In our house you could say camping has gone to the dogs…or the cats. Either way, camping is ALL about the pets for us. After all, what’s the point of being somewhere if you can’t share it with your furry friends, both the human and the animal version? So, when we’re on the road we do our prep work to make sure the places we go are pet-friendly, and our pets nod their approval with kitty-purrs and sloppy kisses. Here’s our favourite resources:
1. General Dog-Friendly Spots - http://dogfriendly.com/ and http://www.bringfido.com/ are our two of our all-time favorite online doggie sites. A newer website which is growing and looks very promising is http://gopetfriendly.com/. These 3 sites list almost everything that’s dog-friendly everywhere, including city guides, parks, hiking, beaches etc. When we’re in a spot and looking for a place to take pooch, we go here.
2. Private Campgrounds – Although we tend to avoid them these days, most private campgrounds do accept pets, but some will have either size, breed or number restrictions. If you do your research you can find exceptional dog-loving spots, for example Four Paws Kingdom in NC and Winding River RV Park in CO (a Polly-approved spot), but unfortunately we haven’t found a good guide that sorts through all the choices. The sites from #1 have listings, plus there’s a couple of other websites out there (e.g. petswelcome.com and petfriendlytravel.com), but they’re generally spotty/incomplete. Of the big three GoPetFriendly.com seems to have the most promising listing directory. Given the trouble and our need for more open space and hiking we’ve ditched this option for #3, 4 and 5 below.
3. National Forest & State Parks – If you asked Polly she’d likely wonder why we EVER stay in a private park, and I have to admit we’ve come around to her point of view. As opposed to private campgrounds, National Forest and State Parks rarely have any pet restrictions. In addition they tend to have plenty of space, dog-friendly hiking trails and (often) open spots/fields where one can go a little dog-nutty (as one does, on occasion). In fact we consider these areas 12 paws better than the real thing and haven’t stayed elsewhere in months. For National Forest check out http://www.forestcamping.com/, and http://www.recreation.gov/. For State Parks, go to the State webpage for your area.
4. Army Corps of Engineers - The Army Corps of Engineers is another pet-friendly group that manages over 2,500 recreation areas. We’ve tried quite a few of their campgrounds and find them right up our alley. They’re often centered around lake areas that’ll have an “unofficial” spot where you and doggie can enjoy the water together. The Corps publishes a book and also runs a website with their locations: http://corpslakes.usace.army.mil/visitors/
5. Bureau of Land Management - In addition to the official camping spots, our government manages a ton of other public land which is open to everyone, including our furry friends. Your home-grown RVer can easily find a nice, primitive campground here, while the more adventurous boondocker can search for completely-off-the-beaten-track camping spots. http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en.html
6. Hiking Trails – We are big paw-fans of the trails on National Forest and State Parks, but if you’re looking for something more specific “Best Hikes with Dogs“ has created a website and guide books dedicated to the art of getting out in the wild with doggie. Check them out: http://www.besthikeswithdogs.com/
And that, as they say, is how you do it. You’ll notice National Parks are not on this list and for good reason. Despite the nature and open space, National Parks are rather dog-unfriendly and most won’t allow pooch on any of the trails (with very, very few exceptions). We’re quite happy with our somewhat off-the-track spots and are likely to go even more off-beat as time goes on.
So, on that note, may the rivers be plentiful, the squirrels abound and the paws be with you on all your travels….