With all of the lakes, beaches, forests, and historical sites, America’s western states are chock-full of great, family-friendly road-trip destinations. But if traveling as a family means bringing along the four-legged members, well, not all destinations are created equal.
That’s why we went on the search for the very best places to bring your dog. To narrow our list down to the 30 best dog-friendly destinations in the West, we considered only those destinations in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
We also considered:
Places to Stay: Every destination on our list has pet-friendly accommodations, or safe places to park an RV.
Things To Do: We searched for places with things you can actually do with your pets, as opposed to places that simply allow you to bring your pet. Our list is full of great walks and hikes, canoe trips, and dog-friendly beaches.
Everyone’s Included: No Breed Specific Legislation on this list! We included only those places that (as far as we can tell) allow any and every type of well-behaved dog, including your beloved bully breed.
Whether summer or winter, Aspen is an outdoor-lovers paradise, so it should come as no surprise that this Colorado mountain town is also extremely pet-friendly. It was even named the Most Pet friendly City by Go Pet Friendly. Much of Aspen’s charming downtown is designed for the enjoyment of people, and by extension, their dogs. Green spaces, benches, outdoor restaurants — they’re all here. There are hiking trails all around, and during the winter, you and your dog can even take a ride up the mountain in a gondola; the first black gondola after a red one is pet-friendly.
Avila Beach, California
Santa Barbara and Big Sur may get all of the credit, but when it comes to dog-friendly destinations on the west coast, we prefer Avila Beach. This charming small town located on California’s Pacific Coast offers lots of fun activities for you and your dog, including the Bob Jones Bike Trail. Leashed dogs are welcome on this easy three-mile paved trail that will guide you through woods and over creeks until you reach the city park (also dog friendly). Walk a little further and you’ll run right into the beach. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on the beach itself, but a nice boardwalk runs right along the sand line. There are even some dog-friendly restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat.
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Bainbridge Island, one of the largest islands in Puget Sound, is an enjoyable and dog-friendly destination that is easily reached from Seattle. Start your day on the 30-minute ferry across the sound, where you’ll be let off right near the Waterfront Trail, an easy loop that serves as both a nice introduction to the island and a way for your dog to burn off some energy. Other pet-friendly trails include the 1.5-mile Eastern Loop and the two-mile Western Loop, both of which meander past historic structures, marinas, parks, and in the case of the former, the beach at Hawley Cove. When you’re done hiking, head to Winslow Way, the picturesque main street where you can eat at an outdoor restaurant and window shop.
Battle Ground Lake State Park
Battle Ground, Washington
Though it’s in the state of Washington, Battle Ground Lake State Park is part of the Northern Clark County Scenic Drive and makes for a perfect dog-friendly day trip from Portland, Oregon (it’s less than 30 miles). The park is almost entirely dog friendly, and has some great hiking options including the Lake Trail. Your dog will love trekking through this forest-like setting, while you are both sure to appreciate the stunning views of a crystal-clear lake and basalt boulders — all that remains of the volcano that erupted here more than a 100,000 years ago. There are even places to picnic, so pack a lunch before you come.
Bighorn National Forest
Covering more than a million square miles, Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest is a great dog-friendly destination with loads of pet-friendly hiking opportunities. Each trail yields stunning views of the surrounding forest and valleys, and makes for a nice alternative to the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone (neither of which is particularly pet friendly). Just be sure your dog is leashed at all times (and perhaps even outfitted with a bear bell), as off-leash dogs are frequently chased by Grizzles — and less frequently found unharmed.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
If you are desiring a good beach where your dog can run off leash, look no further than the pet-friendly destination of Cannon Beach. Located just northwest of Portland, this great beach town allows dogs to run free as long they respond to voice commands. Best of all, this beach is so long, you shouldn’t have to look too hard to find a spot that is all your own. When your dog is all tired out from running through sand and surf, snap the leash back on and head out for some dinner in Cannon Beach’s picturesque downtown.
Carmel isn’t just one of the best dog-friendly destinations on the West Coast — it’s one of the best dog-friendly destinations in the entire country. Indeed, this charming small town loves its animals! Just steps from the center of town is a mile-long stretch of beach. As long as your dog responds to voice commands and won’t bother any other visitors, he can be off leash (though if you are more comfortable with only leashed dogs, another beach is right around the corner). When you’re done at the beach, visit one of Carmel’s historical sites, such as Mission Carmel, or head into some of the many dog-friendly shops like Diggidy Dog for the latest in doggy fashion.
Yellowstone National Park may not be too pet-friendly, but the town of Cody, known as the “Gateway to Yellowstone”, sure is. Head for the downtown, where several pet-friendly restaurants (and hotels if you need one) can be found. For the family that loves history, a pet-friendly trolley car gives hour-long tours and covers a scenic 22-mile route. Surrounding the town are lots of dog-friendly parks and a variety of scenic trails that offer stunning views of the local mountains — and sometimes even a herd of wild horses.
