The American road trip … there’s no better way to see the special places our country has to offer! But what if you want to include your pet in the fun? The Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip highlights breathtaking sights you’ll love exploring together.
Road trip vacations are as American as apple pie. And yet, planning to see the “best” the United States has to offer can be overwhelming. Your trip could focus on cultural sites, national parks, state capitols, scenic landmarks, or sports venues. But for a truly special experience, why not try the best pet friendly road trip? Visit the top pet friendly attraction in each state, and collect precious memories with your best friend along the way.
The Perfect Pet Friendly Road Trip
The most difficult part of planning an epic road trip is choosing the stops. Whether you’re hoping to see the whole country in one trip, or checking out one region at a time, you want to see the very best each place has to offer!
After more than eleven years traveling full-time with our dogs, we’ve explored each state and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned. The destinations we’ve chosen will give you a good feel for what that state is about, and be fun for you and your pet.
We’ve also chosen a wide variety of activities for travelers and their furry companions to enjoy. From beaches to mountain tops, bustling cities to quiet retreats, a canoe trip and a train ride — please enjoy the Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip!
The Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip
The trip we’ve laid out covers nearly 15,000 miles and would take at least a couple of months to complete. If you can do it all at once, it’s a trip of a lifetime!
If you’re looking for a series of shorter trips, choose one or two regions and do a deeper dive in each area. Any combination will make a fantastic pet friendly vacation.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips for Traveling Alone with a Pet
We start with a pet friendly road trip in the northwestern United States. From Washington’s green isles to the heights of Beartooth Highway, this region has something for everyone!
Washington – The San Juan Islands
In the far northwest corner of the contiguous United States, off the coast of Washington, lies a confetti of emerald jewels in the Salish Sea. Known as the San Juan Islands, the landscape is a patchwork of pine forests, stoney beaches, verdant pastures and fields, and sparkling lakes. Each of the islands has its own charm, and no matter which you visit, you won’t be disappointed.
Oregon – Portland’s Parks and Gardens
With eclectic neighborhoods, great eateries, and one of the most extensive urban park systems in the country, Portland, Oregon is a pet friendly playground! Boasting 10,000 acres of natural areas and parks scattered around the city, there’s a treasure around every corner. And if your pup enjoys being social, don’t miss some of the 20+ off-leash areas!
Idaho – Lake Coeur d’Alene
Among the rugged peaks of northern Idaho, where the pine trees far outnumber the people, lies one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Unfolding over 26 miles with more than 135 miles of shoreline, Lake Coeur d’Alene is a sparkling blue jewel. From scenic boat tours to miles of pet friendly trails, there are as many ways to enjoy Lake Coeur d’Alene as your imagination allows.
Wyoming – Bighorn National Forest – Medicine Wheel
You’ll find some of Wyoming’s most diverse terrain in the Bighorn Mountains. It would be easy to spend weeks hiking the 1,500 miles of pet friendly trails and enjoying the three scenic drives. But for us, nothing speaks to the timelessness and beauty of the Bighorns like a visit to Medicine Wheel.
Montana – Beartooth Highway
For 68 miles, between Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, the Beartooth Highway winds through some of the most awe inspiring terrain in the United States. This road, one of the highest in the lower 48 states, passes 20 peaks that rise over 12,000 feet. You’ll experience pristine mountain landscapes, lush forests, and alpine tundra – all within a few miles.
The southwest route starts with a romp on Carmel’s spectacular dog beach. Then head out for some hiking at Red Rock Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Top it off with a trip up Telluride’s gondola — you and your active pets will love this trip!
California – Carmel’s Dog Beach
Carmel’s crowning glory is its magnificent beach. This mile-long stretch of golden sand begins steps from downtown and runs to just below the 9th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Course – and it’s all pet friendly! Dogs are welcome to romp off-leash, or visit Carmel River State Beach where leashed pets will find plenty to explore.
It’s only 17 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, but Red Rock Canyon feels like a completely different world! Whether you choose to drive the 13-mile scenic loop road, explore the 30+ miles of pet friendly trails, or simply enjoy a picnic and the views, you’ll have a great day here with your pet!
Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park
Traveling to any national park is a wonderful experience, but seeing the Grand Canyon with your pet will make your vacation unforgettable! The pet friendly South Rim Trail runs for 14 miles, is paved for easy walking, and provides views that will take your breath away!
Colorado – Telluride Gondola to Mountain Village
Tucked high in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, the pet friendly village of Telluride is ideal for a Rocky Mountain adventure with your dog. With spectacular scenery, miles of hiking trails, a pet friendly gondola, and a nice selection of eateries and lodging that welcome pets, this could be a highlight of your trip!
