ask us. We have a great deal of experience knowing which products work and which don’t, as mentioned in What 2 Vet Techs Really Want You To Know About Fleas.

PetWellClinic® is able to offer substantially discounted prices for heartworm, intestinal parasite, and flea/tick prevention products, as well as vaccinations for Bordetella and rabies by operating limited hours for non-surgical care. Think of us as a walk-in “minute clinic” for your pet’s wellness—no appointment necessary, with quick in and out service.

Learn about how PetWellClinic® is leading the nation in making preventive care affordable and convenient, as featured in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine Association.  

PetWellClinic® is open during evening hours and on weekends. We are located in Farragut at 10549 Kingston Pike, near West Hills at 7329 Kingston Pike and at 228 S. Calderwood Street in Alcoa. Learn more about how the PetWellClinic® can exceed your expectations for affordable, top quality pet care by visiting our website at


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