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Dog-Friendly Destinations Near Washington, D.C.

The area within a single day’s drive of Washington, D.C. is utterly rich with natural resources for recreation and industry. Host to mountainous Appalachia, seasonal beaches on the warm Atlantic, the city itself lies on one of the mighty rivers of North America that empties into the largest estuary in the United States and once provided nearly 200 miles of fully navigable waters that nearly connected this region to all of the Mississippi watershed. Home to both modern and ancient human history, from the curious spread of the Iroquoian language to the first shots fired for emancipation, you are in a great place to have new experiences with your pet.

Less Than An Hour’s Drive 😀
(Dog-Friendly Afternoons & Mornings)

Glencarlyn Dog Park
Arlington, VA
Sunrise to Sunset
Some Leash Use Required, Off-Leash Dog Park Area
No Fees
Website

This unique dog park offers a running body of water on the boundary of the park. The stream bed is mostly small stones and it’s really good for dogs to splash around in. There’s no fence on the far side of the stream so it may not be appropriate for dog/guardian teams that have poor recall. Don’t forget to throw a towel in your car before you leave for Glencarlyn dog park.

Barkhaus Bar, Restaurant, and Dog Park
Arlington, VA
Business Hours Vary
Some Leash Use Required, Off-Leash Dog Park Area
$10 Dog Fee (Check Website for 1st Time Discount)
Website

It’s a bar. With food and table service. For you and your dog. You can also go without a dog! There’s a supervised dog park on premises and the staff takes care of almost everything. Monthly and yearly memberships are also available. This is not a natural resource, but it’s still cool enough to get mentioned here.

WO&D Trail
Sterling, VA
Sunrise to Sunset
Leash Use Required
No Fees
Website

A 45-mile rail trail through the heart of Northern Virginia offers plenty of opportunities for a walk, jog, run, or cycle tour with your doggo. A number of dog-friendly businesses line the trail with outdoor seating like Carolina Pit Brothers BBQ in Ashburn or Mile 20 in Herndon. Dog waste stations are available in various parts of the trail and while there are road crossings, much of the trail is separate from vehicle traffic.

One to Two Hours in the Car 😅
(Dog-Friendly Day Trips)

Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area, George Washington & Jefferson National Forest
Fort Valley, VA
Sunrise to Sunset, Some Activities All Hours
Wilderness Area with Some Leash Requirements
No Fees
WebsiteTrip Report: 2020-10 Meneka Peak, VA

While policies may vary between facilities and seasons, in most National Forest service land, dogs are not required to be on-leash in many places! The day-use area of the Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area is a great base to explore the wilderness of the surrounding national forest. While dogs must be on-leash in the actual recreation area and in campgrounds, there are miles of trails where well controlled and behaved dogs can let loose. Important note: these trails do see regular use, but you will often be alone in the forest. There’s a lot of wildlife activity including bears. Be prepared, have what you need to carry your dog out, and have a picture of your dog on you.

The Family Drive-In Theater
Stephens City, VA
Just Before Sunset to Two Feature Films After Sunset
Leash Use Required
Started at $15 – Tickets per Movie Watcher
WebsiteTrip Report: 2020-08 Seneca Rocks, WV and Stephens City, VA

A classic drive-in theater in the old ways, traditional speaker box hanging through your open window, a big Coke to wash down a tray of chili-cheese fries, and the latest summer thriller on the big screen. All of that with your dog by your side, stealing every piece of popcorn you drop! Great for families, dates, or just on your own. Traditional drive-in theater food is decent quality and freshly made, or you can make your pup jealous with some drive-thru burgers and milkshakes from Spelunker’s in nearby Front Royal.

C&O Canal National Historic Park
Hancock, MD
Sunrise to Sunset, Some Activities All Hours
Leash Use Required Except for Swimming or Permitted Hunting
No Fees
Website

It’s worth the excursion to get out of the city to this charming Appalachian mountain town. Hancock has may opportunities for recreation with your doggo. Rent a bike from C&O Bicycle and ride the C&O canal towpath or the Western Maryland Rail Trail. Hop straight into the pre-suburban waters of the upper Potomac river just outside of town, or take your dog out in a yak. Fuel up your adventure at one of the outdoor tables at Buddylou’s before you head out of town.

