Though I rarely get the chance to set out into the open arms of nature with a backpack, tent, and whatever else is appropriate in the wilderness, I have to admit the idea is more enticing with dogs. Like, appealing enough to actually consider forfeiting the use of toilets. And showers. And don’t get me started on the mosquitos.
But don’t let me put you down. If you feel so inclined—before the winter turns us all into homebodies—take a closer look at these 10 gorgeous, and generally really freakin’ cool, state parks that are 100% dog-friendly.
1. Allegany State Park: Salamanca, New York
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the explosion of fall color, Allegany is the place to do it. Though the leaves alone are spectacular, this park is open year-round and is the biggest in New York spanning over 65,000 acres. With more than a dozen trails and plenty of free-roamin’ space, your dog’s nose will get tired before he does.
2. Huntington Beach State Park: Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
Open-ocean scenery for the land-locked is never a bad thing. Huntington Beach features vast, open sandy beaches with great surf fishing, a nature center, and that salty ocean smell I can never get enough of. Plus, you can see loggerhead turtles up close and explore the nearby freshwater lakes. Pups must stay on-leash, though, ’cause gators are not uncommon in the picturesque freshwaters.
3. Oak Mountain State Park: Pelham, Alabama
With roughly 10,000 acres of land and 50 miles of recreational trails, there will be no scents gone un-smelled by visiting pups. Campsites are available for folks who wish to extend their stay, and two fishing lakes and plenty of shoreline mean a dip in the water is not out of the question.
4. Tuttle Creek State Park: Manhattan, Kansas
For those who don’t wish to cut off all ties with civilization, this park is conveniently located near a selection of restaurants and on-the-beaten-path activities. There is still plenty of room to roam, on-leash, around nearly 100 miles of untouched shoreline.
5. Antelope Island State Park: Syracuse, Utah
Surrounded by the beautiful Great Salt Lake, there’s a good reason for the name. Besides the rugged, nearly 30,000-acre landscape, visitors can witness herds of antelope and bison just carrying about their daily biz-ness. While beaches, park buildings, and select trails are off-limits to pups, there are plenty more to explore—plus, the campsite welcomes dogs.
6. Big Bone Lick State Park: Union, Kentucky
Funny as it sounds, Big Bone Lick is home to countless remains of wooly mammoths, mastodons, and giant sloths that once walked the earth. Understandably, this site is considered the birthplace of American paleontology, but your dog doesn’t need to know that. He can just bark at the bison and hike through the trails for a while before cuddling up with you in a tent.
7. Lost Dutchman State Park: Apache Junction, Arizona
Mule deer, coyotes, and jackrabbits call this place home, but they prefer to keep to themselves. This park beckons you to come camp, hike, and meander along nature trails, some of which lead into Superstitious Wilderness (home to much-fabled buried treasures) and Tonto National Forest. Not for the faint of heart, the trails here can be steep and challenging, so don’t forget some good shoes and plenty of water for you both!
8. Cross Ranch State Park: Center, North Dakota
The land here is untouched and primitive, meant to preserve the last several rugged miles of the Missouri River and the history it holds. Pups are, of course, welcome, but are not allowed access in swimming areas. Have no fear, though: there are extensive foot trails just asking to be explored, and you can even visit again later for cross-country skiing!
9. Abilene State Park: Abilene, Texas
A wooded hiking trail holds tons of native wildlife, and the crowd of trees bowed over the campground offers an almost mystical feel. Campsites, screened shelters, and yurts are available to rest your feet and paws, and your pup has access to as much of the forest as his heart desires.
10. Benicia State Recreation Area: Benicia, California
Step out of the woods and into the hillsides, marshes, and rocky beaches where you can picnic, fish, and hike with every member of the family. With great views and an abundance of wildlife, there’s always something to enjoy without getting your paws too dirty.