Dr. Randy Olson, a data genius, got my wheels turning when he devised the Ultimate American Road Trip, connecting “the best” landmarks in the lower 48 states using the shortest possible route. While the trip sounded fairly appealing, nearly half of Dr. Olson’s chosen attractions don’t allow pets! And that’s when my imagination kicked in … what would the Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip look like?
Connecting the dots was easy. The difficult part was choosing the pet friendly stops. If you’re only seeing one thing in each state, there’s a lot of pressure to pick the best!
We decided on destinations that will give you a good feel for each state. Here you’ll find the iconic natural wonders, sources of state pride, and sites with historical significance that make the United States special. Our choices also provide a variety of activities for travelers and their furry companions. From beaches to mountain tops, bustling cities to quiet retreats, a canoe trip and a train ride – we give you the Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip!
This entire route is nearly 15,000 miles and would take months to complete. In reality, few people can get away for that amount of time.
To accommodate more people’s schedules, we broke the trip into sections. This allows you to enjoy nine pet friendly vacations, and plan each visit according to the best weather. Or string them all together, and take the trip of a lifetime!
READ MORE ⇒ Tips for Traveling Alone with a Pet
We start with a pet friendly road trip in the northwestern corner of the United States. From Washington’s green isles to the heights of Beartooth Highway, this route has something for everyone!
Washington – San Juan Islands
Oregon – Portland’s Parks and Gardens
Idaho – Lake Coeur d’Alene
Wyoming – Bighorn National Forest – Medicine Wheel
Montana – Beartooth Highway
The southwest route starts with a romp on Carmel’s spectacular dog beach. Then head out for some hiking at Red Rock Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Top it off with a trip up Telluride’s gondola, and your active pets will love this trip!
California – Carmel’s Dog Beach
Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park
Colorado – Telluride Gondola to Mountain Village
The bustle of San Antonio is balanced with serene natural wonders on the South Central road trip. If you’re considering skipping the pet friendly paddle on the Buffalo National River … DON’T! We did it with Ty and Buster, and loved every minute. Though it was the boys’ first time in a canoe, they were as great. It’s one of our favorite memories from this trip.
New Mexico – White Sands National Park
Texas – San Antonio River Walk
Oklahoma – Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Arkansas – Canoe the Buffalo National River
Kansas – Monument Rocks
The Northern Plains trip through the heartland reveals what America was like before Europeans arrived. Admire the deep vastness of Lake Superior and the powerful Mississippi River. Then contemplate the lives of Native Americans who lived in Iowa and North Dakota.
Minnesota – Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Wisconsin – Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge
North Dakota – Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
South Dakota – Custer State Park
Nebraska – Fort Robinson State Park
Three of the five stops on this pet friendly road trip are on the Great Lakes! Absorb the energy of downtown Chicago at Navy Pier. And contrast that with the pace of life on Mackinac Island – where cars are prohibited. You’ll enjoy both ends of the spectrum!
West Virginia – Monongahela National Forest
Ohio – The Holden Arboretum
Illinois – Chicago Lakefront Trail & Navy Pier
Indiana – Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Michigan – Mackinac Island and Arch Rock
Road tripping pets are going to adore this route through the southern plains. Romp at the incredible off-leash dog park at Shelby Farms, then stiff along the 444-mile Natchez Trace! Finally, relax in the shadow of the monumental Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Louisiana – State Capitol Gardens in Baton Rouge
Mississippi – The Natchez Trace Parkway
Tennessee – Shelby Farms Park Off-Leash Area
Missouri – Gateway Arch Park
You can see a lot without traveling far in New England! Enjoy Central Park in the heart of Manhattan, then explore the trail in Acadia National Park. Finally, take a splash in the pond at Dog Mountain. From beginning to end, this trip is a pet’s dream come true.
New York – Central Park
Connecticut – Mystic Seaport
Rhode Island – Newport Cliff Walk
Massachusetts – The Freedom Trail
Maine – Acadia National Park
New Hampshire – Mt. Washington and the White Mountain National Forest
Vermont – Dog Mountain
The theme of this trip is early American history with a lot fun thrown in! Learn about the first Europeans to arrive in the New World in Colonial Williamsburg. Stroll through Washington, DC, where history is made every day. Then enjoy a day on the Jersey shore before heading to the Pocono Mountains for a scenic train ride.
Virginia – Colonial Williamsburg
Washington, DC – The National Mall
Maryland – Cruise on Chesapeake Bay
Delaware – Walking Tour of Historic New Castle
New Jersey – The Jersey Shore at Wildwood Dog Beach
Pennsylvania – Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
Beautiful gardens await your arrival on this pet friendly road trip through the Southeast. Wander the paths through Rock City, where on a clear day you can view seven states! Then admire the last large-scale romantic-style garden at Magnolia Plantation. Finally, spend a day exploring the formal gardens and wooded trails of the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate.
Alabama – Little River Canyon National Preserve
Georgia – Rock City Gardens
Florida – Fort De Soto Dog Beach
South Carolina – Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
North Carolina – Biltmore Estate Gardens and Grounds
So there you have it! All that’s left to do is pack the car, crank up the tunes, and hit the road.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips for a Cross-Country Road Trip with Pets
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