10 of the best dog-friendly road trip destinations


As COVID-19 swept the globe throughout 2020, the resultant lockdowns and shifts to work-from-home drove a rise in dog adoptions. Now that travel has opened a bit, it’s no surprise that people are more than ready to hit the road. But, who wants to leave their best friend behind just when it’s time to start adventuring again?

Fortunately, although some of the country’s classic road trip destinations, such as most national parks, barely allow canine companions, there are plenty of alternatives that welcome visitors with well-behaved pooches. Here are 10 of our favorite spots – all of which have plenty of pet-friendly accommodation – that should be on every dog-lover’s itinerary.

Kanab, Utah

Surrounded by the red rock majesty of southern Utah, Kanab is the ultimate gateway to outdoor adventures – you’ll find slot canyons, ancient ruins, sand dunes and desert trails, many of which are both safe for and welcoming of dogs. But the region is also famous as the home of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the nation’s largest no-kill farm and companion animal rescue.

In 2019, they opened Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile, a pet-centric motel that’s the perfect spot to rest between excursions or leave your pooch in trusted care while you visit one of the nearby national parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon are all within 90 miles). And, if you’re looking for a(nother) forever companion, they can arrange an overnight foster experience with sanctuary animals.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

To step off the ferry on Michigan’s Mackinac Island is to step back in time. With zero cars, several beaches and more than 70 miles of trails in the state park, it’s the perfect place to slow down, and it’s pup paradise.

Whether you opt to cycle the 8.3-mile perimeter – many rental companies have bike trailers for hire – take a carriage tour, sip cocktails on a patio, shop for souvenirs or just spend the day splashing in the turquoise waters of Lake Huron, your dog can join in most of the fun. And pets ride free to and from the island on Shepler’s and Star Line ferries.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

There’s a reason Colorado Springs is consistently named among the U.S.’s most pet-friendly cities: no matter how you choose to spend your days, you’ll rarely have to leave your pooch behind. Hit the trails at Pikes Peak (the mountain that inspired “America the Beautiful”), the Broadmoor Seven Falls and iconic Garden of the Gods, which has a designated off-leash area.

For a taste of local culture and history, head to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings or Peterson Air & Space Museum – both of which welcome dogs. And if you find that you and your four-legged friend are hungry, don’t fret. Loads of restaurants have dog-friendly outdoor seating, and Pub Dog is Colorado’s first restaurant to welcome canines in the indoor dining areas (plus, it has a 3,000-square-foot off-leash social area).

Dog Mountain (Saint Johnsbury), Vermont

With plenty of nature and quaint, walkable towns, dogs will find Vermont to be an excellent place in which to stretch their legs and get their sniff on. But it’s Dog Mountain, an epically canine-centric attraction created by the artist Stephen Huneck and his wife Gwen, that stands out.

Complete with 150 acres of leash-free open space – packed with trails, meadows and ponds – and a dedicated Dog Chapel packed with memorials, this is a site where dogs (and the people who love them) are truly cherished.

San Juan Islands, Washington

Just off Washington’s coast, the San Juan Islands beckon travelers with promises of whale watching, artisan eats, quirky history and more. With most of the wildlife off the coast or soaring overhead, nature on the islands is very dog-friendly.

On Orcas Island, hike to the highest point in the archipelago – Mount Constitution rises 2,398 feet above the sea – or grab your boat and paddle to the island at the center of Mountain Lake. Across the water on San Juan Island, dogs are welcome to explore the 20-acre San Juan Islands Sculpture Park.

Thanks to the pet- and car-friendly Washington State Ferry system, the islands can easily be tacked on to a PNW road trip.

Savannah, Georgia

If you’re itching for some city time with your pet in tow, Savannah, Georgia is ready for you. Not only are there dozens of eateries, bars and coffee shops that welcome dogs, visitors are encouraged to bring well-mannered pets on many historic, architectural and ghost tours.

One highlight is Oliver Bentley’s Historic Dog Walk Tour, which is set up so that you can learn all about the historic district while your pooch smells the sites. For more independent-minded travelers, many shops and some historic sites welcome dogs, and several areas – including the Moon River District and Skidaway Island State Park – have trails with educational markers.

Bend, Oregon

Stretching along the banks of the Deschutes River in central Oregon, the town of Bend has that perfect mix of outdoor fun and bring-your-pup-along establishments that makes any dog-loving road-tripper’s day. You’ll find plenty of urban trails, plus off-leash areas in both Bend City Parks and the surrounding federal lands.

But the best part is bringing your best friend along as you explore the town’s famous craft beer scene, as many breweries have outdoor spaces that are dog friendly.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Tucked into Arkansas’s Ouachita Mountains, the town of Hot Springs is unsurprisingly best known for its array of thermal bathhouses. But, between soaks at the 19th and 20th century sites, visitors will find plenty to do with their canine companions.

Maybe most exciting, Hot Springs National Park is one of the few pet-welcoming national parks in the system: Dogs are permitted on all 26 miles of its trails and even indoors at Superior Bathhouse Brewery. And after a day exploring nature, snag your pooch a (human-friendly) pupcake from Fat Bottomed Girl’s Puppy Bakery.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

In the Twin Cities, the region’s famed hospitality most definitely extends to our four-legged friends. With acclaimed urban trail systems, there’s no way your daily walks will get stale – meander the banks of the Mississippi one day, tour the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden the next.

Once you’re done exploring, this may be one of the best cities in the country to dine with your dog. In addition to an abundance of dog-friendly patios, sister restaurants Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room and The Howe both have food on order for your pup. Think meatloaf, bones and even ice cream. And Unleashed Hounds and Hops is a combination dog park-bar for when your pooch is craving the company of other canines but you’re craving a beer.

Fredericksburg, Texas

If you’re looking for a southern getaway with just a smidge of Europe, head to Fredericksburg, Texas. The German-rooted city has a scenic Main Street area loaded with shops and dog-friendly eateries. And it’s the epicenter of Texas Hill Country’s growing wine scene. The region is home to more than 100 wineries and vineyards, dozens of which are more than happy to have you bring your dog along.

10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network — providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world — in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.

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