Between Two to Four Hours of Driving 🤔
(Dog-Friendly Weekend Getaways)

Assateague Island National Seashore
Berlin, MD
Sunrise to Sunset, Some Activities All Hours
Leash Use Required
$25 for a 7-day Entrance Permit
WebsiteTrip Report: 2020-06 Assateague Island National Seashore, MD

There’s actually a great reason why this location requires leashes – the wild ponies that will sometimes walk right up to you! You can also spend the day at the beach with your doggo so they’ll get to see what it’s all about. Bring everything you need, the national park is not a beach resort. Campsites on the island get reserved very quickly, so book early if you want to pitch a tent. The resort town of Ocean City, MD is only 20 minutes away with a wide variety of lodging options.

White Grass XC Ski Resort
Davis, WV
Sunrise to Sunset
Leash Use Recommended
$25 per Skiier
WebsiteTrip Report: 2020-12 White Grass Ski Touring Center, WV

White Grass has exactly one trail you’re allowed to bring your dog on, but that’s pretty much all you need! Let your dog do half the work and help you up the hills on your cross country ski adventure. Forest Road 80 leads you to the Dolly Sods Wilderness area, where you can XC ski all sorts of t rails to your heart’s content, assuming there’s a good snow pack on the ground. Snowshoes work well for those that just want to go on a winter hike with their pup. Decent food is offered at the resort’s charming cafe in their very old school lodge. Nearby dog-friendly lodging options include the Canaan Valley Resort cabins, cottages, and campground in addition to local Airbnbs and hotel/motels in Davis.

Monongahela National Forest
Elkins, WV
Sunrise to Sunset, Some Activities All Hours
Some Leash Use Required
No Fees
Website

There’s a lot going on with this national forest. Seneca Rocks alone is worth a visit. Hiking and automobile touring opportunities are abound. Take a dirt road through the wilderness and hop out when a trail looks good for you and the doggo. Elkins serves as a good base camp with a lot of dog-friendly lodging options. West Virginia cuisine is unique Americana and definitely worth exploring. This is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Maggie and I love booking a riverside cabin in the woods with a hot tub and just lazing the day away by the fire. Please note that dogs on horse trails should be on leash regardless of local policy for the horse’s sake.

Four to Eight Hours Behind the Wheel 🥵
(Dog-Friendly Extended Weekend Trips)

ACE Adventure Resort
Oak Hill, WV
Sunrise to Sunset, Resort Appropriate Hours for Services
Some Leash Use Required
$40-300 per night
Website

When I can get away for more than a couple days, I like to bring a friend and the dog to a cabin at ACE. The whitewater rafting in the New River Gorge is beyond excellent with this outfit. The outdoor resort is highly developed and offers a lot of amenities, as well as fun events throughout the year like music festivals. Many facilities are pet-friendly and there are miles of trails to give your furry friend plenty to do between naps on the porch.

Areas Surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Gatlinburg, TN
All Sorts of Hours
Various Pet/Leash Requirements
$60 – 400 per night
Website

This gets a little complicated. At the center of this destination is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which does not allow dogs on most of its trails and confines dogs to designated campgrounds, picnic-areas, and along the roads. So aside from quickly hitting some of the iconic sights of the park, this is a driving vacation as the park itself is virtually surrounded by much more dog-friendly national forest land. Gatlinburg itself is a little more dog friendly with plenty of accommodations and dog kennel facilities if you need to drop your dog off for a day to snag the famous smoky mountain selfie. The national forests surrounding the national park offer a multitude of outdoors opportunities for hiking, canoeing, and swimming with your dog. Eastern Tennessee is a prime location for waterfall hunting.

Susquehannock State Forest
Williamsport, PA
Open All Hours
Wilderness Area with Some Leash Requirements
No Fees
Website

Another east coast wilderness area with abundant outdoor recreation opportunities that your furry friend can come along with. This region of the country is internationally recognized for dark skies – you would have to travel significantly further to see more of the universe when you look up at night. Miles of trails for all seasons. The Susquehannock State Forest is a working forest that is actively managed for recreation and natural resource harvesting for the benefit of the people of Pennsylvania. Even if you’re a hotel-to-hotel traveler, take a sunset drive up to Cherry Springs state park on a clear day to experience the true night sky.

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