A driver and her dog road-tripping
Have dog, will travel (Photo: Getty Images/David Bouchat)

Expert Advice on How to Travel with Your Dog

Whether you’re road-tripping or flying with Fido, our columnist has found the friendliest campgrounds, hotels, and airlines that welcome canines—as well as an app that dog owners shouldn’t live without

A woman driving with her dog in the passenger seat
Getty Images/David Bouchat

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Any number of concerns are on our radar as we plan our next trip, from serious issues like how destinations are working to mitigate tourists’ environmental impact to inconveniences like months-long passport wait times. In this column, our travel expert addresses your questions about how to navigate the world. 

I don’t like to leave my dog behind when I travel—and in fact I often have a better time when I do bring him— but people give me the stink eye when I show up places with my dog. What are the most dog-friendly places in the U.S. to travel to, specifically campgrounds, parks and recreation areas, beaches, and hotels? —Doggie Devoted

It’s true that just because you like to get outdoors regularly with your dog, not every setting is the right place for one. Years ago near Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, a friend and I were returning to our nearby lodge from a hike when we spotted Alfie—a Chihuahua mix whose yapping had been keeping us up at night. He’d escaped from his room and was sprinting as fast as his little legs could carry him across the sagebrush-dotted terrain.

We heard a frantic shriek—“Alfieeeee!”—and looked up to see a middle-aged woman, leash in hand, racing after him. Behind her, an older, heavyset man struggled along, gasping, “Sylvia!” (presumably the dog owner’s name). Minutes later a golf cart manned by two lodge employees (one driving, the other wielding a fishing net) zoomed past. We laughed, finding the entire scenario comical, until I noticed the massive hawk flying directly above a clueless Alfie.

We watched in horror as the bird swooped down, grasped the tiny pet in its paws, and disappeared behind large rock spires. The woman collapsed in a heap. We stood speechless. Later that evening I naively remarked to an employee how I imagined that kind of incident to be a rare occurrence.

He quickly corrected me, confiding, “We call those toy dogs bird food around here.”

You may not like leaving your dog behind on any of your outdoor adventures. But you should consider whether your destination is suitable for your pup, what dangers could threaten him, and how to protect him from harm. I’ve found a great app that offers feedback from thousands of dog owners, and I’ve talked to several experts and regular adventurers who travel with their dogs, for a roundup of some of the best places (and ways) for you to explore the great outdoors with your furry best friend this summer.

Dog-Friendly Parks, Campgrounds, and BeachesA man holding the paws of his dogs in front of a tent

Finding a dog-friendly campground makes for a better camping experience. (Photo: Getty Images/Twenty47studio)

A park may seem like a natural place to have Fido tag along this summer, but not all parks welcome four-leg adventurers. The National Park Service in particular has strict rules about where pets allowed to roam in the parks. For some owners, these restrictions are too limiting. Outside correspondent Wes Siler has three very large dogs and finds the national parks so restrictive that he skips visiting them with his dogs altogether, preferring to take them camping on Bureau of Land Management areas or at national-forest sites where they can run off-leash.

But if national parks are where you’re headed, first refer to this Outside story, which ranks all of them and provides details about which trails they can use, where they can swim, and many other considerations.

Acadia National Park, in Maine, is arguably America’s most canine-friendly park. Its website clearly denotes which trails have terrain unsuitable for dogs, and it provides valuable reminders like carrying enough water and checking your pet for ticks. This national park is also only one of three—including Zion in Utah and Yosemite in California—to implement a BARK Rangers program: pick up an activity checklist at a ranger station, and if your dog follows all of the BARK rules (Bag your poop, Always wear a leash, Respect wildlife, and Know where to go), it can be sworn in as a ranger. (Yes, proud owners can buy a “Bark Ranger” collar tag for their animal.)

BringFido, a free pet-travel app and website, is another invaluable resource. According to its more than 1.2 million users, Acadia, Shenandoah (in Virginia), New River Gorge (West Virginia), and White Sands (New Mexico) are the highest ranked national parks of its users. BringFido’s map feature allows you to easily perform a search for dog-friendly parks across the country, and its content includes rankings and pet-owner feedback; for example, commentary on Shenandoah notes that non-rock-savvy pups may have trouble on the Rose River Falls hike, while messages about White Sands remark on the lack of shady trails.

