The companionship of our four-legged friends is one of the things we enjoy most about our camping getaways. A long walk or game of fetch is as much a part of the outdoor lifestyle as s’mores by the campfire. But summer’s soaring temperatures can take the bounce out of your pup’s step. And while long, sunny days can be tough on your pet, cold weather can be equally challenging.
The Rules of Pet Camping
No matter what the weather is like outside, following proper pet-camper etiquette year-round keeps you and your dog happy and healthy. Arrive at camp prepared with poop scoop bags; a dog towel and grooming brushes to keep your dog’s coat free of dirt, twigs and bugs; a hearty supply of your pup’s favorite food and treats; pet meds, including flea and tick prevention medication; and clean drinking water for the road trip and trail adventures. Make sure all your dog’s shots are up to date and keep a vaccination record in your glove compartment. Research your camping destination ahead of time for toxic plants and wildlife that may pose a threat to your dog. And finally, live by these simple and universal pet-camping rules: keep your dog under control and on a six foot leash, never leave your dog unattended or tied up outside your rent or RV, and keep barking to a minimum.
The Best Season for Pet Camping
Crisp mornings, cozy evenings and golden days make autumn one of the best times to take your pet camping. As cold weather moves in to the north and summer’s grip hasn’t quite loosened to the south, a band of lower elevation campgrounds across the middle of the country welcome you with dog-friendly trails and lakes, dog parks and pet-friendly accommodations.
From Arizona to Arkansas, we found the best campgrounds to welcome you and Fido this fall.
Here are the top 10 pet-friendly campgrounds in America.
1. The Pampered Pooch
What: 4 Paws Kingdom Campground & Dog Retreat
Where: Rutherfordton, North Carolina
Dogs come first at this canine retreat, with fenced swimming ponds, multiple off-leash play parks, hiking trails, agility park, doggie bathhouse and grooming station, and pet-friendly cabins.
2. Chase the Waves
What: Cape Henlopen State Park
Where: Lewes, Delaware
Cape Henlopen is a seaworthy pup’s dream, with ocean and bay beaches and pet-friendly cabins. Take your dog swimming before 8 a.m. and after 6:30 p.m. during the summer. Once October arrives, beaches are open to dogs on leash all the time.
3. Doggie Triathlon: Swim, Bark, Run
What: Aux Arc Campground
Where: Ozark, Arkansas
Wake up to a brisk walk under the colorful autumn foliage at this dog-friendly campground on the banks of the Arkansas River. Your pup can cool off with a dip in the river, break for a midday siesta while you enjoy the river views from your campsite, and hit the trails by your side for sunset.
4. Frolic in the Meadows
What: Big Meadows Campground
Where: Stanley, Virginia
Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park is one of just a handful of national parks that allow dogs on most trails. In addition to the pet-friendly campground, there are a number of rooms in Big Meadows Lodge, as well as cabins in Skyland and Lewes Mountain, that allow pets to stay the night.
5. Make New Friends
What: Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA Campground
Where: Watsonville, California
Kampgrounds of America is notorious for their pet-friendly amenities, including pet clean-up stations and plenty of room to exercise on campground trails. This park goes one step further, with jumps, ladders, seesaws and more in their fenced, off-leash Kamp K9 Dog Park.
6. Take a Hike
What: Cedar Breaks Park Campground
Where: Georgetown, Texas
A 26-mile hiking trail loops around Lake Georgetown, with plenty of spots for water-loving pups to get their feet wet along the way. An added bonus: this oasis feels remote but is only 30 minutes from dog-friendly downtown Austin.
7. Gone Fishing
What: Mistletoe State Park Campground
Where: Appling, Georgia
Pet-friendly campsites and cabins are positioned to take in the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets over Clarks Hill Lake, one of the largest lakes in the southeast. Located on a peninsula with plenty of shoreline for water play, Mistletoe has 15 miles of dog-friendly hiking trails. And if you and your pooch like to fish together, Clarks Hill Lake happens to be one of the best spots to catch bass in the country.
8. Off-Leash Lake Fun
What: Salt Fork State Park Campground
Where: Lore City, Ohio
While campsites and cabins welcome canine visitors at Salt Fork, that’s only the beginning. In the fenced, off-leash dog park on the shores of Salt Fork Lake, your pup can swim and play with other canine campers all day long. If that doesn’t wear them out, there are also 14 miles of dog-friendly hiking trails along the park’s forested shores.
9. Lodge Living
What: Kenlake State Resort Park Campground
Where: Hardin, Kentucky
You and your pet have your choice of accommodations at this upscale state park resort on Kentucky Lake, just minutes from Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Pet-friendly lodge rooms, cabins and campsites let your pup lounge in comfort while you enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, tennis and everything else the resort offers. Together, you can walk the resort’s manicured grounds, wooded footpaths and over 500 miles of pet-friendly trails.
10. Desert Adventure
What: Bonita Canyon Campground
Where: Willcox, Arizona
The shady, pet-friendly campsites in Chiricahua National Monument are the perfect base camp for you and your pup to explore the otherworldly landscape nicknamed the “Wonderland of Rocks.” Dogs are allowed on the park’s eight-mile scenic drive, the paths around the visitor center and campground, and trails in surrounding Coronado National Forest.
Ann Gibson, Sat Aug 18 2018