From the sun-kissed beaches of Florida to the lush forests of Maine, the east coast of the U.S. boasts a variety of pet-friendly state parks where you can explore the great outdoors with your dog. With places like Virginia allowing pets in every state park, it’s hard to go wrong, but of course, some parks provide more activities for four-legged adventurers than others. We’ve scoured the east coast to find 12 state parks that your pup won’t ever want to leave.
The Best Dog-Friendly State Parks on the East Coast
Posted by Lauren Barker
Letchworth State Park
You don’t need to head west for Grand Canyon views. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is renowned for its natural beauty, with the Genesee River flowing through the gorge and plunging over three towering waterfalls as high as 600 feet in some places. Hike with Fido along 66 miles of trails through lush forests, stopping at some of the most scenic viewpoints in the eastern U.S. At the southern end of the park, you’ll find the famed Upper, Middle and Lower Genesee Falls. Hike the Gorge Trail to get a close-up view of all three. If you’re not up for a trek, drive the 17-mile Park Road, stopping at overlooks along the way including Inspiration Point, where you can view the Genesee Arch Bridge and enjoy a picnic lunch with your pup.
Dog-friendly campsites are available at Letchworth State Park Campground, where pets are permitted for no additional fee. If you prefer more creature comforts, spend a weekend at Allegiance Bed and Breakfast in Mount Morris. Two dogs up to 80 lbs are accepted for an additional fee of $15 per pet, per night.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Grab your sled and head to Jockey's Ridge State Park with Fido, home to the largest sand dune on the Atlantic coast. Dogs are welcome to join you while you ride the dunes and marvel at the view of the ocean and Roanoke Sound. Year-round prevailing winds also make this area a perfect spot for kite flying. To access the dune field, stroll along the 360-foot boardwalk, stopping along the way to read exhibits detailing the park’s ecology. Visit the soundside of the park and enjoy sunbathing, wading, and a 1-mile nature trail that opens onto wetlands, grassy dunes and maritime shrub thickets. Just remember to watch for sand spurs that might attach to your pup’s fur, and protect his paws from the hot sand.
Bring the whole family along and rest up at Happy Dog Days. This pet-friendly rental features a paw-shaped swimming pool, fenced yard with a puppy play area, and canine decor throughout. Dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $150 per pet, per stay.
Savannas Preserve State Park
Savannas Preserve State Park is a representation of the basin marsh that once covered all of south Florida. This protected, undisturbed landscape is a dog- and nature-lover’s paradise. Hike with Fido on 17 miles of multi-use trails through the marsh system, spotting wildlife like gopher tortoises, deer, marsh rabbit, or even an occasional alligator (keep your pup on a leash!). Bring your own canoe or kayak and paddle the waterways, or join one of the guided tours on Friday and Saturday mornings. Mountain biking, fishing and birdwatching are also popular park activities to enjoy with your pooch.
While it feels like a world away, Savannas Preserve State Park is located on the edge of Port St. Lucie. Relax poolside at this Lullaby Terrace with a fenced back yard for Fido. Dogs of any size are allowed for an additional fee of $30 per pet, per stay.
Jones Gap and Caesars Head State Parks
In upstate South Carolina, you and your furry hiking companion can traverse between two state parks when you visit Jones Gap and Caesars Head. There are over 60 miles of hiking trails for all skill levels linking the two parks, including the popular 4-mile Raven Cliff Falls Overlook in Caesars Head, which provides views of the tallest waterfall in South Carolina. If one waterfall isn’t enough, follow the Jones Gap Loop Trail to the 150-foot freefalling Rainbow Falls. Fido can splash in the Middle Saluda River on the way up and cool off in the billowing mist at the base of the falls. If you’re not an avid hiker, check out the breathtaking views at the 0.3-mile Ceasar’s Head Overlook.
It’s hard to beat the beauty of the Jones Gap State Park Campground’s walk-in tent sites along the Middle Saluda River. Pets of any size are allowed for no additional fee. But after a long day of hiking, tired pups might prefer to rest up at this riverside home in Marietta, which features a fenced backyard and outdoor fire pit. Dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $50 per pet, per stay.
First Landing State Park
Let Fido walk through the sands of time at First Landing State Park, where Jamestown colonists first landed in 1607. This coastal park offers 20 miles of pet-friendly trails and a beach along the Chesapeake Bay that welcomes dogs year-round. You and your pup can also learn about maritime forest ecology, which includes bald cypress trees, lagoons, rare plants and wildlife. Just be aware that the park is located next to a military training center and occasional loud noises could startle your pooch, making it even more vital that leash laws are followed.
First Landing State Park Campground and Cabins are available from March 1 through early December, and pets are permitted for an additional fee of $5 per pet, per night at campsites and $10 per pet, per night in cabins. Just outside the park, Bay Breeze Retreat accepts two pets of any size for an additional fee of $25 per pet, per night and offers a fenced yard for Fido to roam.
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
Take Fido on a trip up the coast of New England to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park. This coastal park sprawls across 200 acres of climax white pine and hemlock forests, a salt marsh estuary, and the rocky shorelines of Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River. Hike with Fido along the Casco Bay Trail to viewpoints of Eagle and Cousin Islands, and let him dip his paws in the water at points along the path. Interpretive signs along the trails point out important features, and picnic areas under a canopy of oak trees make the perfect spot for a lunch break. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, particularly osprey who nest on nearby Googins Island and spend their summer in the park. In the fall, the leaves turn a vibrant yellow, providing spectacular leaf peeping opportunities for you and your pup.
