8 Pet-Friendly Small Towns Worth the Road Trip

Posted by Lauren Barker

While iconic routes like the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 66 and the A1A often top bucket-list road trips to take with dogs, this time we’re taking a detour and heading off the beaten path to some less traveled, but equally entertaining, vacation destinations. Let’s emBARK on a journey to these eight pet-friendly small towns in America that are worth the road trip!

1. Breckenridge, Colorado

Dogs can enjoy outdoor adventures all year long in Breckenridge. Photo by @oliver_adventuredog

The small town of Breckenridge lies 90 minutes west of Denver. With a population of 4,900, Breckenridge is known for its ski resorts and mountain charm. Sitting at the base of the Rocky Mountains’ Tenmile Range, the town attracts an array of tourists throughout the year. Visitors come to ski and snowboard in the winter and hike the trails during wildflower season in the spring and summer.

Where to Stay

When you arrive at The Lodge at Breckenridge, your pup will be greeted with his name on a welcome sign for all the “dogs in the house.” He also will receive treats and waste bags at check-in. Lodge rooms feature incredible mountain views, and dogs of any size are welcome to stay for an additional fee of $30 per night.

What to Do

Is your pup ready for adventure? During the winter, take your dog skiing or skijoring on the Peabody Placer or Preston Loop Trails at Gold Run Nordic Center. If you haven’t been before, the center offers skijoring clinics to get you started! You also can take your pooch on a ride above the slopes on the Breckenridge Gondola, also known as "BreckConnect." Leashed dogs are welcome to join as you glide over a wildlife preserve to the top of Peak 8 in the Rocky Mountains, making several stops along the way. The gondola is free for both people and pets and runs throughout ski season, as well as from mid-June to mid-September.

During the summer, dogs can get their fill of the mountains on several mountain hikes. The McCullough Gulch Trail takes you on a 2.8-mile hike, crossing the turquoise Blue Reservoir and waterfalls. For a more strenuous hike, Fido can join you on the 9-mile Meadow Creek Trail or the 8-mile Crystal Lakes Trail. Both trails wind through the White River National Forest. For a more leisurely stroll, dogs are welcome to walk the Blue River Bikeway, part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Where to Eat

When it’s time to eat, the dog-friendly options in Breckenridge seem endless. Share a bite with your pup at Empire Burger or sip on a cold beverage while your dog lounges in the shade of an umbrella table at Motherloaded Tavern. You also can take in beautiful mountain views while dining on the patio of Ember. For breakfast, grab a seat outside at Crepes A La Cart. Just remember that restaurant patios are usually only open when the weather permits, so it’s a good idea to call before you visit.

2. Brevard, North Carolina

“I need this at my local dog park.” Photo by Lee/BringFido

The mountains of western North Carolina are home to many dog-friendly destinations. In the welcoming city of Asheville, it’s no surprise to see dogs dining, shopping or sightseeing with their owners at every turn. Although very pet friendly, Asheville is hardly a small town. For more of a small-town feel, take a 30-minute drive south from the city to Brevard. With a population of 7,800, this town sits at the entrance of Pisgah National Forest and is a wilderness paradise. Welcome to “The Land of Waterfalls.”

Where to Stay

DogWoods Retreat really is for the dogs! Both the Treefrog and Firefly Cabins are pet-friendly and feature fenced yards for pups to explore, large pet beds, bowls, towels and optional on-site dog care. Fido is likely to spot a few white squirrels, which are native to the area, while lounging on the large deck. If he won’t listen to your command to Stay, the homeowner even conducts private dog training sessions with her company, Now and Zen. Two dogs of any size are welcome at DogWoods for no additional fee.

What to Do

Dogs will enjoy hiking the miles of trails in the nearby state and national forests. You’ll see why Brevard gained its waterfall nickname when you take your leashed pup on the 3/4-mile trail to Hooker Falls or the 2.6-mile trail to Triple Falls and High Falls in Dupont State Forest. While you’re exploring nature, take your pooch on a walk through the grounds of Cradle of Forestry, open from mid-April to early November. Stroll past the old schoolhouse and see where forestry in America began. Craftspeople in period clothing reenact early homesteading skills and teach about forest sustainability and stewardship.

