Summer is upon us, and if you haven’t yet gotten around to planning your dog-friendly vacation this summer, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out some of our favorite picks for a dog-friendly vacation across the United States and in Canada.
The Oregon coastline—all 363 miles of it—is completely open and accessible to the public, thanks to the legendary Oregon Beach Bill. Spearheaded by Governor Tom McCall in 1967, this act officially designated free and public access to the entire Oregon Coast, dubbing it “The People’s Coast.”
All along the entire coast charming towns welcome pets on all beaches (unless otherwise signposted) and camping options are abundant. Just be sure to book early during summer months, when the weather is delightful and the skies shine a perfect blue. Favorite towns include Manzanita, just over an hour drive from Portland, Yachats (pronounced Yaw-hots), which is located three hours from Portland, and Astoria, also an hour from Portland where you have the chance to see an old abandoned ship sitting on the beach.
Mount Baker Highway, Washington
This highway is designated both a Washington State Scenic Highway and a National Forest Scenic Byway, and for good reason—the views and hiking possibilities are absolutely exquisite. Notable hikes include Yellow Aster Butte, Heliotrope Ridge, and Chain Lakes Loop. The highway ends at Artist Point, which puts you right smack in the center of the surrounding mountains with Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan in your face. Not far down the road, the short ½ mile walk around Picture Lake makes for beautiful photography with a perfect reflection of Mt. Shuksan in the lake. Plenty of campgrounds line the highway and put you at great access to many of these trails.
Durango proudly boasts its pet-friendliness with the thousands of miles (yes, thousands!) of trails, rivers for swimming, a five-acre dog park, and plenty of pet-friendly accommodations and eateries.
The off-leash dog area off the Animas Mountain Trail has over five miles of natural open space where your pup can run around and socialize. Afterward, head to one of the dog-friendly restaurants like Carver Brewing or Bloom Cafe.
Just outside of the city, you’ll find fewer crowds on trails like Haflin Creek, an out and back trail with 2,916 feet of elevation gain or opt for Sliderock to Kennebec Pass, a 6.2-mile out and back trail that features beautiful wildflowers and vistas of nearby peaks and lakes.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico
Established as a National Monument in 2014 by President Obama, the Organ Mountains comprise four areas: the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, Potrillo Mountains, and Doña Ana Mountains. This range is a series of steep, angular mountains topping out just under 9,000 feet, making them one of the steepest mountain ranges in the US.
Camp at the Aguirre Spring Campground, which sits at the base of the needle-like spires of the Organ Mountains and where you can head directly from your site on the four-mile Pine Tree Trail. If you prefer to head out on two wheels, just outside of Las Cruces is the 29-mile Sierra Vista Trail. The trail is hikeable too and you have a good chance of seeing wildlife like mule deer or coyotes.
Porcupine Mountains, Michigan
With 87 miles of hiking trails, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park offers some of the most scenic hiking in the Midwest. Camp on the shore of Lake Superior or opt for a longer backpacking trip through virgin forests on secluded trails and enjoy trekking through old growth forests with plenty of waterfalls and vistas. If you prefer, hop in a canoe or kayak or hit the trails on mountain bike for an entirely different perspective.
Try the Lake Superior Trail which follows the shoreline for over eight miles or for a short hike to see a tiered waterfall, head to the popular Presque Isle River Waterfalls Loop. Camp at Presque Isle River Campground to sleep right in between three waterfalls and Lake Superior.
Hocking Hills, Ohio
Just an hour outside of Columbus and two from Cincinnati, Hocking Hills is a great escape from city life. The 2,356-acre park features cliffs, waterfalls, caves, and shaded gorges. A network of trails wind through Old Man’s Cave, connecting three of the park’s areas: Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave. The Old Man’s Cave area follows a Blackhand sandstone gorge for a half mile. Continue to Cedar Falls through the remote chasm shaded by hemlock trees (the waterfalls were named after the hemlock trees early white settlers mistook for cedars). Ash Cave is the jewel of the park, where wildflowers bloom much of the year and the short trail leads to the enormous overhanging precipice that forms the cave.
There are ample dog-friendly camping options located throughout the park, as well as a number of cabins for a little more luxury.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is well known as one of the most dog-friendly National Parks in the US. With 100 miles of hiking trails, plus 45 miles of carriage roads where dogs are permitted, this is a huge grant of access compared to most National Parks. Three campgrounds, Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods all permit pets, and Isle au Haut allows dogs for day hiking.
Acadia was the first National Park east of the Mississippi and the land was generously donated by private citizens, gifting it for all to enjoy.
Known for its laid-back, welcoming vibe, Provincetown sits at the very tip of Cape Cod and the town loves dogs. Summer is definitely high season there, so a weekday visit is best if you can swing it. The beaches allow dogs off-leash between Memorial Day and November 2 form 6-9AM and PM and all day the remainder of the year. If you feel like being social, head to Pilgrim Bark Park, the resident dog park that includes a separate area for pups under 25lbs and features sculptures and artwork made my local artists.
Take a walk to Long Point to reach the far tip of the Cape. Check the tide map and bring money for the dog-friendly ferry in case you misjudge the tides and your trail is submerged on the way back! For something a bit more adventurous, head out with Dog Gone Sailing Charters, which allows dogs on their sailing and whale watching trips. Many restaurants allow dogs, so just pick a spot that looks good and chances are that your pup will be able to join you on the patio.
Roan Mountain, Tennessee/North Carolina
Really a five-mile ridgetop (called a massif), Roan Mountain is located on the Tennessee/North Carolina border with elevations ranging from 5,500 to 6,286 feet at the peak. Starting in Carver’s Gap, hike along one of the most beautiful sections of the Appalachian Trail across Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge with seemingly endless 360° views throughout much of the five-mile hike. If you head the opposite direction from Carver’s Gap to Roan High Knob, you’ll hit the top elevation of the massif, as well as the highest backcountry shelter on the entire AT.
Pitch your tent at Roan Mountain State Park located on the Tennessee side for easy access to the trails.The park itself features 12 miles of trails.
Icefields Parkway + the Canadian Rockies, British Columbia/ Alberta, Canada
Canada’s famed Icefields Parkway drew thousands of visitors in 2017 when the country generously offered free park passes to all visitor in celebration of Canada’s 200th birthday. If you missed out, the annual group pass is just over $100 USD (in 2018). And best of all, Canada’s National Parks allow dogs!
Jasper and Banff are the most famous destinations along the route, as the Icefields Parkway runs between the two towns, but the splendor spans well beyond the crowded cities.
Head into British Columbia to catch a glimpse of Mt. Robson, which stands at 12,972 feet, making it the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Hike to Kinney Lake for the chance of an up close view of Mt. Robson. If the crowds and prices in Jasper are too much, continue to Abraham Lake, which is outside of the park and therefore sees far fewer visitors. Wild camp along the shores of the turquoise lake and hike to Siffleur Falls to be guided by an impressively turquoise river leading to an equally stunning waterfall.
Jen Sotolongo is a writer and photographer and runs Long Haul Trekkers, a blog about independent, responsible travel with a pet. Over the past few years, she and her partner have taken their dog, Sora on a cycle tour spanning across Europe and South America, proving that adventures can include your dog, no matter where in the world they may be.