Summertime is here, and there’s no better season to load up the car and hit the road for a good old-fashioned road trip with your family. Of course, we’re talking about your dog.
Not sure where to go on your grand adventure? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. These six road trip routes are custom-picked to show you some of the best natural beauty and dog-friendly features in America. Whether you want to take your pooch on a coastal retreat, a mountain expedition, or a leisurely southern drive, we’ve got the route for you.
Drive (and Hike) the California Coast
When it comes to roadtrips, California’s coastal Highway One is a must. This beautiful, historic road will take you past beaches, mountains, farming country, tall trees, and all the best ocean views in the state. You can take “the One” all the way from the very top to the very bottom of the state, but our favorite route, inspired by Frommer’s, is easily accessible from San Francisco.
When it comes to roadtrips, California’s coastal Highway One is a must.ADVERTISEMENT
Start in San Francisco, where a hike and romp at Fort Funston National Park will give you and your pup plenty of exercise before you sit in the car for a few hours. Then, head down the coast to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where you can enjoy a meal on the patio of one of many dog-friendly restaurants, take a walk along the beach, or explore the historic grounds of Mission Trail Park.
If you like the idea of adding some camping to your roadtrip, head to Big Sur to explore the redwoods with your dog. There are lots of dog-friendly campsites and trails, just be sure to book in advance. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park allows leashed dogs on their trails. This insider’s guide to dog friendly Big Sur is an excellent resource!
Seattle to the San Juan Islands
For a mix of urban canine adventure and beautiful ocean views, head up to the Pacific Northwest where you can combine some Seattle time with a trip to the San Juan Islands. Our post about dog-friendly Seattle will get you off to a great start!
From the city, drive about 80 miles to Anacortes, Washington, where WSDOT ferries depart for the San Juan islands. Anacortes itself is a great spot for dogs, with lovely parks to explore. After you’ve had your fill of Anacortes, board the ferry (with your car!) to Orcas Island. Dogs ride free on the ferry, and depending on the time of year, you might even spot a whale.
Once you get to Orcas Island, you’ll be able to hike, swim, and romp around the island to your hearts’ content. View the San Juan Directory for specifics on where to stay and play with your dog on Orcas Island and beyond.
Montana’s Scenic Route
Montana is a doggy paradise, with hiking, camping, swimming, and wildlife-viewing opportunities a-plenty. (Full disclosure: I used to live there, and this is a particular favorite roadtrip of mine and my dogs!)
Start your road trip in Missoula, a college town with loads of dog-friendly lodging and restaurant patios. From there, drive about 50 miles north to the National Bison Range in Dixon, MT, where you and your pooch can take a winding 2-hour loop through meadows and foothills, spying birds, bison, and occasionally even a great horn sheep or bear (there are a few turnouts and walking trails for potty breaks, but the dog will need to stay leashed).
Not far from Dixon is the resort town of Bigfork, MT, on the northeastern edge of Flathead Lake. Here, you can enjoy fine dining (including some dog-welcoming patios); camping and canoeing around the lake; and hikes through Flathead National Forest.
Wrap up your western Montana adventure with a drive north to Glacier National Park and a scenic drive on the 50-mile-long Going to the Sun Road. Going to the Sun Road opens whenever the snow is melted, sometimes as late as July, so aim for a late-summer visit. Dogs aren’t allowed off-leash in Glacier, but you’ll see the best scenery in the park from the comfort of your car.
Midwest: Chicago, Michigan, and the Great Lakes
There are a ton of Great Lakes Loop Tours you could take, but we recommend starting in dog-friendly Chicago and driving up the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. You’ll curve through part of Indiana before reaching Michigan, a great place to experience Midwestern charm and natural beauty all in one: four of the five Great Lakes touch the state!
Just over the state border from Indiana to Michigan, check out the Round Barn Winery, Distiller, and Brewery to taste some adult beverages. Your dog is welcome to explore the grounds on leash. Farther north in the “mitten state,” don’t miss Sleeping Bear Dunes near the town of Glen Arbor. At this state park, you and your dog can enjoy picnics, nature walks, and an incredible view across Lake Michigan from the top of the dunes.
If you’re looking for a kitschier Midwestern road trip experience, check out this list of “hidden gems.” Most of these attractions, including the Biggest Ball of Twine and the world’s largest catsup bottle, are dog-friendly to varying degrees.
Route 66 in the American South
Speaking of kitsch, we can’t do a list of road trips and not include the famous Route 66! This extensive itinerary from Lonely Planet will take you from Chicago down through the southwest all the way to Los Angeles, stopping at all the most historic (and nostalgic) spots in between. The southwestern part of the route is especially memorable, but a trip through the American southwest can be hot, hot, hot during the summer. Don’t ever leave your dog unattended in the car, and consider taking this trip during cooler months for maximum safety.
Don’t miss the landmark, dog-friendly Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas. Check out the retro building facade, enjoy a giant steak in the restaurant (save a few scraps for the dog), and check in to the adjacent motel, which welcomes well-behaved pets.
Once you hit Arizona, you’ll want to veer off Route 66 towards Petrified Forest State Park, where leashed dogs are welcome to explore trails and backcountry with their people. Don’t forget to bring along plenty of water.
Dog-Friendly New England
New England is perfect roadtrip territory because you can visit so many states in a relatively short amount of driving, and those states are full of charming dog-friendly attractions. If you schedule your trip for late summer or early fall, you may even be able to do some early-season leaf peeping!
Start in Portland, Maine, where you and your dog can catch a ferry to explore nearby islands. From Portland, head northwest into New Hampshire and stop in the White Mountain National Forest for some dog-friendly hiking and camping.
Next, continue west into Vermont and stop at the world-famous Dog Mountain, a farm and art gallery in St. Johnsbury offering scenic trails, ponds, sculptures, and the popular Dog Chapel, where you can leave a note for a dearly departed dog from your past. The entire property is dog-friendly year round.
For a dog-tastic end to your New England adventure, book a stay at the Paw House Inn, a farm country inn catering to dogs and their people (they actually charge a $10 fee to anyone staying without a dog!).
These dog-friendly roadtrip route suggestions are just a starting point, but the best road trips involve spontaneity, so grab your four-legged best friend, a handful of maps, and hit the road. Just be sure to plan the major points of your route ahead of time, stock up on supplies, and prepare to keep your dog safe in the car. Enjoy the ride!
Top image via Instagram/acocke