Traveling with your beloved pet to the Smokies can be a lot of fun, however, there are a few rules and restrictions to bring your pet to the park. You and your pet can enjoy ample time together in any of the campgrounds, picnic areas or along roads in the park as long as your pet is kept on a leash at all times. Your pet’s leash must be at least 6 feet in length. Dogs are only allowed on two hiking trails in the park. Dogs are welcome on the Gatlinburg Trail that runs 1.9 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg and on the Oconaluftee River Trail that runs 1.5 miles from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to the outskirts of Cherokee, NC. The Gatlinburg Trail runs through the forest along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River and is fairly flat. Foundations of old homes and chimneys can be seen along this trail for a look back into history. The Oconaluftee River Trail is also relatively flat but does have a few small hills along the way and runs along the Oconaluftee River offering beautiful river views. Any pet excrement must be immediately picked up by the pet handler and disposed of in a trash bin. The Great Smoky Mountains Park service has prohibited dogs in the back-country areas of the park since the park was established in the 1930s.

dog on leash

Reasons for prohibiting dog and other non-native animals in the park are:

  1. Dogs can carry disease into the park’s wildlife population
  2. Dogs can threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding and resting sites
  3. The scent left from dogs can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife (example:small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and not venture out to feed)
  4. Pets may become prey for larger animals such as coyotes and bears. In addition, if a dog disturbs and enrages a bear, it may lead the angry bear directly to the handler.
  5. Uncontrolled dogs may present a danger to other visitors