The road trip vacation is as American as apple pie, and yet, devising the “best” driving route around the United States is a bit of a head scratcher. So much depends on personal preference, the amount of time you have, and how long you’re willing to spend behind the wheel. Your trip could focus on cultural sites, state capitols, scenic landmarks, or sports venues. But, what if you took a completely different kind of trip … one that you and your pet would both love? Let’s call it the Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip!

Woman and her dog on a pet friendly road trip sitting in the back of a car watching the sunset

Envisioning The Perfect Road Trip

Of course, the most difficult part of planning an epic road trip is choosing the stops. If you’re only seeing one pet friendly thing in each state, there’s a lot of pressure to pick the best! Each destination should give you a good feel for what that state is about.

After more than ten years traveling full-time with our dogs, we’re happy to share what we’ve learned. Below you’ll find the amazing natural wonders, sources of state pride, and historical sites that make every one of the United States special. There is also 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 – we give you the Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip!

A colorful map of the U.S. with pins locating pet friendly attractions

The Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip

The entire route is nearly 15,000 miles and would take months to complete. In reality, few people can get away for that amount of time.

To accommodate more people’s schedules, we’ve broken the trip into nine sections. Each one would make a fantastic pet friendly vacation and allow you to plan your visit during the optimal weather window. Or if you’d rather, string them all together and take the trip of a lifetime!

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 route has something for everyone!

Map of the northwestern United States with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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.

Washington's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: San Juan Islands |

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!

Oregon's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Portland's Parks |

Idaho – Lake Coeur d’Alene

Among the rugged peaks of northern Idaho, where pine trees far outnumber 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 Coeur d’Alene as your imagination allows.

Idaho's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Lake Coeur d'Alene |

Wyoming – Bighorn National Forest – Medicine Wheel

Wyoming’s terrain doesn’t get more diverse than what you’ll find in the Bighorn Mountains. You could spend weeks hiking the 1,500 miles of pet friendly trails or enjoying the three scenic drives. For us, though, nothing speaks to the timelessness and beauty of the Bighorns like a visit to Medicine Wheel.

Wyoming's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Medicine Wheel |

Montana – Beartooth Highway

For 68 miles, between Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, the Beartooth Highway winds through some of the most 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.

Montana's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Beartooth Highway |


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, and your active pets will love this trip!

Map of the southwestern United States with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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.

California's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Carmel Beach |

Nevada – Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

It’s only 17 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, but Red Rock Canyon is 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!

Nevada's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Red Rock Canyon |

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!

Man and two dogs enjoying the view at Grand Canyon National Park

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!

Colorado's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Telluride Gondola |

Utah – Dixie National Forest’s Red Canyon

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 can explore here for a lifetime.

Utah's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Dixie National Forest |

South Central

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 from this trip.

Map of the south central United States with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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 largest dunefield in the world!

New Mexico's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: White Sands National Monument |

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!

Texas' Top Pet Friendly Attraction: The San Antonio River Walk |

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.

Oklahoma's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge |

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.

Arkansas' Top Pet Friendly Attractions: Buffalo National River |

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!

Kansas' Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Monument Rocks

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 contemplate the lives of Native Americans who lived in Iowa and North Dakota.

Map of the United States northern plains with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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 have a picnic on the beach.

Minnesota's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Split Rock Lighthouse State Park |

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.

Wisconsin's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge |

Iowa – Effigy Mounds National Monument

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 Native Americans, 31 of which are in the shape of animals.

Iowa's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Effigy Mounds National Monument |

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.

North Dakota's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Knife River Indian Villages |

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 everyone.

Sylvan Lake - Custer, SD

Nebraska – Fort Robinson State Park

Fort Robinson State Park is a rare combination of stunning landscapes, fascinating history, ideal recreational opportunities, and pet friendly accommodations. Spread over 22,000 acres, with rugged buttes as the backdrop, it’s a place to unwind and enjoy the expansive wild prairies during the day and the star-filled skies at night.

Nebraska's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Fort Robinson State Park |

Great Lakes

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 pace of life on Mackinac Island – where cars are prohibited. You’ll enjoy both ends of the spectrum!

READ MORE ⇒  Tips for a Cross-Country Road Trip with Pets

Map of the Great Lakes states in the United States with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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!

West Virginia's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: The Monongahela National Forest |

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 visit with your pet. Choose the garden paths or hit miles of trails through native forests with your furry travel buddy!

Ohio's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Holden Arboretum |

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!

Illinois' Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Chicago Lakefront Trail and Navy Pier |

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 to be explored by you and your pet.

Indiana's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Indiana Dunes Lakeshore |

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.

Michigan's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Mackinac Island |

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 monumental Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Map of the southern plains states in the United States with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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, and 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!

Louisiana's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: State Capitol Grounds

Mississippi – The Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway runs 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 just steps away!

Birdsong Hollow Double Arch Bridge - Natchez Trace Parkway

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, and canoe, kayak, and paddle board rentals, a disc golf course, and a lovely visitor center you could easily spend the day!

Tennessee's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Shelby Farms Park |

Kentucky – Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park

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 enjoy the grounds with you, and together you can explore the trails here and at the Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, just ten miles away.

Kentucky's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Abraham Lincoln Birthplace |

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 the one-hour scenic riverboat cruises, and be sure to ask now your pet can become a BARK Ranger during your visit.

Missouri's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Gateway Arch Park |

New England

You can see a lot without traveling far in New England! Enjoy Central Park in the heart of Manhattan, then explore the trail 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.

Map of New England in the United States with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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.

New York's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Central Park |

Connecticut – Mystic Seaport

Spread over 19 spectacular acres on the banks of the Mystic River, you and your pet can explore 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.

Connecticut's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Mystic Seaport |

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.

Rhode Island's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Newport Cliff Walk |

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.

Massachusetts' Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Boston's Freedom Trail |

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!

Maine's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Acadia National Park |

New Hampshire – Mt. Washington and the White Mountain National Forest

Visiting Mount Washington is 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.

New Hampshire's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Mount Washington |

Vermont – Dog Mountain

At Dog Mountain, pets are 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, quiet retreats, and a pet friendly chapel and art gallery.

Vermont's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Dog Mountain |


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.

Map of the Mid-Atlantic states in the United States with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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!

Virginia's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Colonial Williamsburg |

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.

Buster and Ty, the dogs in Washington DC

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 happy to welcome your pets.

Maryland's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: The Chesapeake Bay |

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.

Delaware's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Historic New Castle |

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.

New Jersey's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Wildwood Dog Beach |

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.

Pennsylvania's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway |


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.

Map of the southeastern United States with pins marking the top pet friendly attraction in each state

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!

Alabama's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Little River Canyon |

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.

Georgia's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Rock City Gardens |

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 is the quarter-mile stretch dedicated to the dogs! Pups can romp leash-free here and in the 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.

Florida's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Fort De Soto Park and Dog Beach |

South Carolina – Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Enjoy the trails, take a guided garden tour, or view the 400-acre estate from the Nature Train and Nature Boat at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Plan to have a picnic lunch in the conservatory, or find a shady spot under a magnolia to admire flowers in bloom.

South Carolina's Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Magnolia Plantation & Gardens |

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!

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, NC

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.

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!

Order's The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip


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  • Thank you for this article! So helpful as we want to travel with our reactive pups; and you gave some really great secluded options! Huge bonus that we got so many pics of your pups on their different adventures; made me smile!

    • You’re so welcome, Kristy! Buster was also reactive, and we all had a wonderful time on this trip. If you can plan your outings on days when traffic is lighter, you should be able to do all these things with your pups! Good luck, and waggin’ trails to you.