Dog-friendly destinations

Photo by Jamie Rhein

Ohio is generally a dog-friendly state — more than a third (36.6 percent) of the state’s households include a canine resident — and research tells us that nearly two-thirds of dog owners consider their pup to be a member of the family. So when summer travel beckons, it’s nice to know where your tail-wagging pal can come along for the ride.

The great outdoors

Ohio’s 56 state parks are a dog-friendly gold mine of miles of trails and pristine waterways, with diverse vistas from the rugged beauty of southeastern Ohio’s mountains to Lake Erie’s shoreline. From woods to wetlands, there’s much to explore with a canine companion.
When Kathy McQuate of Whitehall headed to Deer Creek with her family for a weeklong getaway, Hoagie, their German shepherd, vacationed right along with them. “Our cabin was right by the water,” she says. “Every morning, he barreled through the trees to the lake.”

Deer Creek is one of several parks with a dog beach and dog-friendly cabins, and every park has campsites where dogs can settle in. At the lodges at Deer Creek, Punderson, and Salt Fork, dogs are allowed to stay in some guest rooms for a nominal fee.

Over the years, Malabar Farm — where the top of Mt. Jeez offers a stunning view of the farm and surrounding hills — has been Columbus poet Charlene Fix’s go-to place for dog-walking adventures. Three generations of dogs have made the trip with her. She also loves the Kokosing Gap Trail on a former Pennsylvania Railroad line between Danville and Mt. Vernon.

Add some structure

For ranger-led events where dogs and dog folks mingle, head to Howl at the Moon, Happy-Tails-n-Trails, and Walk and Wolf through the Columbus Metro Parks system. These evening programs at Highbanks, Glacier Ridge, and Sharon Woods pair hikes with nature know-how. Dogs are welcome on dog-friendly trails throughout the park system.

In the Dayton area, Five Rivers MetroParks offer the nation’s largest paved trail network of more than 300 miles to explore. The mix of waterfalls, gardens, prairies, and forests are dog-friendly destinations. Last year, Cox Arboretum became dog-friendlier after Zipp, the park’s worker dog, retired. With Zipp no longer around to keep the geese away, visiting dogs (with their owners) do the job instead.

More adventures

For dog travel with a river view, hit the Hocking River on a Hocking Hills Adventures canoe trip. “Dogs are family,” says owner Shane Barbini. The 5-mile Crockett’s Run gives dogs plenty of time to get out and swim.

At Captains Baseball Stadium in Eastlake, where the Lake County Captains play, enjoy a night of baseball with your best friend. “Bark in the Park nights are our favorite games of the season,” says Brent Pozzi, social media manager. A portion of all dog tickets sold is donated to the Lake County and Geauga County Humane Societies. Dog-friendly activities and promotions go on throughout the game.

In Marietta, the Lafayette Hotel, with a history steeped in Ohio’s sternwheeler days, welcomes dogs as favored guests. At check-in, dogs are given a treat from a dog treat jar. The $50 pet fee is returned if there isn’t any damage to the room.

If you go

  • Keeping dogs on a leash is a requirement at all places mentioned here.
  • To go to dog-friendly places, your dog must also be dog- and people-friendly.
  • When canoeing, consider a life jacket for your dog for safety. Also, put a towel or a mat in the canoe bottom to help your dog keep its footing.