Covering almost 2 million acres, every inch of Dixie National Forest is pet friendly! And with 1,600 miles of hiking, horseback riding, and bike trails, and hundreds of miles of scenic byways, backways, and drives, you and your pet could spend a lifetime exploring here.
The bustle of San Antonio is balanced with serene natural wonders on the South Central road trip. If you’re considering skipping the pet friendly paddle on the Buffalo National River … DON’T! We did it with Ty and Buster, and loved every minute. Though it was the boys’ first time in a canoe, they were as great, and it’s one of our favorite memories with them.
New Mexico – White Sands National Park
The name “White Sands” might be a little misleading, but that doesn’t make this pet friendly national park any less impressive! The shimmering dunes here are actually made of gypsum – not sand. And thanks to an ancient sea and some very fortunate geography, it’s now the world’s largest dunefield!
Texas – San Antonio River Walk
Providing access to some of the city’s most precious historical and cultural sites, the 13-mile, pet friendly San Antonio River Walk is one of the most unique parks in the country!
Oklahoma – Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
When you’re not admiring the grazing bison, elk, and white-tailed deer at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, there are 18 pet friendly hiking trails and lakes for boating and paddling.
Arkansas – Canoe the Buffalo National River
Canoeing the Buffalo National River with your pets is easier than you think! Pet friendly canoe rentals are easy to find, and the calm water will put every paddler at ease. When you’re back on solid ground, there are miles of pet friendly trails to hike along the river’s course and in the Ozark National Forest.
Kansas – Monument Rocks
Monument Rocks is what’s left of a sea floor that formed millions of years ago when water covered the continent from Montana and the Dakotas to Texas and Louisiana. The chalk spires, buttes, and arches that remain now stand 70 feet tall on the Kansas plains, and your pets are more than welcome to explore with you!
Plains – North
The Northern Plains trip through the heartland reveals what America was like before Europeans arrived. Admire the deep vastness of Lake Superior and the powerful Mississippi River. Then walk in the footsteps of the Native Americans who lived in Iowa and North Dakota.
Minnesota – Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park sits on Lake Superior’s northern shore and offers breathtaking views of one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. With 14.5 miles of pet friendly trails for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing, it’s a great place to stretch your legs or enjoy a picnic on the beach.
Wisconsin – Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge
Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Mississippi River flyway, the route traveled by about 40% of all waterfowl and shorebirds. The refuge serves as their “bed and breakfast,” and in addition to some spectacular bird watching, there are miles of pet friendly trails to explore.
Standing atop the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, it’s easy to see why American Indians chose to make this breathtaking place their home. Covering 2,500 acres along the western bank of the Mississippi River, Effigy Mounds National Monument now protects 206 prehistoric earthen mounds built by Indigenous People, 31 of which are in the shape of animals.
North Dakota – Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Walk the trails and explore the grounds at the Knife River Indian Villages, where Captains Lewis and Clark first met Sacagewea and her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau. Once a bustling community of nearly 400 people, this is now a quiet place to enjoy nature.
South Dakota – Custer State Park
Custer State Park protects 71,000 acres of South Dakota’s most magnificent landscapes. It also provides habitat for a dazzling array of wildlife. From picturesque drives to multi-day hikes, wildlife viewing to kayaking, elegant dining to campfires under the stars, Custer has something to please traveler.
Nebraska – Fort Robinson State Park
Fort Robinson State Park is a rare combination of stunning landscapes, fascinating history, appealing recreational opportunities, and pet friendly accommodations. Spread over 22,000 acres, with rugged buttes as the backdrop, it’s a wonderful place to unwind and enjoy the expansive wild prairies during the day and the star-filled skies at night.
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Three of the five stops on this pet friendly road trip are on the Great Lakes! Absorb the energy of downtown Chicago at Navy Pier. And contrast that with the leisurely atmosphere of Mackinac Island – where cars are prohibited. You’ll enjoy both ends of the spectrum!
West Virginia – Monongahela National Forest
The Monongahela National Forest covers more than 900,000 acres, preserving a rugged and wild paradise unlike any other. With an extensive backwoods road system and 825 miles of pet friendly trails, you and your pet will find plenty to explore!
Ohio – Holden Arboretum
Holden Arboretum is a spectacular collaboration between humans and Mother Nature. Encompassing 3,600 acres, it’s one of the largest arboreta and botanical gardens in the country and a fabulous place to explore with your pet. Choose the garden paths or hit miles of trails through native forests with your furry travel buddy!
Illinois – Chicago Lakefront Trail & Navy Pier
Chicago’s pet friendly Lakefront Trail runs for 18 miles along the spectacular shore of Lake Michigan, connecting vibrant neighborhoods, expansive parks, popular beaches, and famous attractions like Navy Pier, Buckingham Fountain, and Soldier Field. It’s fun to pick a section and make a day of it with your pet!
