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  • Writer's picturebertandernietheberners

How to become a B.A.R.K. Ranger

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

B.A.R.K. Rangers, Assemble!

Have you heard about this adorable and free program for your dog at dozens of National Parks Service sites? Your dog can become a B.A.R.K. Ranger by following specific rules for visiting pups to protect the natural spaces for generations to come:

  • Bag your dog’s poop

  • Always wear a leash

  • Respect wildlife

  • Know where you can go

Our Experience - Pipestone National Monument

When we visited Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota (about 3 hours from the Twin Cities), we saw a sign outside the Visitors Center instructing people with pets to ring a doorbell. A ranger came out to meet Bert and Ernie and gave us a B.A.R.K. Ranger checklist card to use while we explored the site. She explained that if Bert and Ernie followed all the rules, when they returned, they would receive special B.A.R.K. Ranger tags!

Pipestone National Monument is an active quarry site and sacred space for Native Americans who have been using the smooth red pipestone rock for generations. As we walked the Circle Trail around quarry sites, along cliff lines, and past landmarks like The Oracle and Winniwissa Falls, we made sure to keep Bert and Ernie on leash at all times, stayed away from the several deer we encountered, and avoided the creek that the ranger had specifically warned us about. (Runoff from nearby fields had contaminated the water, making it dangerous for dogs to drink.) We didn’t have the opportunity to follow the “bag your dog’s poop” rule, but we always have bags in our pockets if the need arises!

We returned to the Visitors Center, rang the doorbell again, and our friendly ranger host came out holding two B.A.R.K. Ranger tags, customized to show we’d earned them at Pipestone! Bert and Ernie were excited to be sworn in as official B.A.R.K. rangers and to have such a fun and free souvenir of our visit.

Your turn! How to become a B.A.R.K. Ranger

Not all National Parks, Monuments, Historic Sites, etc. are dog friendly, so do your research before you visit. Some sites, like Grand Canyon National Park, only allow dogs on paved paths or in campgrounds, and others do not allow pets at all. (We did not bring Bert and Ernie on our Grand Canyon trip, but included some thoughts on how to do GC with a pup at the beginning of this blog post.) Generally, the pet restrictions are to keep both our companion animals and those animals who live in the parks safe. There is a lot more to the National Parks System, however, than the 62 spots that have the official designation of “national park” - you’re much more likely to find a national monument, memorial, historic trail, or lakeshore that allows dogs! See this site for all NPS pet policies.

The B.A.R.K. Ranger program was piloted in 2015 at Olympic National Park and has slowly been rolling out to other NPS sites across the country. It can be a little hard to tell which places offer the special tags (and sometimes treats) to visiting pups, so check outside the Visitors Center when you go! Some may have tags or special B.A.R.K. Ranger bandanas available for purchase, too. You may need to pay an entry fee at some of these locations or use a National Parks pass.

Here’s a (likely incomplete) list - new sites are being added all the time.

Has your pup become a B.A.R.K. Ranger at these sites or others? Let us know!

Happy hiking!

Photo from Pecos National Historical Park - New Mexico

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