After a day of hiking, head to downtown Brevard. Stop in at the White Squirrel Shoppe, where dogs are welcomed with treats while you shop for white squirrel souvenirs to commemorate your trip. You can also pick up pet supplies, toys and holistic food and treats at The Grateful Dog.

Where to Eat

Stay in downtown for dinner on the covered patio of The Square Root. Your pup will be greeted with a fresh bowl of water and a cool mountain breeze. For southern cooking like wood-smoked BBQ and fried catfish, book a pet-friendly picnic table at Magpie Meat & Three. If you prefer pub grub and a local pint, snag an outdoor table at UpCountry Brewing.

3. Tombstone, Arizona

Boo-Boo tours Tombstone on the historic Butterfield Stage Coach. Photo by Kimberly S./BringFido

Let your pup be the outlaw he’s always wanted to be on a trip to Tombstone! This town of 1,200 people in southeastern Arizona is best known for the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral, featuring legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday. Today, Tombstone is a tourist town filled with restaurants, shops and Wild West attractions, many of which proudly welcome dogs. Water bowls line the streets outside businesses, so even on a warm southwestern day your pup will be comfortable sightseeing.

Where to Stay

At the Landmark Lookout Lodge, dogs are welcomed with treats, a water bowl and towels. Better still, they’re also allowed to join you for breakfast on the patio and around the fire pits for s’mores at night. Two dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $10 per pet, per night.

What to Do

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, take a guided walk with your dog on the Good Enough Mine Tour, traveling underground to see what mining for silver was like in the late 1800s. Then let Fido rest his paws while on a 25-minute guided tour around town on the historic 1880s Butterfield Stage Coach. When you’re ready to explore on foot, spend some time browsing the pet-friendly shops for souvenirs, including Lily’s Tombstone Memories where you also can find treats for your good boy or girl. Wind down the day by learning about Tombstone’s haunted history with a dog-friendly Tombstone Ghosts and Legends Tour.

Where to Eat

Grab a meal of street tacos or a burrito at T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile. Make sure to save room for an old fashioned banana split, and treat your four-legged friend to his own personal doggie ice cream cone for $1.

4. Stowe, Vermont

Explore the grounds at The Lodge at Spruce Peak.

New England is home to many pet-friendly small towns, but Stowe is a notch above the rest. This mountain town of 4,700 residents offers no end of opportunities for recreation and relaxation for dogs and their owners.

Where to Stay

The Lodge at Spruce Peak is a world-class luxury resort that will welcome your pup with a large dog bed and allow him to explore the miles of trails surrounding the property. One or more dogs with a combined weight of up to 100 pounds are accepted for an additional fee of $125 per stay. Pets of any size also are welcome at Commodores Inn, where they’ll receive a welcome bag of goodies at check-in. The property features a large area for walking dogs and a pond where your pooch can cool off in the summer. Four-legged guests are welcome for an additional fee of $20 per pet, per night.

What to Do

You’ll have no trouble finding outdoor activities to keep you entertained during your stay. For an easy stroll with Fido, The Stowe Recreation Path is a 5.3-mile trail that crisscrosses the West Branch of the Little River. It provides access to many restaurants and attractions along with stunning mountain views. Dogs are welcome to join you on a walk or run in nice weather, or snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, take your leashed pup to Smugglers Notch State Park or Moss Glen Falls Trail for a hike through mountain wilderness alongside ponds, creeks and waterfalls. You also can choose to forgo the hike and still see amazing views by riding the Gondola SkyRide to the top of Mt. Mansfield. Dogs must be leashed and are welcome on the gondola only during summer months. If you’re visiting in the fall, get lost with your sidekick in the Percy Farm Corn Maze!

Where to Eat

All that activity will get your stomachs growling, so plan to dine on one of the many dog-friendly restaurant patios in Stowe. Fido will beg for a nibble of your delicious burger at Blue Donkey. Just off the Stowe Recreation Path is Idletyme Brewing Co., where you can can make a reservation for a patio seat to dine with your pup, enjoy a craft brew or play a game of cornhole.

