West Yellowstone Pet Friendly Hotels & Activities, Dog Hikes

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Pet Friendly Hotels & Activities

Discover pet friendly hotels in West Yellowstone and 10 hikes and activities to do with the dog while you’re here.

Bring Fido on vacation to Yellowstone National Park and West Yellowstone, Montana, and you’re bound to find a few places your dog isn’t welcome. Luckily, we already put together a list for you of the best pet friendly hotels in or near Yellowstone

Click to find pet friendly Yellowstone lodging in West Yellowstone.

But while you’re out West with your dog exploring Yellowstone, you’ll probably want to find some fun activities and hikes that want man’s best friend as much as you do. 

Yellowstone pet regulations require you keep all pets leashed and within 100 feet of a road. 

Kinda limits your vacation to a place known for its backcountry hiking, don’t you think? You can’t even take your dog on simple hikes on wide trails in Yellowstone, much less deep into the wilderness where you’ll find waterfalls and relatively unknown thermal features. 

Nevertheless, the rules are in place for a reason as dogs are known to confront wildlife and go a little wild. They are in the Yellowstone wilderness after all. 

But West Yellowstone is no slouch when it comes to outdoor activities you and your dog will love, so don’t count out a Yellowstone vacation just because the park isn’t as dog friendly as you might like. The National Forest land near West Yellowstone has plenty of trails and fun things to do and see that should keep your pup panting for more. 

Oh, and one of Yellowstone’s biggest attractions is more dog-friendly than you might realize. 

So keep reading to find the top 10 dog friendly hikes in and near West Yellowstone. You may find yourself splitting your days between Yellowstone and West Yellowstone once you find out all there is to do in the area. 

These are in no particular order, although they tend to radiate outward from West Yellowstone.

1. Watch Old Faithful spew water 184 feet with your dog

Starting location: Old Faithful

Distance round-trip: A short walk from your parking spot

Difficulty: Easy

Leash: Required

When most people think of Yellowstone National Park, they immediately think of Old Faithful. The impressive geyser erupts almost as if on a timer roughly every 90 minutes, spitting hot water as much as 184 feet in the air in an upside-down waterfall of geysery goodness.

It’s the quintessential Yellowstone activity. And you can bring Fido. 

But bringing your dog to Old Faithful comes with a couple caveats. 

1. Your pets have to be hard leashed at Old Faithful.

2. Your animal must stay within a designated dog area about 200 feet from the geyser.

That said, it’s not too much farther away than everyone else has to stand, so you won’t be missing much except the thickest part of the crowds. 

Be warned you won’t be able to take your dog for a walk around the tempting boardwalks of Old Faithful Geyser Basin — not even with a leash.

2. Walk Your Dog at Earthquake Lake / Refuge Point Loop in West Yellowstone

Starting location: Pullout between Hebgen and Earthquake lakes

Distance round-trip: 2.3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Leash: Voice control OK

Just outside West Yellowstone, Hebgen Lake forms at the confluence of Duck Creek and the Madison River. This creates a unique dual-channel lake that converges in a pretty mountain canyon before angling to Earthquake Lake. 

Earthquake Lake was formed by a 1959 disaster that killed 28 campers when a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at Hebgen Lake and triggered a fast-moving landslide. 

The slide, still obvious today, dammed up the Madison River and formed Earthquake Lake, known locally as Quake Lake.

Near the headwaters of the lake, you’ll find a pullout where the Refuge Point Loop starts. You can follow the entire loop around the meadows for nice lake and Madison Range views, or cut off to let the dogs play in the lake or the Madison River before it pours into the lake. 

The unique history pairs well with a nice walk through lightly forested meadows that will get your dog’s legs pumping after what’s probably been too much time in the car.

This also makes a nice cross-country ski trail in the winter.


3. Dog-Friendly Coffin Lakes Trail in West Yellowstone

Starting location: Watkins Creek Trailhead

Distance round-trip: 11.3 miles

Difficulty: Moderate/strenuous

Leash: Leash recommended

The Refuge Point Loop is just one of many dog-friendly trails spurring off of Hebgen Lake. 

If you prefer more of a challenge for your dog walks, Coffin Lakes may be a better option. From the Watkins Creek Trailhead, you and your best friend will climb nearly 2,500 feet on a lightly trafficked trail that criss-crosses streams and offers stunning views and great wildflowers in June.

You may want to take a fishing break along the way or at the gorgeous lakes themselves if your dog isn’t liable to scare off all your prey by manufacturing some wet dog smell. 

A leash is recommended due to the big game wildlife you’re likely to encounter along the trail, but it’s not strictly necessary on this U.S. Forest Service trail.


4. A Dog-Friendly Hike at Johnson Lake Trail in West Yellowstone

Starting location: Johnson Lake Trailhead

Distance round-trip: 5.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Leash: Voice control OK

Ascend into the Montana mountains from the north side of Hebgen Lake. While walking through Gallatin Custer National Forest, the trail alternates between forest glades and wildflower meadows and passes by the occasional lily pond. 