Indiana – Indiana Dunes National Park
Caribbean blue waters and miles of pet friendly beaches await you at Indiana Dunes National Park. But the beach is just the beginning! This dynamic landscape also features dunes, ponds, marshes, creeks, prairie, and forests for your exploration.
Michigan – Mackinac Island
Hop aboard the pet friendly ferry for a trip to Mackinac Island. Automobiles aren’t allowed, but you and your pet won’t have any trouble getting around! Main Street is just steps from the ferry docks, horse-drawn carriages rides are available for people and pets, and bikes with pet trailers can be rented – so all of Mackinac’s most popular attractions are in easy reach.
Plains – South
Road tripping pets are going to adore this route through the southern plains. Romp at the incredible off-leash dog park at Shelby Farms, then stiff along the 444-mile Natchez Trace! Finally, relax in the shadow of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Louisiana – State Capitol Gardens in Baton Rouge
Standing 34 stories tall, Louisiana’s capitol in Baton Rouge is the tallest state capitol building in the US. It’s surrounded by 27 acres of pet friendly grounds and gardens that offer picturesque views from every angle. Stroll the paved paths under massive live oaks and palm trees or plan a picnic with your pet!
Mississippi – The Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway stretches 444 miles, from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a blissfully quiet, billboard-free retreat from our fast-paced highways. And there’s something to sniff around every bend with countless exhibits and 28 pet friendly hiking trails along the way!
Tennessee – Shelby Farms Park Off-Leash Area
Shelby Farms Park in Memphis is one of the country’s largest urban parks. With a massive off-leash dog area, 40 miles of pet friendly trails winding through 4,500 acres, a disc golf course, canoe, kayak, and paddle board rentals, and a lovely visitor center you could easily spend the entire day!
President Abraham Lincoln’s life is an inspiration, and visiting his simple birthplace fosters an even deeper appreciation of his accomplishments. Pets are welcome to join you on the grounds, and together you can explore the trails here and at the Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, just ten miles away.
Missouri – Gateway Arch National Park
Leashed pets are welcome to explore the extensive grounds at St. Louis’ Gateway Arch National Park. Enjoy the Riverfront Trail, embark on a one-hour scenic riverboat cruise, and be sure to ask now your pet can become a BARK Ranger during your visit.
You can see a lot without traveling far in New England! Enjoy Central Park in the heart of Manhattan, then explore the trails in Acadia National Park. Finally, take a splash in the pond at Dog Mountain. From beginning to end, this trip is a pet’s dream come true.
New York – Central Park
There’s no place like New York! Central Park is the third most visited attraction IN THE WORLD – and it’s even better with your pet. Whether you choose to lounge on a bench, enjoy the conservatory gardens, or explore the wooded trails in the Ramble, it will be a day to remember.
Connecticut – Mystic Seaport
Spread over 19 spectacular acres on the banks of the Mystic River, you and your pet will enjoy Mystic Seaport, the largest maritime museum in the United States. View magnificent old boats and see what life was like for seaport dwellers in this part of New England in the 1800s.
Rhode Island – Newport Cliff Walk
Newport is known as the City by the Sea, and a stroll along the pet friendly Cliff Walk proves that she more than lives up to her nickname! Winding for 3.5 miles with the rocky shoreline on one side and the lush gardens of historic mansions on the other, the trail will provide you and your pet with unforgettable views.
Massachusetts – The Freedom Trail
Boston’s Freedom Trail connects 16 of our country’s most significant historic landmarks – locations that played a pivotal role in America’s rebellious beginning. The pet friendly 2.5-mile path starts in Boston Common, where pups will find two off-leash areas for sniffing and socializing in America’s oldest public park.
Maine – Acadia National Park
As one of the countries most pet friendly national parks, you and your pet will find plenty to love in Acadia. There are more than 100 miles of trails to sniff, carriage roads to explore, and pets are even welcome on the free shuttles that run throughout the park and around the island!
New Hampshire – Mt. Washington and the White Mountain National Forest
Visiting Mount Washington can be a bit tricky. The wind at the summit exceeds hurricane force more than 100 days a year, the peak is enveloped in clouds 60% of the time, and snow can fall year round. But if you’re lucky enough to catch it just right, you and your pet will never forget the pet friendly trails and stunning views.
Vermont – Dog Mountain
At Dog Mountain, pets aren’t just welcome – they’re cherished! This 150-acre former dairy farm is always open to the public and dogs are welcome to shed their leashes while they run, play, and swim in the pond. There are also hiking trails, peaceful retreats, and a pet friendly chapel and art gallery.
