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dog friendly roadtrips

6 Dog-Friendly Road Trip Destinations

On the road again, this time with your pup in tow
Meghan Murphy-Gill

From off-leash zones to pet-friendly patios, plenty of vacation spots offer opportunities for the whole family to relax and explore together. But just like no two dogs have the same spots, what makes a location “pet-friendly” varies. Prepare by researching, and call ahead to avoid surprise “no dogs allowed” policies at parks, inns, eateries, and other stops along your journey.

Travel to These Spots with Your Dog

To help you get started, here are six dog-friendly destinations to consider for your next family road trip—Fido included.

1. Great Sand Dunes National Park in Mosca, Colorado

The whole family can admire the tallest dunes in North America while surrounded by awe-inspiring mountain peaks, a quiet desert valley, and flowing creeks for cooling your heels—a must when the sand temperature can hit over 150 degrees!

This national park welcomes dogs, but with some regulations to keep both people and pets safe and happy. Dogs should stay on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and pets are strictly prohibited in the park’s backcountry and the visitor center. However, you can hike most trails together.

If you want to explore the dunes, do so in the early morning or evening. High temperatures during the middle of the day mean hot sand, which can hurt dog paws, and a greater risk of heat exhaustion or stroke.

For the most updated info on dogs in Great Sand Dunes, visit the park’s page devoted entirely to pets.

2. Warren G. Magnuson Park Off-Leash Area in Seattle, Washington

The Pacific Northwest is leading the way in dog-friendly cities, says Lisa Troglin, a travel writer who’s on the road 365 days a year with her best furry friend, Chelsea. In the Seattle area, “dog-havers don’t have to think too hard about where to go and what to do for entertainment with their best friend,” says Lisa. She adds that the city offers “an almost-unlimited array of outdoor—and even a few indoor—eateries and pubs, and all major public trails and walks are as welcoming for dogs as much as humans.”

One of the most popular off-leash areas is in Magnuson Park, a former military base with 8.6 dog-friendly acres that include a play area, a walking trail, and water access for canines to splash around in. There’s even a secluded area for small and shier dogs who aren’t comfortable around bigger, more rambunctious pups.

To learn more about Warren G. Magnuson Park and other off-leash parks in the Seattle area, read the city’s strategic plan.

3. Black Hills Wineries and Breweries in South Dakota

Does sipping brews and tasting wines say “vacation” to you, but only if you can bring along your dog? The folks at GoPetFriendly.com have got you covered. Their comprehensive map of watering holes from the town of Spearfish in the North to Hot Springs in the South indicates where Fido is welcome to join you.

Most spots allow pets in their outdoor areas as long as they’re on a leash, while some, such as Naked Winery and Sick N Twisted Brewery, invite well-behaved leashed dogs into their tasting rooms and brewpubs. Miner Brewing Company even has pet waste stations, but it’s always a good idea to pack for the occasion. Lisa recommends asking yourself a few questions before starting your trip: “What needs to go in the mouth and what needs to come out the other side? When and where does that happen? Do we have everything we need to handle those situations?”

 4. Galveston Island in Texas

Sandy beaches, sunny parks, restaurants, and a dolphin watching boat tour that all­–yes, even the boat tour–welcome four-legged visitors make this barrier island on the Gulf Coast of Texas a destination worth the drive.

Experience the welcoming spirit of the Lone Star State here with long on-leash walks on any of the public beaches along the Gulf-side shoreline. Pet-friendly restaurants abound on the island, with cafes, taverns, and brewpubs offering guests outdoor space and water dishes for dogs. Just be sure to call ahead to make sure the restaurant is able to seat you.

5. Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Among the majestic Vermont mountains are 150 acres of a dog-friendly memorial to late artist and canine lover Stephen Huneck. All of Dog Mountain is leash-optional, so be sure your dog is ready to run and play with other hounds—and is trained to come when called.

The destination offers dog parties, concerts, hiking trails, and ponds to explore. There’s even a dog chapel, created by Stephen Huneck before he passed to be “a place where people can go and celebrate the spiritual bond they have with their dogs.” The chapel’s walls are covered with loving tributes to pets who have gone on to doggy heaven.

6. Montrose Beach in Chicago

Some major cities are home to a large concentration of dog owners, which leads local businesses and parks to cater to furry residents and visitors. In Chicago, it’s not uncommon to see dog treats and water by the door or on the patio of restaurants and shops. And these businesses can make great stops before reaching one of the most popular dog beaches in the country.

“The dog beach at Montrose Avenue in Chicago is nearly a spot of perfection,” Lisa says. Dogs splash in the waves, chase each other along the beach, and dig in the sand while their people can take in sweeping vistas of Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline (and catch a sunrise if they’re early enough).