Visit a (National) Park with Your Pup! Parks offer "fee-free days" in August and September
08/01/2010 - By Gayle M. Irwin
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Summer may be fast fading away, however, fall weekends make nice family get-aways – especially the 3-day weekend of Labor Day. Right in our own state lies the majority of America's first national park – Yellowstone – as well as the majestic Grand Teton National Park. Visiting these spectacular places in the fall can be a wonder-filled experience!
Or, you may want to visit these national treasures during the upcoming "Fee-free Days", during which time entrance fees will be waived. These dates are August 14th and 15th and September 25th. And, you don't have to leave Fido at home!
Pets are welcome in our national parks. However, there are some rules and guidelines about which travelers with pets should be aware. Those include:
1. Pets are prohibited in the backcountry and on boardwalks and trails.
2. Do not leave your pet unattended or tied to an object – 'unattended' includes in the vehicle.
3. Clean up after your pet.
4. Keep your pet under control at all times, on a leash or in a crate.
5. You may have your pet in the 'front country' of the park, including campgrounds, in parking areas, and within 100 feet of roadways.
In addition to providing a wonderful respite for humans, the parks are home for many species of wildlife, and in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, these including bears and bison. Pets running loose or hiking with owners in the backcountry can harm wildlife – or be harmed themselves. Therefore, the National Park Service, recognizing that many people travel with pets, accommodates our four-footed companions in certain areas while prohibiting them in others, for the safety of both pets and wildlife.
Speaking of accommodations, are there places inside the park that allow people to stay with their pets other than the campgrounds? In some cases, yes. Hotel accommodations in Yellowstone, for example, are not pet-friendly, but a few of the cabin facilities inside the park do allow pets. Additionally, just outside the park's boundary in West Yellowstone, Montana, you will find several places that welcome both you and your pets. There are many regular, well-known hotels and motels, such as the Holiday Inn and the Kelly Inn. However, if you want something more unique than a typical hotel room, there are some options.
For example, if you enjoy a bit of luxury with your Yellowstone experience, check out the Hibernation Station, a log cabin resort. Each cabin is individually-themed, mostly with subject matter from Yellowstone and the West, such as elk, wolf, Native American, and cowboy. Tapestry walls, log furniture, and in some cases fireplaces and jetted tubs warmly welcome travelers. Cabins range in size from single queens to two-story family. Pets are welcome in some of the cabins. The Hibernation Station is located next to the Gallatin National Forest, which provides a wonderful walking area for both you and your pet. To learn more, visit www.HibernationStation.com or call 800-580-3557.
If you prefer less luxury and less money but still unique from a regular hotel room, Whispering Pines might be more to your liking. These rustic, historic cabins are quaint with small bathrooms, but do have lovely log porches for relaxing and gazing at the sunrise or sunset. Whispering Pines is also located near a section of the Gallatin Forest, on the opposite side of town from the Hibernation Station.
If you prefer camping, but the campgrounds inside the park are full or you'd prefer to be in town for other activities, check out Grizzly RV Park. Also pet-friendly and near the Gallatin National Forest, this RV park accommodates large and medium-sized motor homes, trailers and 5th wheels. It's well-maintained and able to handle several hundred campers at once. Additionally, small but newly constructed camping cabins are available. To learn more, visit http://www.grizzlyrv.com/
I am a big Yellowstone fan, living in the area for nearly 22 years. Therefore, this is the park with which I am most familiar and enjoy visiting. West Yellowstone is small (about 1,200 people), quieter than either Jackson or Cody, yet offers special amenities such as two community theaters and distinct shopping. For more information on accommodations that welcome both you and your pet as well as area activities, visit the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce's website: http://www.westyellowstonechamber.com/
If you've never heard elk bugle in Yellowstone, watched Old Faithful erupt, or cast your fishing line in the Firehole River, maybe a fall trip to Yellowstone is in order (with a side visit to Grand Teton a short distance south). And, if you have been there, go again – there's nothing like the sights and smells of Yellowstone in the fall! And, Fido doesn't have to stay with grandma – or at the local kennel.
For more information on pets inside Yellowstone, visit the Park Service's website at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/pets.htm. For a brochure regarding pets in Grand Teton, visit http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/upload/PETS_MAY142009b.pdf
If you prefer to stay in Jackson or Cody, visit their respective visitor's bureaus to find out about lodging facilities that allow pets:
Consider a late-summer or early fall get-away to Yellowstone with your family, including your four-footed friend, and enjoy a most magical place – just outside Casper's backyard!
All national parks have their own pet policies. If Yellowstone or Grand Teton aren't on your list of "must-sees", perhaps Rocky Mountain National Park (about a 5-hour drive from Casper) or one of the impressive parks in Utah capture your imagination. To learn each park's particular pet policy, log onto the National Park Service's website at www.nps.gov and find the park you're interested in visiting with your pet to learn about that park's pet policies.
Gayle Irwin is an author and speaker with a deep affection and concern for pets. She is the author of two children's books: Sage's Big Adventure (2007) and Sage Learns to Share (2009). She is also a speaker in local schools as well as a former journalist and humane and conservation educator. Her publication credits include a story Chicken Soup for the Soul: Lessons Learned from the Dog. She is the proud "pet parent" of two adopted dogs, who serve as characters in her books and with whom she enjoys traveling. For more information about her writing and speaking, visit www.sagestory.com and www.gaylemirwin.com.