The theme of this trip is early American history with a lot fun thrown in! Learn about the first Europeans to arrive in the New World in Colonial Williamsburg. Stroll through Washington, DC, where history is made every day. Then enjoy a day on the Jersey shore before heading to the Pocono Mountains for a scenic train ride.
Virginia – Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg welcomes you and your pet to step back in time. View historic homes, watch demonstrations at the trades shops, enjoy the fife and drum corps, and get a bite at the taverns and restaurants. Be sure to keep an eye out for Liberty, Colonial Williamsburg’s doggy mascot!
Washington, DC – The National Mall
There are few places in the America more inspiring than our National Mall & Memorial Gardens. And because this national park sits in the middle of a living city, it’s more pet friendly than you might expect! You and your pet can view the U.S. Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and dozens of sights in between.
Maryland – Cruise on Chesapeake Bay
Explore the Chesapeake Bay with your travel buddy aboard a pet friendly cruise! Tours depart from Annapolis, Baltimore, and St. Michaels, and there are countless privately-operated charter boats available in harbors up and down the bay that are happy to welcome your pets.
Delaware – Walking Tour of Historic New Castle
If you love strolling with your pet along tree-lined streets, admiring beautiful examples of colonial Dutch and Federal architecture, and learning a bit about the early history of our country, a walking tour of New Castle will be right up your alley. Check the local calendar for pet friendly events when planning your trip.
New Jersey – The Jersey Shore at Wildwood Dog Beach
Wildwood’s beach is lovely, spacious, family-friendly, and free to use. But the best part is that your pet can come along! Dogs on leashes are welcome all day, every day – just look for the gigantic fire hydrant and enjoy a day of sand and surf together.
Pennsylvania – Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway welcomes pets aboard their vintage coaches. Powered by diesel engines and departing from the old railroad station in historic downtown Jim Thorpe, the narrated trips lasts about 70 minutes and follow 16-mile route along the Lehigh River as it winds through the gorge.
Beautiful gardens await your arrival on this pet friendly road trip through the Southeast. Wander the paths through Rock City, where on a clear day you can view seven states! Then admire the last large-scale romantic-style garden at Magnolia Plantation. Finally, spend a day exploring the formal gardens and wooded trails of the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate.
Alabama – Little River Canyon National Preserve
On a flat-top mountain in northeastern Alabama the Little River Canyon National Preserve protects 15,000+ rugged acres along the Little River – and it’s incredibly pet friendly. Not only can your furry travel buddy join you on all the trails, he’s welcome inside the visitor center – and the staff has dog treats!
Georgia – Rock City Gardens
Visitors from around the world come to admire Rock City’s botanical and geological features, and your pet is welcome to join you on the trails and admire the view from Lover’s Leap. You can even have lunch together on the patio at Café 7, a season restaurant with amazing views!
Florida – Fort De Soto Dog Beach
Fort De Soto’s beaches are acclaimed for their white sand and clear blue waters, but the best part of this quarter-mile stretch is that it’s dedicated to the dogs! Pups can romp leash-free here and in the adjacent enclosed dog park. Then rent a kayak and paddle the 2.25-mile water trail, peddle the 7-mile bike trail, or hit the hiking trails to see more of the island.
South Carolina – Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
Enjoy the trails, grounds, gardens, and Audubon Swamp at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, Magnolia is America’s last large-scale Romantic-style garden. Plan to have a picnic lunch in the conservatory, or find a shady spot under a magnolia to admire the flowers in bloom.
North Carolina – Biltmore Estate Gardens and Grounds
At the Biltmore Estate you and your pet can stroll the lush garden paths, or hit the 23 miles of hiking trails that criss-cross the 8,000-acre estate. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to Antler Hill Village and choose a table on one of the pet friendly patios!
How long will it take and what will it cost?
In total, the trip is 15,000 miles and will take at least two months. That’s assuming you have great luck with the weather and don’t mind driving about 8 hours a day.
The cost of the trip will depend on how you travel. Most of the attractions we’ve recommended are fairly inexpensive (free – $20), with a few exceptions, so figure around $800 for all the admission fees.
Gas will cost another $1,000 to $1,500.
Then there’s food, which can vary a lot. You can save money by shopping and preparing your own meals rather than eating out. If you can eat for $10 per day, that adds another $600 per person.
Finally, you’ll need places to stay, and that’s the biggest variable. Car camping or tenting will be least expensive, while staying at pet friendly hotels will cost more. Luckily, pets aren’t picky about where you sleep – as long as you’re together.
READ MORE ⇒ Renting An Adventure Van With Pets
So, there you have it – the Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road trip! Now all that’s left to do is pack the car, crank up the tunes, and hit the road. Waggin’ trails!
Post originally published May 2020.