Book a night in The Carriage House at Harraseeket Inn. Visiting canines will receive a dog bed, bowls and a can of dog food, while humans will appreciate townhouse amenities including a wood-burning fireplace in some units. You might even meet Rodger Dodger, the official spokesdog for the Inn. Pets of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $25 per pet, per night.
Skidaway Island State Park
Located near historic Savannah, Skidaway Island State Park borders Skidaway Narrows, part of Georgia’s Intracoastal Waterway. Hike with your hound along 6 miles of trails that wind through maritime forest, salt marshes, and under live Oaks draped in Spanish moss. Stroll along the boardwalk to the observation tower, keeping your eyes peeled for deer, fiddler crabs, raccoons, egrets and migrating birds such as colorful painted buntings. Geocaching and bike riding are also popular park activities your canine explorer can tag along for.
Reserve a tent or RV campsite at the state park’s campground and kick back under the live oaks and Spanish moss, or bring your own kayak and stay nearby at the Blue Kayak House. The community boat ramp makes it easy to explore the surrounding salt marsh and barrier islands with your pup. Two dogs of any size are permitted for an additional fee of $75 per dog, per stay.
Fort Adams State Park
Bring Fido along to visit the largest and most complex coastal fortification in the U.S. at Fort Adams State Park. Your pup is welcome to join you on a guided tour of this World War II fort located at the mouth of Newport Harbor. You’ll hear stories of American history and military culture while marveling at complex architecture and engineering, and take in panoramic views of Narragansett Bay. Dogs are also permitted in open spaces throughout the park, a section of pet-friendly beach, and on the 2-mile Fort Adams Bay Walk, where you can catch a beautiful sunset.
Spend the night at nearby Paws on Pelham, an inn created with pets in mind. All 13 rooms welcome four-legged guests, feature dog decor, and include a whimsical dog bed just for Fido. He’ll also receive bowls, a pet mat, and treats at check-in. Two pets of any size are accepted for no additional fee.
Halibut Point State Park
Explore trails and tide pools with Fido at Halibut Point State Park, a former granite quarry with views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. On clear days you can spot Mount Agamenticus, located 40 miles away in Maine, and the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire. Take a hike through the adjacent Halibut Point Reservation and wind your way down to the bluffs, stopping along the way for lunch at a picnic area. Once you’ve reached the rocky shore, your pup can help look for sea stars, hermit crabs and harbor snails in the tide pools, while you keep your eye on the skies for terns, ducks and sandpipers.
Spend time exploring the town of Rockport and the Cape Ann community when you stay at Rockport Inn and Suites. Fido will be greeted with his own bowl and treats, and have plenty of green space to sniff out. Human guests will enjoy being within walking distance to the beach, as well as downtown shopping and restaurants. Two pets of any size are accepted for an additional fee of $45 per pet, per night.
Providence Canyon State Park
At first glance, Providence Canyon State Park might look like it’s in the western U.S. with it’s red canyons, but this dog-friendly park is just south of Columbus, GA. Known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” the 150-foot gullies were formed by erosion due to poor farming practices in the 1800s. Take your pup for a walk along the rim trail, stopping at overlooks, and in July and August you’ll spot rare Plumleaf Azaleas that grow only in this region. Avid two- and four-legged hikers can venture down into the canyons, and backpackers are welcome to stay overnight on backcountry trails where the night sky puts on a show.
If you’re not up for trailside camping, book a premium campsite at Florence Marina State Park Campground, just 8 miles away. Pets are allowed for no additional fee. You can also bring Fido to this Charming Country Home in Lumpkin, where you both can marvel at the night sky while keeping warm around the backyard fire pit. Dogs of any size are permitted for an additional fee of $50 per pet, per stay.
Swallow Falls State Park
Maryland may not seem like an obvious place for breathtaking mountain scenery, but Swallow Falls State Park is far from ordinary. Hike with Fido through the mountains of western Maryland, under canopies of hemlocks to Muddy Creek Falls, a 53-foot waterfall along the Youghiogheny River. You’ll be following in the footsteps of famous travelers like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone. On a warm day, let your pup relax in the cool river water, and bring along a picnic lunch to share with your best friend at one of several picnic tables with grills. If you prefer to just relax, enjoy the quiet with your pooch as you cast a line at the Youghiogheny River Catch and Release Trout Fishing Area. Dogs are welcome at Swallow Falls State Park from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
Pitch a tent or set up your camper at one of 65 wooded sites at Swallow Falls State Park Campground, where dogs of any size are allowed for no additional fee, or lay low at this pet-friendly hideaway. Your canine companion can rest his paws while you relax in the hot tub or snuggle with you around the outdoor fire pit. Dogs of any size are invited to stay for no additional fee.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Fido can get his fill of Florida’s natural beauty at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Known as Fort Lauderdale’s Central Park, this urban oasis offers numerous outdoor activities. Start by taking a walk along the Coastal Hammock Trail through a native tropical hardwood hammock ecosystem, among the only ones in the county. Follow interpretive signs along the way and watch for some of the park’s 250+ birds and the occasional gopher tortoise. Bring your own canoe or rent a paddleboard to take your doggie-paddler out on a mile-long freshwater lagoon, then grab a picnic table for lunch overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, where fishing is also permitted.
Extend your time in dog-friendly Fort Lauderdale with a stay at Fortuna, located just steps from the beach. Two dogs of any size are allowed for an additional fee of $25 per pet, per night.
If you and Fido are heading west instead, take a look at our picks for the best dog-friendly state parks on the West Coast.
Do you have a favorite dog-friendly state park on the east coast? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!
Banner photo by BringFido/Hannah.