Many state parks around the country welcome four-legged outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy their grounds, and some of the most dog-friendly include hiking trails, canine beaches, and even cabins that welcome pets. But, these nine state-protected areas really cater to furry visitors with on-site fenced dog parks where Fido can run leash-free and meet new friends.
Posted by Lauren Barker
Cherry Creek State Park
Colorado is home to two of the largest state park dog runs in the country. Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora invites Fido to play in the 107-acre dog off-leash area, referred to as DOLA. Canines are free to explore the full space, including the creek which is the perfect spot to cool off on a summer day. Leashed pups are also welcome to join their humans on hiking trails, boating, and in campgrounds. Don’t forget to bring plenty of drinking water and a towel for muddy paws. In addition to the park’s entrance fee, there is a nominal cost to enter the dog park, and season passes are available. For more opportunities to run free and splash in water, head across town to the 69-acre Chatfield State Park Off-Leash Dog Area in Littleton.
Set up camp at Cherry Creek State Park Campground, or stay between Cherry Creek and Chatfield State Parks at Staybridge Suites Denver Cherry Creek. You’ll be just a few blocks from Denver’s famous dog park restaurant, Watering Bowl.
Elijah Bristow State Park
Named for one of the first pioneer settlers in the area, Elijah Bristow State Park in Dexter is home to over 10 miles of pet-friendly hiking trails and a large off-leash dog run. Located near the park’s entrance, this area features a fully fenced field for Fido to run wild, and a partially fenced area where he can access Lost Creek to cool off. Continue exploring Oregon’s state parks with your pup and head two hours north to L.L. Stub Stewart State Park in Buxton. Here he can find adventure on 25 miles of trails, and play leash-free in the fenced day use area.
Cuddle up with your pup in this tiny house just minutes from Elijah Bristow State Park, in Lowell. The backyard is fenced for Fido and you’ll be within walking distance to Dexter Reservoir and just a 20-minute drive to all the pet-friendly fun in Eugene.
Mosquito Lake State Park
Despite its ominous name, Mosquito Lake State Park in northeastern Ohio is a dog’s “pawradise.” Bring your adventurous hound to enjoy miles of trails, boating, camping, and to pay a visit to Mosquito Lake Dog Park. Fido can run free in the five fenced acres which are divided into separate sections for large and small dogs. He’ll have access to shade, drinking water, a dog-friendly beach, and best of all, a canine splash pad. Four-legged Ohioans living across the state don’t have to miss out on the fun. Hueston Woods State Park in the southwest corner also welcomes athletic canines to run in the dog park where they have access to the canine beach on Acton Lake.
Fort DeSoto State Park
Let your pup run leash-free on the white-sand beach of the Paw Playground, or in one of two large, fully fenced and grassy dog parks at Fort DeSoto State Park in Tierra Verde. Fido will enjoy easy access to one of the only pet-friendly off-leash beaches in the area, Fort DeSoto Dog Beach Park. Dogs are welcome in Section Two of the county park, which consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands. Your pooch can also join you for a walk along the 6.8-mile paved trail that connects the campground to the dog park, beach, and all other areas of the park.
In addition to the pet-friendly campground, Fido is welcome at nearby Island's End Resort on St. Pete Beach. Your canine companion will feel right at home in one of the cottage rooms, and you’ll be within walking distance to Pass A Grille Dog Beach, where leashed pups can continue enjoying the gulf waters.
Weston Bend State Park
The 1.75-acre fenced dog park at Weston Bend State Park is divided into three sections, including one for small pups and one for large canines. Each pen includes benches for humans, a doggy water fountain, and pet waste stations. Before he gets too tuckered out in the dog run, take him for a hike on one of the pet-friendly trails in the park, stopping to admire the scenic overlooks along the way. Don’t let your outdoor adventures end here. Head 20 minutes north to Lewis and Clark State Park where your pooch can help you spot wildlife.
Book a campsite at Weston Bend State Park Campground, or rest up for the night at a beautiful farmhouse in Atchison, complete with a fenced backyard for Fido. While you’re there, visit the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. You’ll hear stories about the famous female aviator, her childhood home, and even her love of dogs.
Fort Harrison State Park
Formerly the site of Fort Benjamin Harrison, Fort Harrison State Park in Indiana’s capital city was once a World War II prisoner of war camp. Turn back the hands of time and take in the area’s history with Fido on the pet-friendly trails before you make a stop at the dog run located on the park’s north side. It features three separate, fully fenced areas without size restrictions. Platoon Run boasts 3.6 acres with large shade trees, a water station, benches, agility equipment, a shelter, and even a fireplace for chilly days. Herrin Hill is a 1.3-acre play area with a water station and benches for humans. And, Brigade Landing, which is only open in summer, offers five acres of leash-free fun complete with a pond, dog beach, and a wooded area to explore. A pass is required to visit the dog park, and weekly and annual options are available.
Sesquicentennial State Park
Surrounding a 30-acre lake just outside of South Carolina’s capital, Sesquicentennial State Park, or “Sesqui” as it’s known by locals, offers visitors on two legs and four a variety of recreational activities. Take your pup hiking on 12 miles of trails, or for a paddle on the water, then let her run leash-free in the two-acre fenced dog park. The large, open area includes shade trees, drinking water, and access to the pond where she can cool off. Permits are required for pups to play in the gated park.
Pitch a tent at Sesquicentennial Campground or wander across town for more outdoor adventures with your pooch on the trails at Harbison State Forest. Then, cuddle up for the night in a comfy room at nearby Hampton Inn Columbia I-26 Harbison Bvld.
E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park
Let your leash down at the fenced dog park at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville. Rambunctious mutts will have a ball exploring six acres of grassy space. The dog run is divided into three sections including separate areas for large and small pups, and it offers two gazebos, shade trees, and drinking water for thirsty hounds. While you’re in the state park, hike with Fido along five acres of woodland trails. A Louisville Dog Run dog permit is required to access the facilities, but visiting pups can contact the parks department ahead of time for a temporary pass.
Knox Farm State Park
Just outside of Buffalo, in East Aurora, Knox Farm State Park covers over 600 acres of grasslands, woods, and wetlands to explore with Fido. Leashed dogs are welcome to join you on the trails, but your pup’s favorite place will be the six-acre fully fenced dog run. The area is divided into two separate sections for small and large dogs, and water spigots are available in each to keep them hydrated. On warm summer days, take your tired pooch for a leashed walk to the pond where he can get his paws wet and cool off.
Allow Fido to return to his new friends the next day and spend the night at this East Aurora apartment. You’ll be within walking distance to pet-friendly restaurants and attractions like 42 North Brewing Company, and just a short drive from Knox Farm State Park.