When it comes to state parks, dog-friendliness varies, too. Lauren Barker, BringFido’s senior content editor, says that Colorado’s Chatfield and Cherry Creek State Parks (both in the greater Denver area) earn high marks for multi-acre fenced dog parks and ponds where animals can swim. Other popular picks are Niquette Bay State Park in Colchester, Vermont, and Hueston Woods State Park, northwest of Cincinnati, both have dog-friendly swimming holes perfect for a post-hike dip.

Want to pitch a tent and stay at a park with your dog? Avoid state parks in New Hampshire, says Jeremy Puglisi. The co-author of Where Should We Camp Next? and cohost of the podcast Campground of the Week has found the Granite State’s campgrounds to be notoriously unfriendly to dog owners. Instead, his top recommendation is the North-South Lake Campground in New York’s Catskills Forest Preserve; it allows dogs on its nearly 2,000 miles of trails, and the campground has 219 pet-friendly tent and trailer sites, two lakes, and two beaches that accommodate them.

BringFido’s top dog-friendly campground rankings include Emerald Glen Getaway, in Morris, New York; Four Paws Kingdom Campground, in Rutherfordton, North Carolina; and Lake George RV Park, in Lake George, New York. Each caters to canine campers with amenities like dog parks, dog-wash stations, and even agility equipment. “Of course, KOAs are always a fan favorite, with their KampK9 dog parks,” shares Barker (who, like Siler, prefers camping on BLM land with her dogs).

If you’re looking to hit the sand and surf this summer, some of the best dog-friendly beaches in the U.S., according to BringFido, are Florida’s Fort DeSoto Dog Beach Park, on the Gulf in St. Petersburg, and Jupiter Beach, in the Atlantic Coast town of Jupiter; Southern California’s Huntington Dog Beach, Coronado Beach, and Rosie’s Dog Beach; and New Jersey’s Wildwood Dog Park and Beach. And if you haven’t already, check out this recent Outside list of 11 other dog-friendly beaches from coast to coast.

Tips for Finding the Best Hound-Friendly Hotels


Many hotels nowadays tout their dog-friendliness, but this is another case where BringFido has its advantages. Its filters can help you find just what you’re looking for, everything from properties that welcome multiple pets, to those that permit dogs above 50 pounds, to lodges that don’t tack on a pet fee. The app also shares details like whether certain hotels allow dogs to be left in a room unattended, if there’s greenspace on-site, and whether it offers thoughtful amenities such as a water bowl or chew toy.

According to Barker, Canopy by Hilton, Kimpton, and Loews consistently get high scores from BringFido users. Kimpton’s motto is: If your pet fits through the door, we’ll welcome them in. When traveling with his giant dogs, Siler seeks out that brand’s hotels. He’s also a fan of the Bunkhouse Hotel Group; in fact, he was married at its property in Todos Santos, Mexico—the Hotel San Cristóbal Baja (where Teddy, Siler’s Kangal, is relaxing in the image above)—and says staff happily accommodated his dogs, who were part of the ceremony.

Another standout is the Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile, in Kanab Utah. Conveniently located 30 minutes from the east entrance of Zion National Park, it’s a dog’s version of a five-star lodge. Dogs of all sizes stay free and are pampered to boot. Owners can expect complimentary access to pet-washing facilities, a fenced-in pet-park area with a splash zone, and grooming products, and guest rooms have built-in cubbies and beds for your pup, as well as a smart two-door entry system that ensures your dog won’t dart out of the room.

Smart Advice for Driving or Flying with Your Dog

A woman sitting in a plane seats holds a transparent dog carrier on her lap
If you have a small dog, it can fly with you in the main cabin in a carrier that fits beneath the seat. (Photo: Getty Images/Su Arslanoglu)

Christine Sperber and her partner spent 15 years living between Breckenridge, Colorado, and Todos Santos, Mexico, regularly making the 1,860-mile commute with their four dogs (one a 90-pounder) in a converted van. The vehicle, which she refers to as the “dog transporter,” is always stocked with poop bags and dog food, and they installed a battery-charged Maxxair fan to ensure their animals stay cool should they need to leave them inside while they run an errand.

