Best Small Towns to Visit With Your Dog This Summer

Posted by Billy Francis

Chihuahuas and Pugs agree that some of the best things come in small packages. This summer, take a detour off the beaten path to these quaint vacation destinations that are less traveled but still welcome dogs with open arms.

1. Breckenridge, Colorado

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

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.

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.” At check-in, he’ll receive treats and waste bags for easy cleanup during his stay. 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

Take a ride 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

Share a bite with your pup at Empire Burger, sip on a cold beverage while your dog lounges in the shade of an umbrella table at Motherloaded Tavern, or take in beautiful mountain views while dining on the patio of Ember. For breakfast, grab a seat outside at Crepes A La Cart.

2. Brevard, North Carolina

Waterfalls galore! Photo by @chandlermarie18

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. For more of a small-town feel, take a 30-minute drive south to Brevard. With a population of 7,800, this town sits at the entrance of Pisgah National Forest and is a wilderness paradise. Welcome, Fido, to “The Land of Waterfalls.”

Where to Stay

After a day of hiking, collapse into bed at The Sunset Motel. Located a short walk from all the action of downtown, this classic motel invites dogs to stay in a variety of rooms, including cottages. Each room has hardwood floors for quick cleanup if accidents happen and easy access to the pet relief area behind the hotel. The Sunset Motel welcomes one pet of any size for an additional fee of $20 per stay, or two pets of any size for an additional fee of $35 per stay.

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.

After a day of hiking, head to downtown Brevard. Stop in at the White Squirrel Shoppe, where pups are welcomed with treats while you shop for 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. If you prefer pub grub and a local pint, snag an outdoor table at UpCountry Brewing.

3. Tombstone, Arizona

Ready for a mine tour! Photo by @sundarlife

Let your pup be the outlaw he’s always wanted to be on a trip to Tombstone! This town of 1,200 people in southern 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, pups are 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 fried shrimp or a cowboy burger at Crystal Palace Saloon. If the weather isn't cooperating for the outdoor patio, well-behaved and leashed pups can join you indoors.

4. Stowe, Vermont

Explore the grounds at The Lodge at Spruce Peak.

Stowe is a pet-friendly small town that is bound to steal Fido’s heart. This mountain retreat of 4,700 residents offers no end of opportunities for recreation and relaxation for dogs and their owners.

Where to Stay

Pets of any size 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 Stowe 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. 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 most dog-friendly attraction in Vermont, Gondola SkyRide, to the top of Mt. Mansfield. Dogs must be leashed and are welcome on the gondola only during summer months.

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. Or, dine out on the dog-friendly patio at Doc Ponds and enjoy a cocktail while Fido laps up a refreshing bowl of water.

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

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

Featured in the latest edition of BringFido’s Ruff Guide to the United States, Cannon Beach is a picturesque coastal escape full of adventure at every turn. The beautiful beach town is home to 1,700 residents and boasts excellent local restaurants, shops, and attractions.

Where to Stay

Reserve a stay at The Wayside Inn with your best friend. This pet-friendly hotel provides four-legged guests with a pet amenity basket including bowls, towels, and treats at check-in. Fido will also appreciate the pet relief area on the property.

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, one of the 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.

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.

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

The town of Sturgeon Bay comes alive with the wagging of tails when the temperatures start to rise. 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. Check it out on your next pet-friendly tour of Door County.

Where to Stay

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. If you need to make a dash to buy dog food, a pet sitter can be arranged by the hotel. 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

If you need a pit stop on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, it only takes a short stroll through Carmel-by-the-Sea to see that this quaint community on the Monterey Peninsula 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 just over 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.

What to Do

There’s something for everyone in this dog-friendly destination. 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, one of the coolest pet-friendly malls in the country, 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 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.

9. Cape May, New Jersey

“I think we’ll stay on dry land, Mom.” Photo by Captain Jeff Stewart

Located on New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula, Cape May is a welcoming seaside resort with a permanent population of just under 3,500 people. This colorful coastal city is known for its Victorian architecture along the waterfront, but its abundance of pet-friendly attractions, accommodations, and restaurants set it apart from other destinations along the Jersey shore.

Where to Stay

Book a room near the action at Highland House Cape May. After check-in, let your pooch romp off leash with other canine guests in the fenced play area. If Fido needs a little more space, Cape May Dog Park is a short walk away. Highland House Cape May welcomes four-legged guests to enjoy home comforts for no additional fee.

What to Do

Furry friends are invited to come aboard the 110-foot Cape May Whale Watcher for an unforgettable Jersey shore experience. Departing from the Miss Chris Marina in Cape May, the company offers three tours daily from May through October. After your cruise, Fido can walk off his sea legs with a stroll through the 150-acre vineyard at Cape May Winery.

You can also take flight with Fido at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum. Leashed dogs are welcome to join you throughout the museum that houses aircraft, special exhibits, engines, and interactive displays.

Leave Cape May in the rearview and head to Wildwood Dog Park and Beach, one of the best dog beaches on the East Coast. Wildwood's siren call to pups is a giant red fire hydrant. The dog section of the beach is fenced in for pups to run free, although a leash is required when they’re outside the boundaries.

Where to Eat

Peanut butter loving pups can get a taste of their favorite spread at Cape May Peanut Butter Co. While you sample delights such as a Hot Stuff sandwich with peanut butter and pepper jam and wash it down with a serving of peanut butter hot chocolate, your pooch can eat a healthy house-made peanut butter dog treat in the pet-friendly courtyard.

For something more substantial, reserve a table next to a colorful flower basket on the pet-friendly patio at Saltwater Cafe. This popular eatery serves everything from New England clam chowder to pancakes.

What dog-friendly small town are you going to visit this summer? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by iStock/monkeybusinessimages..