Old Man Winter has arrived, and although we’re used to staying at home these days, being cooped up inside brings a whole new level of cabin fever. Whether you need to escape the cold or you’re searching for gorgeous snowy vistas, these eight scenic drives are the perfect way to get a breath of fresh air with Fido this winter, all while staying warm and safe.
Posted by Lauren Barker
As featured in the 2021 edition of our book Ruff Guide to the United States, Fido can beat the winter blues on a road trip across Mississippi by way of the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. Time your trip down the 440-mile parkway from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS to reach Tupelo in time for Elvis Presley’s birthday on January 8. Stop at the Elvis Presley Birthplace, where your hound dog can explore the grounds and trails surrounding the childhood home of the King of Rock and Roll. Then, make your way to the Parkway Visitor Center at milepost 266, where humans can learn the history of Natchez Trace and pups can earn their B.A.R.K. ranger certification. From there, drive 270 miles south to Natchez. Along the way, stop at Jeff Busby Park to take a short 1.6-mile roundtrip hike to the overlook at Little Mountain. At the end of the parkway, you’ll find the Natchez National Historical Park, where you can explore Civil War sites and more dog-friendly trails with your furry friend.
Book a pet-friendly room in Natchez at Choctaw Hall, a historic pre-war mansion constructed in the 1830s. Up to two dogs of any size are welcome for no additional fee.
Red Rocks Loop
For a day trip away from the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas strip, rent a Jeep and take your pup on a ride at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. On a winter day, don’t be surprised to find a blanket of snow, even in the desert. Enjoy stunning panoramic views at several points along the 13-mile scenic drive, and if the weather cooperates, venture off the road on a hike along one of 26 marked trails. Even in winter, the warm Mojave Desert sun is enjoyable, so pack a lunch and find a quiet spot in the Willow Springs picnic area for a memorable meal. Keep your eyes peeled for dinosaur tracks in the Aztec sandstone of the Mojave Desert. Be sure to purchase a timed entry reservation in advance of your trip.
After a day in the desert, put your pup’s posh paws up at the Delano Las Vegas. Two dogs up to 100 lbs (combined weight) are welcome for an additional fee of $100 per pet, per night.
Cades Cove Loop
Even though dogs aren’t allowed on most trails at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can still enjoy its most popular attraction with Fido in tow. Take a scenic drive along the 11-mile loop around Cades Cove, where you’ll easily spot dozens of white-tailed deer, black bears, and other animals roaming the open fields that were once farmed by pioneers. Traveling the loop in winter may also provide beautiful snow-capped mountain views, or even a magical mountain snowfall. Depending on traffic, motorists should allow two to four hours to drive the entire loop. Be sure to check road conditions before heading out.
After a day of exploring the Smokies, you and your pup can kick back in a cozy cabin at the Dancing Bear Lodge in Townsend. Dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $50 per stay.
Avenue of the Giants
Take a detour off Highway 101 in California and drive the Avenue of Giants, a 31-mile scenic drive through towering giant redwoods. It’s not uncommon for the area to see snow in winter, but with an average low temperature around 40° F, you can expect roads to stay safe and clear. Hop on this scenic route just north of Redcrest and make your way south, following the Eel River. You’ll pass through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world. Stop for photos and a picnic lunch with your pup at the Dyerville Overlook, or swing by Sips: Organic Coffee and More for a sandwich and smoothie. Then take a cruise through the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, a chimney tree whose trunk was hollowed by fire, allowing visitors to drive right through the base for a fun photo op with Fido. The Avenue ends near Phillipsville, putting you back on US 101.
Continue south on US 101 to Redway and spend the night in a cottage or cabin at Dean Creek Resort. Two dogs up to 75 lbs are welcome for an additional fee of $10 per pet, per night.
Spanning the entire length of Shenandoah National Park from Front Royal to Waynesboro, the 105-mile Skyline Drive National Scenic Byway will give your dog a bird’s-eye view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The picturesque three-hour drive is wildly popular in the fall, when the leaves are changing colors, but roadside rhododendrons, trilliums azaleas and buttercups put on a cheerful show throughout the year and snow often blankets the area in winter. Stop along the way at one of 75 scenic overlooks. Most have trailheads that will provide a relatively easy hiking break for your four-legged friend. Of the 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park, all but 20 are dog-friendly. Be sure to check road conditions and closures before venturing out. The entrance fee is $30 per vehicle.
After a beautiful day in Shenandoah, spend the night with your pup at Best Western Plus Waynesboro. Two pets of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $15 per pet, per night.
Sitting on the border of Arizona and Utah on the Colorado Plateau, Monument Valley may be one of the most recognizable western vistas. That’s in part thanks to its frequent appearance in iconic films like Forrest Gump. You can even stop along Highway 163 in Arizona to snap Fido’s photo at the spot where Forrest decided to stop running and go home. While its popularity rises in spring and fall, winter is an equally beautiful time to make the drive. Sandstone mesas, spires and buttes towering up to 1,000 feet in the air may be capped with snow. No matter which direction you’re coming from, you’ll be able to spot the pinnacles from miles away. Try timing your arrival so the sun hits the scene just right - coming from the east at sunrise, or the west at sunset. Spend extra time enjoying the scenery by traveling The Tribal Park Loop, also known as Valley Drive, which is part of Navajo Nation.
To get a full Monument Valley experience and catch both a sunrise and sunset, spend the night with Fido at Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley, UT, just across the Arizona border. Two pets of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $20 per pet, per night.
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
Fido is almost certain to see snow when you take him on a winter drive along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway in Colorado. Established in 1918, it’s Colorado’s oldest scenic byway. Beginning at Interstate 70 near Black Hawk and Central City to the south and traveling north for 55 miles to Highway 7 at Estes Park, this scenic drive provides stunning views of the Continental Divide as well as many gorgeous peaks. While this area is prone to snow in winter, it is maintained for easy travel. Halfway along your trip, stop for lunch at Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse in Nederland before continuing north. Just before reaching Estes Park, stop at the Longs Peak viewing area and snap a photo of Fido in front of the mammoth mountain. Check road conditions and closures before you begin your journey.
Once you’ve reached Estes Park, spend the night at Discovery Lodge and allow your pup to stretch his legs at the on-site dog park. Two dogs of any size are accepted for an additional fee of $10 per pet, per night.
For mutts who want to avoid any chance of winter weather, hit the road for the Florida Keys. Travel 113 miles down Highway 1 from Key Largo to Key West on the Overseas Highway, often referred to as “The Highway that Goes to Sea.” The route was originally built as a railway line from Miami to Key West in 1912, but was turned into a highway in the 1930s. Along your drive, admire the blue-green waters of the Atlantic Ocean, stop for lunch at Lazy Days Restaurant in Islamorada, let Fido stretch his legs on Sombrero Beach in Marathon, and then cruise over Seven Mile Bridge and down to Key West. To commemorate his trip, be sure to snap a photo for Fido’s Instagram in front of the giant buoy at the Southernmost Point.
With so much to do in Key West, spend the night at The Palms Hotel in the historic old town district. One pet of any size is welcome for an additional fee of $25 per pet, per night.
Ready for a Road Trip?
The editors at BringFido have dedicated themselves to digging up the best scenic drives and other dog-friendly things to do across the country. And we've assembled it all in our new book, Ruff Guide to the United States.
Now in its second edition, the book features over 365 of the best places to stay and play with your dog in all 50 states. Pre-order your copy today and save 50% off the retail price when you use the discount code BLOG.
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