Planning the Perfect Dog Friendly Road Trip

by Marc Miller

August 15, 2021

Planning the perfect dog friendly road trip, as we soon discovered, isn’t as flexible as it is with your fellow human friend or family member. Dogs aren’t human, therefore pose a different threat both to themselves and the environment which can put them or even you in a tough spot. After reading a bit, there are two big reasons why some national and state parks do not allow our fuzzy pals to visit:

  • Protection of local wildlife. What if your dog is a chaser? If he sees a local enjoying their lives and decides to chase them, that could cause trouble. That could freak out some animal families and perhaps cause them to lose track of their young.
  • Wildlife ecology and ecosystem disturbance is the next biggest one. In other words, your dog is eventually going to have to take a shite and when that happens, even if you clean it up quickly, there will be a scent left behind. This scent can attract other predators into the area that do not usually frequent. This can be dangerous depending. Also, there are those people out there who refuse to pick up their dog’s waste, so leaving it behind on the trail can cause negative environmental impact as well as making it less enjoyable for everyone else.

The good news is during your route and destination research, you’ll find there are also a lot of parks that do welcome your fur-shrouded companion with open arms. If the park you want to visit doesn’t exactly welcome them, there are sometimes alternatives nearby that are just as great of an experience.

During our planning, we decided to just jump into the deep end and plan the trip route as rough as we could, research each location, and take it from there and adjust. Here’s what we ended up doing…

Planning the Overall Route

For us, it was pretty simple at the beginning: find a super fun route from Atlanta (our home) to the Great Redwood Forest where Enzo can pee on the largest tree of his life… and drive back. As of writing this, we’re still tweaking quite a bit and using different methods, but here’s how we’ve been handling it…

1. Pinpoint the Stopping Points

Whether these are state or national parks, random wilderness dry-camping spots, or tourist traps… it’s good to just go ahead and blindly point at the map and yell “I want to go here!” and record those without any rules. Just go ahead and get it out of your system. Point everything out that you’re interested in and get it on the map, or write it on a list of some kind. You can always distill later based on rules and other needs that you’ll explore later.

Christine asked me where I wanted to go and most of the places I was super interested in, like METEOR CRATER was a bit too far out of our way… but you know, that’s okay. I got lucky with a few others.

2. Research Dog Friendliness at Each Location

More than likely, most of your initial choices are going to be a bit on the unfriendly side for your little fuzz guy. What you may have to do from here is research alternative places (smaller parks, other camping solutions) which are equally as breathtaking, but a big safer and more friendly for you as a group.

As mentioned way above, there are legitimate concerns from the parks as to why they discourage bringing your dog, but no need to feel defeated. There are lots of cool parks out there that are super friendly, and even some close-by alternatives in case where you want to go isn’t as friendly. You can view some friendly places to visit in this blog we found. This article also offers some great direction.

3. Get Your Reservations and Park Passes!

I’m putting this one as #3 because ever since COVID, reservations at the parks and campgrounds has become a thing. I believe (and I could be wrong) that in the past these were on a first-come first-serve basis, but now most of these places require booking online ahead of time. But yeah, I put it here on the listbecause if any of these places are full, you’ll have to make some adjustments to your route.

4. Organize the Days

This is harder than it sounds – well, at least for us it was (is). We went from using a large dry-erase calendar to scribe potential parks on certain days, to moving to the living room wall to mock a calendar and use note cards to represent what we wanted to do. If we had any changes, we could easily move the note card to another day. There’s a balance of two major things during the process:

  1. Know enough about each location to decide how long you want to stay and visit.
  2. Spread the trip out across the allocated days you have so you don’t drive yourself to death.

#2 admittedly was the most difficult one to obey. I really hate driving in general, but we decided to justput in the extra time during the first few days to get out west where we’re going to be spending most of our time.

What We Ended Up With…

It took a few weeks of tweaking, booking, and re-organizing… but we finally ended up with this…

Enzo’s Great Adventure Itinerary

There we have it! Just short one a one-month long adventure out west and back. Looks pretty good to us, but everything else after this regarding the route is going to be a learning experience. I’m sure we’ll have to make some adjustments while we’re on the road due to unpredictable circumstances. But yeah, this is the rough outline. We’ll see how it works out!

Other Thoughts…

Lots of work went into this, and definitely not most of it from me. Christine did a fantastic job doing the heavy lifting on this stuff. If anyone reads this and wants to know any details or seeks a bit of advice on additional details on how we did this, feel free to ask below and we’ll be glad to help!

by Marc Miller

Marc R. Miller is an Atlanta, GA based front-end developer, project manager, writer, and online marketing specialist. Prior to developing, Marc hand-crafted custom surface drives for offshore powerboats in St. Augustine, FL. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.