Columbia River Gorge
This 4,000-feet-deep gorge stretches for more than 80 miles and forms part of the boundary between Washington and Oregon. Once a major transportation route, this area is full of history while also being absurdly picturesque. Best of all, it’s all pet friendly! Leashed dogs are welcome to join you as you hike your way through the park. There are more than 90 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the gorge alone (Multnomah Falls is easily accessed and one of the most popular), and there are plenty of trails and footbridges for varying abilities. If you need a place to stay, look into the Columbia Gorge Hotel, a historic hotel that allows pets under 50 pounds.
As is the case with so many national parks, Crater Lake National Park is not so dog friendly. But head to other spots around the lake, and you’ve got three national forests where dogs and their humans are more than welcome. Rogue River National Forest, Umpqua National Forest, and Winema National Forest all border Crater Lake National Park, and each offers a variety of hikes with views of gorges, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and forest. Just note that with dogs Crater Lake may be best done as a day trip, as there are few pet-friendly hotels or campsites nearby.
Dixie National Forest
Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are both must-sees when in Utah, but neither of them are particularly pet friendly. Situated just between them, however, is Dixie National Forest, with similar landscapes, lots of hiking opportunities, and no rules against dogs. Check out the five-mile Red Canyon trail, an intermediate trail that yields spectacular views, lots of ups and downs, and some great photo spots.
Located near the “Four Corners” of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico is Durango, one of the 30 best dog-friendly destinations in the West. This quaint little town has a very inviting downtown, but for the dog on the go, we recommend heading straight for the trails. Starting near Durango’s main drag is the Animas River Trail, a seven-mile paved pathway with great views. Nearby, the San Juan National Forest offers dozens more trails, including the trailhead for the 483-mile Colorado Trail which runs between Durango and Denver. If hiking isn’t your thing, check out Durango Dog Park, five acres of land that includes an off-leash area.
San Diego, California
Located a stone’s throw from bustling downtown San Diego is Fiesta Island, a great dog-friendly destination and one of the few places in the area where your dog can romp free of his leash. After taking advantage of the free parking, cross the bridge and find a spot on the long beach that covers the entire perimeter of the island. As long as your dog responds to your voice, he’s welcome to be off leash to enjoy the sand and water. A walk around the island is six miles, and your company will likely include bikers, runners, kayakers, joggers, and even some horses.
Fort Bragg, California
Way up north, along the California coast, is the dog-friendly destination of Fort Bragg. There are lots of camp sites and hotels here where dogs are welcome, making it a perfect home base to enjoy the beach and surrounding Mendocino County. Stop in at MacKerricher State Park, where your dogs can meander through Redwood forests, explore a glass beach, and hike to a nearby light house. Nearby, the town of Mendocino has lots of pet-friendly restaurant options perfect for lunch or dinner.
Port Townsend, Washington
A military base during the 19th century, Fort Warden is today a 400-acre state park and a great dog-friend destination on the West Coast. The park includes two miles of saltwater shoreline, plus lots of hiking trails, and is only a few miles from downtown Port Townsend — a dog-friendly destination in its own right. For those wanting to stay a little longer than just a few hours, the park has 35 remodeled officers’ quarters that are now rented out as accommodation. Each unit has everything you need, and even caters to your dog for a low $30 pet fee.
The Grand Canyon
Unlike most national parks, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon welcomes leashed dogs on all 13 of its stunning miles! This makes it an easy addition to our list of the 30 best dog-friendly destinations in the West. But don’t worry — you can start and end the trail at any number of different points. The whole walk is stunning, and helpful markers frequently inform you about upcoming sights and stops.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
There are more than a million pet-friendly acres in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, so we definitely had to include it on our list of the best dog-friendly destinations in the West. The list of possible activities here is seemingly endless and includes picnicking, hiking, playing on the beach, and boating on the lake. Just remember: safety first. Lake Mead is home to predators, so keep your dog on a leash and within eye sight at all times. And since Nevada can get extremely hot very quickly, don’t forget plenty of water, sunscreen, hats, and maybe even something for your dog’s feet.
Lake Pend Oreille
Located near the dog-friendly town of Sandpoint is Lake Pend Oreille, a 43-mile stretch of lake with beaches and water your dog is sure to enjoy. While swimming is definitely the main pastime here, we suggest spending your time on Lake Pend Oreille in a rented boat. Simply head down to the Sandpoint Marina and ask about their dog-friendly boat rentals. The boats are easy to navigate on such a large lake, and will give you and your dogs many more options when it comes to jumping in for a dip!
Lake Powell is one of the most visited sights in Arizona. If you’re traveling with dogs, we recommend making the small town of Page your home base as you visit the lake. A few miles south of downtown Page is Horseshoe Bend. You’ll need to hike a mile and a half to get there, but the views of the iconic river bend are breathtaking and worth the trip. Once you’ve taken some photos and made the trip back, take your dog to lunch at Antelope Point Marina where there is a floating pet-friendly restaurant. If you’re not traveling via RV, the same marina offers houseboat rentals that are dog-friendly and easy on the pet fees.
