Wheelhouse Journey

Top Five Tips for Dog-Friendly West Coast Exploration

by Mar 5, 2018Dog Friendly

Denali’s First Trip to the Ocean in Oregon

Since we started full-time RV traveling in July ’17, our dog has always been by our side.  Exploring the country together was one of the reasons we decided to travel full-time. Sharing adventures with our dog is a really fun and fulfilling part of life on the road for us. (Of course there are exceptions, but that’s how we approach most of our exploration.) Sometimes it’s more difficult to figure out where to go, so we wanted to share our top five tips for dog-friendly West Coast exploration.

Parker Seeing the Grand Canyon for the First Time

1. National Parks & Monuments have dog-friendly components

This was probably the biggest pleasant surprise of our journey. We were worried that traveling with our pup would completely conflict with our interest in exploring National Parks/Monuments. What we’ve found is that while you won’t be able to do all the top attractions/hikes, a number of the NP’s have something meaningful you can explore with your dog beyond the scenic drives. (Note, so far we’ve primarily explored the West Coast but expect this tip applies broadly.)

The Grand Canyon South Rim Trail is a 13 mile trail walk along the canyon with amazing views. In Yosemite National Park, you can walk around the Village or Glacier Point which one of us did with Denali while the other hiked. In Saguaro NP, there’s a half mile dirt road off the scenic Cactus Forest Loop Drive where you can walk your dog. Glacier NP allows dogs in Apgar Village and we read there’s a 2.5 mile dog-friendly hike between West Glacier and Apgar Village.

On the other hand, Joshua Tree NP with all its jumping cholla cacti  is pretty limited in dog-friendly exploration areas.Kings Canyon NP is also very limited in stuff you can do on foot with your pup but that wasn’t as important to us since we all did the awesome 50 mile Kings Canyon Scenic Byway drive. (Because of the fires in the area, we didn’t really get to explore Crater Lake NP , but we know dogs aren’t allowed on major trails around the lake although there are several other trails and places that are dog-friendly.)

National Monuments usually have even more you can do with your pup. Denali hiked the Paulina Creek Falls trail with us in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument in Bend, Oregon. The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Casa Grande, AZ allows dogs to tour the ruins with you.

We always look at the park’s website before we visit or clarify with the park rangers. We’ve always found them to be super friendly and many have dog treats!

Hiking at Usery Mountain Regional Park, AZ with Parker

2. Oregon and Arizona are terrific dog-friendly exploration states

As we’ve traveled on the West Coast, we’ve been impressed with the dog-friendliness of Oregon and Arizona. In Oregon, dogs are allowed on most beaches. Denali’s first visit to the ocean was at Oceanside Beach and he loved the soft dunes in Central Oregon. (While we were awed by the beauty of  the California coast, we didn’t find as many beaches welcomed dogs.) We love to hike and were excited to find that the majority of waterfall hikes in the Columbia River Gorge allow dogs on leashes. Similarly, most hiking trails in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona (except at National Parks and Camelback Mountain) are dog-friendly. Once Parker got all his shots, we started hiking a few times a week with him in Arizona.

There are also very dog-friendly towns like Bend and Hood River, Oregon and Flagstaff, Arizona. In addition to eating on the patio with your pup, there are water dishes on the street corners, and you can take your pup with you inside the stores. (When in doubt, we just ask someone in the store.)

Denali Enjoying Plum Hill’s Tasting Room

3. Some Breweries & Wineries welcome dogs in the tasting rooms

Many breweries and wineries allow dogs on patios but we’ve also been to a number of places that invite pups inside which is a terrific bonus when the weather’s not perfect. Most of these places have light snacks or food trucks parked outside so you can still get a bite to eat. Some of our favorite breweries that welcome dogs inside are South Lake Brewing Company in South Lake Tahoe, Belching Beaver in San Diego, and Borderlands Brewing Company in Tucson. All of these places not only had employees and patrons that were very friendly to our pup but also awesome brews!

Similarly, some wineries are VERY dog-friendly and not only welcome dogs in the tasting room but cater to them. Plum Hill Vineyards in Gaston, Oregon has a wonderful “Yappy Hour” for you and your pup. Girardet Wine Cellar and Delfino Vineyards & Winery in Roseburg, Oregon went out of their way to make Denali feel like a special guest. These wineries also had some of our favorite red wines of the trip so far!

Exploring Portland’s Rose Garden with Denali

4. There are some surprisingly dog-friendly attractions

In Hood River, Oregon, we were able to bring Denali through the Lavender Valley lavender farm with us (we just had to keep him out of the tight rows of plants.) And he enjoyed all the scents wandering through Portland’s International Rose Test Garden. We’ve read that the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson allows dogs throughout the museum.

5. Petco, PetSmart, Home Depot and Camping World provide great retail therapy outlets

Something we sometimes take for granted, but when you want to break up your trip or just enjoy some air-conditioning, you can browse in these national chains with your pup.

As we travel beyond the West Coast, we’re looking for more unexpected places for dog-friendly exploration and will add them to our journey map. We’ d love to hear about your experiences too! What have you learned about exploring with your pup?



Nancy is an avid runner, hiker, and proponent of healthy living who enjoys awesome food and wine. She loves exploring with her amazing husband and raising their puppy.


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