5. Bar Harbor, Maine

Leashed dogs are welcome in Acadia National Park. Photo by Heather Culligan/BringFido

After visiting Stowe, continue your tour of the northeast and head toward the Atlantic coast to Bar Harbor. This dog-friendly town of 5,400 people is located on Mount Desert Island along Maine’s Frenchman Bay.

Where to Stay

Balance Rock Inn on the Ocean is a charming, pet-friendly bed and breakfast just minutes from downtown that offers panoramic views of Frenchman Bay. During your stay, pets are welcome to dine with you on the veranda and join you on the historic Bar Harbor Shore Path. This century-old walking path follows the shore of Frenchman Bay past several historic sights, including the Inn’s namesake, Balance Rock. Pets of any size are welcome at the Inn for an additional fee of $40 per pet, per night.

What to Do

Bar Harbor is home to one of the most pet-friendly National Parks in the United States, Acadia National Park. Dogs are welcome to hike, camp, kayak and explore much of the 47,000 acres of its woodlands, rocky beaches and granite peaks. Don’t miss an early morning hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain, where Fido could be the first to see the sunrise in the United States. For a more laid back adventure with your pup, set sail with Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines or Acadian Nature Cruises around Frenchman Bay. Scan the water for seals, porpoises and other marine life, and keep your eyes on the sky for eagles and migrating birds. To reward your pup for being on his best behavior, take him shopping for treats and toys at Bark Harbor, a dog-friendly pet boutique in the heart of downtown.

Where to Eat

There are more than 30 restaurants with pet-friendly patios in Bar Harbor, so you’ll have no trouble finding a place to grab a meal. For breakfast, head to TwoCats Bar Harbor. Despite it's feline name, Fido is welcome to join you at one of the outdoor tables on the charming grassy lawn. When lunchtime rolls around, find an umbrella table on the dog-friendly deck of Stewman’s Lobster Pound Downtown and share a bite of your lobster roll with your pup. Watch the sunset as you enjoy dinner on the patio of Looking Glass Restaurant, which offers stunning panoramic coastal views.

6. Cannon Beach, Oregon

“I’m not fetching that.” Photo by Lindsey/BringFido

Cannon Beach has been named one of National Geographic’s 100 most beautiful places, and it’s easy to see why with its stunning coastline and wildlife. The town is home to 1,700 residents and many local restaurants, shops and attractions.

Where to Stay

Four-legged guests staying in Cannon Beach will receive a warm welcome and goodies galore! At Hallmark Resort & Spa, Fido will be given a special doggie bag at check-in, while pups at McBee Cottages can dig into a doggie bucket filled with a bowl, blanket, biscuits and waste bags. Hallmark Resort & Spa allows two dogs of any size for an additional fee of $20 per pet, per night. McBee Cottages permits two dogs of any size for an additional fee of $15 per pet, per stay.

What to Do

One of the Pacific Coast’s most recognizable geological features is located in Cannon Beach. Haystack Rock is a 235-foot sea stack situated amongst tidepools, and it is home to dozens of marine and bird species. Leashed dogs are welcome to explore the area at low tide. On Cannon Beach, which was named one of BringFido’s 10 Best Dog Beaches on the West Coast, dogs are welcome off leash as long as they are under voice control. Allow your pooch to splash in the water and play with other pups during the day, then wind down the evening with a beach bonfire. The beach is also home to a couple of annual dog-friendly events including Oregon Corgi Beach Day in July and Dog Show on the Beach in October.

If your canine would rather explore, take a hike or have a picnic at Ecola State Park. Follow the footsteps of Lewis and Clark over miles of hiking trails and stop to admire scenic overlooks where Fido can feel the ocean breeze in his fur. Many shops in the town of Cannon Beach welcome dogs inside to browse, including Puppy Love by the Sea, where your pooch can do his own shopping!

Where to Eat

You can’t visit the northwest coast without ordering seafood, so find a spot on the pet-friendly patio of Tom’s Fish & Chips and share a bite with your hungry hound. For something really unique, order a microbrew on the patio of a hardware store at Cannon Beach Hardware & Public House. End the evening with dessert at Schwietert’s Cones & Candy!

7. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Play on the beach at Whitefish Dunes State Park. Photo by @maw.eventer

It can be difficult to be a pet-friendly town in a northern state. During the long winter season, most restaurant patios are closed, outdoor activities are limited and travel can be treacherous. However, when temperatures start to rise, the town of Sturgeon Bay manages to come alive with the wagging of tails. Sturgeon Bay lies just an hour north of Green Bay in the center of the Door Peninsula, offering an array of activities on and around Lake Michigan for human and canine tourists.

Where to Stay

Start planning your northern vacation by booking a pet-friendly Airbnb rental. Whether you want to be on the shore of Sturgeon Bay, in the charm of downtown or secluded in a country setting, there is something for everyone and every pup. Rental rates start at $65 per night, and many homeowners will welcome dogs free of charge. If you would rather rest at a hotel, book a room at the Beach Harbor Resort, nestled right on the beach of Sturgeon Bay. Fido might even meet the resort’s family dog, Samantha! Two dogs of any size are welcome at Beach Harbor Resort for an additional fee of $10 per pet, per night.

What to Do

If your pup likes the water, rent a pontoon, fishing boat or jet-ski with Door County Boat Rental, snap on Fido’s lifejacket and get him out on the bay for some fun in the sun. He’s also welcome to join you at the designated dog beach in Whitefish Dunes State Park. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day exploring the park, letting your dog dig in the sand and splash in the surf. For furry friends who prefer land over water, walk a portion of the 45-mile Ahnapee State Park Trail, which is part of the Rails-to-Trails program linking Sturgeon Bay to the town of Kewaunee.

Where to Eat

Sonny’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria allows you to dine right on the water with your pup. Find an umbrella table during lunch or catch the sunset during dinner. Waterfront Mary’s Bar & Grill also allows you to take in bay views, and you might even hear live music! For a relaxing garden atmosphere, grab a table on the dog-friendly patio at Kitty O’Reilly’s Irish Pub. Fido will be greeted with a fresh bowl of water at each location.

8. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

“Be careful with the clubs.” Photo by Cypress Inn

It only takes a short stroll through this quaint community on the Monterey Peninsula to realize that Carmel-by-the-Sea is a dog town. Water bowls line the storefront sidewalks, waste bag dispensers and trash cans are found throughout the town, and everywhere you turn wagging tails and wet noses are there to greet you. Carmel-by-the-Sea may only have a population of 3,800, but we wouldn’t be surprised if every one of them was a dog lover!

Where to Stay

Book a hotel well in advance if you’re traveling to Carmel. While there are many pet-friendly options to choose from, they fill up early. Cypress Inn, co-owned for more than 20 years by the late actress and pet activist Doris Day, was noted by Sunset Magazine as “probably the most famous dog-friendly hotel in the country.” The hotel’s courtyard even has a pet wash station to clean sandy paws after a day at the beach. They welcome one pet for a fee of $30, two pets for $50 or three pets for $70, per night. Carmel Valley Ranch, located just outside of town, provides Fido with a welcome pack including bowls and a pet bed. Dogs also are allowed at the hotel’s restaurant patio and at the nightly s’mores gathering around the campfire. The hotel accepts pets for an additional fee of $150 per pet, per stay.

What to Do

There’s something for everyone in this dog-friendly town. Pups are free to run off-leash and dig their paws in the sand at Carmel Beach. Stores welcome dogs inside with treats, including Diggidy Dog, where Fido can shop for a new collar or toy. While you’re strolling through town, visit the famous Fountain of Woof in Carmel Plaza and let Fido take a sip for good luck!

The tasting rooms at Scheid Vineyards, Galante Vineyards and Dawn’s Dream Winery allow pups to join you inside while you sample their delicious wines. California Legacy Tours will take you and your furry tourist to funky art studios, yummy restaurants and notable homes. And the day wouldn’t be complete without cruising with the windows down along scenic 17-Mile Drive in world-famous Pebble Beach. Just sit back and watch your pooch’s ears flap in the wind.

Where to Eat

You’ll have no trouble finding a pet-friendly patio in Carmel, but Forge in the Forest is a must-visit for its Canine Cuisine menu with options like the “Quarter Hounder.” It’s often voted one of America’s most pet-friendly restaurants.

Now it’s time to pack your bags, gas up the car and buckle in your pups. What dog-friendly small town are you going to visit next? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

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