Sperber says Facebook groups are a great forum for advice and intel on dog-friendly rest areas. When they road-trip, they typically leave early and map out stops that have shady places where their pups’ paws won’t burn. And she always has a close eye on her Chihuahua, particularly if she lets him out at night to do his business. “We’ve had a few close encounters with owls,” she says.

Outside’s Wes Siler removed the back seats from his pickup truck so his dogs have extra space when they come along, and he installed a remote start so he can leave the A/C on with the doors locked if he needs to pop into a store. He notes that the more capable your vehicle is of handling all kinds of terrain, the farther away you can get from crowded front-country recreation and camping areas so your dogs can roam free. On road trips, he tries to stop at least once a day to give his dogs 15 minutes of off-leash time; he uses the Gaia GPS app to locate city dog parks.

You can also, of course, fly with your dog, though it can be pricey—shipping large dogs in a crate can cost upward of $500. You also must be savvy about changing regulations. After years of people trying to fly with their pets onboard, claiming them as emotional-support animals (a list that included everything from pigs to peacocks), the Department of Transportation cracked down. As of 2021, all major U.S. airlines have banned emotional-support animals on flights; the exception is service dogs.

Owners of dogs weighing less than 20 pounds can pay a fee to have their pet tag along in a carrier that fits beneath the seat. According to Barker, JetBlue gets some of the highest marks from BringFido users because owners are permitted to hold the carrier in their lap once the plane is in the air. Allegiant is also known as a popular budget airline that welcomes small pets in the cabin, she says.

For larger pets who do not meet the under-the-seat requirements, American Airlines’ PetEmbark program allows owners to ship pets up to 100 pounds via American Airlines Cargo as long as they’re not brachycephalic breeds (such as bulldogs and pugs). Owners receive tracking information so they can monitor their dog’s journey.

Be a Courteous Pet Owner

You probably think your pup is the most precious thing in the world, but not everyone likes furry faces. Don’t assume everyone is OK with your dog jumping or slobbering on them. And if your dog is friendly, don’t assume other dogs are, says Sperber.

All four of her dogs are rescues, and while they like people, they don’t like other dogs. “We treat them like loaded weapons at all times,” she says. Because she worries that other dog owners will permit their pets to get too close, Sperber keeps them off even mildly trafficked trails. “I always want to be respectful of other people’s outdoor experiences, so we keep them on leash at all times and really try to find trails that are off-piste.”

Basic pet-owner courtesy extends to not leaving your dog alone to howl in the hotel room all day while you go off to hike, not letting it wander off at a campground to chew other people’s gear or get into their cooler of food, and perhaps most important, always picking up their poop. (Here’s an article laying out the most eco-conscious ways to do that.)

Siler recalls watching horrified as a pug did his business on the poolside grass of the Kimpton Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara, California, while its owner just watched from their lounge chair. “If it wasn’t a Kimpton, that dog would have been kicked out,” he says. “That type of behavior is exactly why hotels don’t allow pets.”

This poop etiquette extends to both front- and backcountry areas. Even when you’re out hiking with your dog, you must take the time to clean up your dog’s poop so it doesn’t contaminate groundwater or spread viruses to wildlife, Barker says.

If you want to avoid stink eye from fellow travelers this summer, be a responsible dog owner. Follow the rules of parks and outdoor recreation areas, and choose pet-friendly trails and beaches. It almost goes without saying that if you’re traveling with your dog, you’re thinking of his best interests, but it pays to be overly considerate and cautious—if you think your pooch will end up sitting in the car (a big no-no) or hotel room all day while you’re off adventuring, you should probably splurge on a pet sitter or kennel instead.

Have a question of your own? Drop us a line at Traveladvice@outsideinc.com.  

Outside correspondent Jen Murphy is one of the most well-traveled people we know, and we’ve long relied on her expert advice about awesome adventures and how to get there in a sane way.

The author posing by her bicycle
The author, on the road (Photo: Courtesy Jen Murphy)

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