The lake itself is a backcountry jewel nestled beneath Graycroft Ridge. 

For best wildflowers, plan on late spring or early summer. But your dog will likely enjoy the exercise and destination anytime.


5. A Simple Dog Walk at Whits Lakes Trail in West Yellowstone

Starting location: Whits Lakes Trailhead

Distance round-trip: 1.7 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Leash: Voice control OK

Just up the dirt road from Johnson Lake Trailhead the road will end in a turnaround. 

Park there and you’ll find a trail that leads to a pair of clearwater backcountry lakes. Make sure you don’t stop at the first! The second will be just over the rise and is the larger of the two. 

Lily pads may stoke some photo sessions at the upper lake, and osprey sightings are common here. 

Your dog is probably panting happily just thinking about the possibilities.


6. Hike a Backcountry Loop from Red Canyon to Cabin Creek Trail in West Yellowstone 

Starting location: Cabin Creek Campground or Red Canyon Creek

Distance round-trip: 4.9 miles to 14 miles+

Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous

Leash: Voice control OK, but watch for wildlife

A lot of options here, but Cabin Creek is a local favorite that you could choose as a 4.9 out-and-back mile to a scenic confluence of creeks in the mountains where the fishing is good. 

Or you could plan on making it an overnighter in grizzly country at a Forest Service Cabin in the area. You could even plan on making it a loop by traveling along a spectacular backcountry ridge and out Red Canyon. 

Beyond the options detailed here, this connects into a vast network of trails, so choose wisely. 


7. Give the Pup a Backcountry Experience at Sheep Lake in West Yellowstone

Starting location: Sheep Lake Trailhead

Distance round-trip: 11.4 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous (2,600 foot elevation gain)

Leash: Voice control OK

Venture into the backcountry, and bring Fido along for the ride. 

Sheep Lake is a gorgeous heart-shaped alpine lake surrounded by a cirque made up of craggy cliffs and scree slopes that give you a true backcountry feel. Without actually being in the Yellowstone wilderness. 

Wildlife and wildflowers abound, so you may want to consider a leash to keep the dog under control. Especially since you’re likely to share the trail with mountain bikers and horseback riders.


8. Stroll the Targhee Creek Trail with Your Dog (West Yellowstone)

Starting location: Targhee Creek Trailhead

Distance round-trip: 4 miles or more

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Leash: Leash required

Want your dog to stay cool on a hot summer day? Targhee Creek Trail is a great option as the trail parallels the creek fairly closely, giving you plenty of opportunities to sidetrack to the idyllic creek for a quick doggy dip every now and then. 

Great for wildflowers, wildlife and wild meadows. 

Beware of bears in the area and keep your dog leashed. Potential encounters with your dog could leave you with one less best friend otherwise.


9. Mesa Falls is Dog-Friendly in Island Park, Idaho

Starting location: Mesa Falls

Distance round-trip: 0.6 miles to Upper Mesa Falls, 2.2 miles to Lower Mesa Falls

Difficulty: Easy

Leash: Leash required

See the most spectacular spring-fed waterfall you’re ever likely to see. Just up the road at Big Springs (also worth a stop), 120 million gallons of clear, cold water gush out of the earth every day to form the backbone of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. 

At Mesa Falls, the water plunges in a Niagara-style curtain 10 stories high over lava deposits left over from the last supervolcano eruption. 

Dogleg down to Lower Falls a mile down trail to overlook another spectacular falls with its own interesting geography.

Plan extra time for this trip, as it takes about an hour from West Yellowstone to jaunt down into Idaho for Mesa Falls. Big Springs is about halfway between the two.


10. Ousel Falls Hike is Dog-Friendly (Big Sky, Montana)

Starting location: Ousel Falls Park

Distance round-trip: 1.6 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Leash: Voice control OK

While Mesa Falls is the well-known waterfall to the south of West Yellowstone, Ousel Falls may be the best-known waterfall north of West Yellowstone. 

Hikeable year-round with or without your dog, Ousel Falls is an easy, accessible hike to a gorgeous destination. Ousel Falls itself tumbles down a unique stratified staircase right outside Big Sky, Montana. In the winter, much of the falls can freeze over to create a crystalline ice palace flanked by a waterfall.

Please note that Big Sky is also about an hour drive away from the west entrance to Yellowstone.


Don’t ‘Paws’ Your Yellowstone Vacation 

While you might be disappointed in your Yellowstone vacation if you expect to take your dog everywhere you want to go in the world’s first national park, looking just outside Yellowstone’s borders opens up options most overlook. 

So while others fixate on the big Yellowstone attractions, which are admittedly amazing, you can spend some time making your dog’s vacation as unleashed as yours. 

Go on, unleash your best friend during your Yellowstone National Park Vacation.

And if you need lodging that lets you bring Fido too, find pet-friendly lodging near Yellowstone through the links below.

- Jackson Hole pet-friendly accommodations

- Cody pet-friendly hotels

- West Yellowstone pet-friendly lodging

- Bozeman, Montana pet-friendly hotels


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