Tahoe City, California
Lake Tahoe is a massive, and absolutely awe inspiring, lake that sits on the border between California and Nevada. While the Nevada side boasts big casinos and even bigger ski resorts, the California side is more quaint and family friendly, with lots of beaches and campsites. But wherever you go, you’re likely to run into plenty of dog-friendly options. A drive around the lake yields stunning views for both dog and man, and is definitely worth doing. Dog friendly beaches are plentiful and many include campsites where you can camp with either an RV or a tent. Our favorites are Kiva Beach, Zephyr Cove, and Coon Street Beach.
McCall is a year-round destination, and a great place to take your dog. Though the town is surrounded by national forests, most people come here to enjoy the lake. It’s worth taking the time to drive around the lake. There are great stopping points all the way around, including the dog-friendly Ponderosa Park. If it’s a dog-friendly beach you want, continue driving until you reach North Beach, the lake’s largest sand beach. Dogs are welcome in the water or in canoes! Back in town, walk the waterfront, or head into town for your pick of pet-friendly restaurants and hotels.
Montara State Beach
Most California state parks prohibit dogs, but not Montara State Park, located just south of San Francisco near Half Moon Bay. Pick a trail and settle in for some stunning views of the cliffs, rocky beaches, and the Pacific Ocean. Come at the right time of year, and you’ll likely see a pod of grey whales just off the coast. The trails are great for bird watching too, so it’s a good thing there are plenty of benches along the way on which you can sit and rest …. er, enjoy the view!
Mt. Sutro Open Space Reserve
San Francisco, California
You might think you’re in the forest, not the middle of San Francisco, when you bring your dog to Mt. Sutro Open Space Reserve. If you can find the trailhead (it’s between two houses in Cole Valley), you’ll set off on a peaceful and meandering hike that goes right through the 61-acre park. Keep your eyes peeled for small animals and interesting birds, as this eco reserve is a great natural getaway at any time of the year.
Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area
Head out to Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area and you’ll never believe you’re a mere 17 miles from the Las Vegas strip! Your well-behaved leashed dog is welcome to join you in all that Red Rock has to offer: a 13-mile paved scenic loop; more than 30 miles of hiking trails; lots of picnicking area, and plenty of places to stop and watch for birds and other wildlife. We definitely recommend the hikes, especially the Pine Creek Canyon and Oak Creek Canyon trails, which are a tad on the shorter side and without so many ups and downs (an important consideration on a hot Nevada day).
Ross Lake National Recreation Area
Most people head to this part of Washington for the Northern Cascades, but like most national parks, Cascades really isn’t too pet friendly. So we recommend Ross Lake National Recreation Area, where dogs are welcome on the trails. You and your four-legged friend will find stunning views on the dog-friendly River Loop Trail. Continue on to Diablo Lake, another dog-friendly place to hike and home to a stunning turquoise lake.
While the town of Boise itself is not what we’d describe as particularly dog friendly, there is one major exception: Table Rock. Dogs are allowed to run off-leash, as long as you trust them to respond to voice commands (there is lots of wildlife up here). The whole trek is about two miles one-way, and your dog is about as likely as you are to want to stop at the benches and water fountains along the way. But once you get to the top, the views of the surrounding city are stunning. If a two-mile up-hill climb sounds too daunting, but you’re still keen on a dog-friendly activity in the Boise area, there are a number of other hikes from the same parking lot as that of Table Rock.
Telluride is a stunningly beautiful Victorian mountain town nestled in the Rocky Mountains somewhere at about 8,800 feet above sea level. Not surprisingly, it’s incredibly dog friendly and has dozens of inviting trails. Located a hop, skip, and jump away from downtown is the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, and from here it is easy to catch the River Trail, which then leads to the Idarado Trail. Don’t worry, the trails end eventually, but you’ll see plenty of beautiful mountainscapes and aspen trees in the meantime.
This fun and historic Wild West town is incredibly proud of its unique history — and it’s pets! Tombstone has dozens of attractions and local businesses that are welcoming to every member of the family, including the Bird Cage Theatre, stage coach tours, tours of the old mines, trolleys, and restaurants like Brenda’s Chuckwagon. And that’s not even the half of it! But however you and your dog choose to enjoy your time in Tombstone, don’t leave town without stopping in at T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile, a delightfully old fashioned shop that serves doggy ice cream cones, complete with a biscuit!
Vallecito Lake National Forest
Vallecito Lake, Colorado
Located an easy (and scenic) 22 miles from Durango is Vallecito Lake, one of Colorado’s largest reservoirs and one of the best dog-friendly destinations in the West. It’s located about 8,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by another great pet-friendly destination, the San Juan National Forest. The lake is perfect for just about any outdoor recreational activities including boating, hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming — all of which your dog is allowed to join in on!
White Sands National Monument
How often do you get to take your dog to sand dunes? Well, that’s exactly what you can do at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico! Made of gypsum, not sand, these shimmering dunes will have your dog thrilled to go exploring. Leashed pets are welcome all throughout the park, including on the trails. Speaking of trails, we suggest walking the Playa Trail, Dune Life Nature Trail, or the Interdune Boardwalk, three great options that include interesting exhibits about local flora and fauna. Just make sure you pack plenty of water for the whole family, as dehydration is a real concern in this arid area.