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Doggy Destinations

Pup-Friendly Stops for Summer Southern Road Trips

Grab the leash and get ready for a tail-waggin’ good time. Sure, dogs sniff butts and eat garbage. But dogs are cherished members of adventure-loving families, which is why we’ve rounded up five woof-tastic towns in the Blue Ridge. From the mountains of West Virginia to the Upstate of South Carolina, these bark-worthy burgs cater to canines and their two-legged companions.  

Boone, North Carolina

It’s been said that Daniel Boone never traveled anywhere without two hunting hounds by his side. So it only makes sense for Boone—a North Carolina town named after the American frontiersman—to pull out all the stops for contemporary canines. 

According to Ben Rogers, dog dad to pitbull mixes Milly and Mabel and owner of a local pet-sitting business called Ben’s Buddies, Boone is a mecca for mutts and purebreds alike.  

Puppy paddleboarding is all the rage at Lake Lanier in Dawsonville, Ga. Photo by Dustin Heard, Destination Dawsonville

“There’s so many great places to explore with furry friends,” he says. 

WHAT TO DO: Follow the 1.8-mile Elk Knob Summit Trail to the eponymous 5,520-foot peak in Elk Knob State Park. Afterward, enjoy some charcuterie at one of the park’s 11 picnic areas. Just make sure to give Sparky a little nibble. 

WHERE TO EAT: For a canine-friendly bite, head to Appalachian Mountain Brewery for a pitcher of Hop Rain Drop—a modern IPA with heavy notes of mango, peach, and papaya—and a buffalo chicken pizza. 

WHERE TO STAY: Catch some shuteye at The Horton Hotel, a downtown retreat with an entire floor dedicated to hounds. 

Puppers are welcome at this Boone Brewery. Photo courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Brewery

Dawsonville, Georgia 

Most know Dawsonville for moonshine and motorsports. After all, this tiny city has hosted a ‘shine festival since the ‘60s and is home to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. But there’s plenty for pups, too.   

“We did not forget about our four-legged friends,” assures Dustin Heard, director of tourism at Destination Dawsonville.

WHAT TO DO: Beat the Georgia heat at Lake Lanier, a 38,000-acre reservoir with more than 100 islands that are just begging to be explored. 

WHERE TO EAT: After a day on the water, take Fido to dinner at Big D’s BBQ. Pick a table on the patio and order yourself a redneck-style burger with American cheese, chili, and slaw, and a plain patty for the pooch.    

WHERE TO STAY: If your doggo digs panoramic views, book a room at the Lodge at Amicalola Falls. Nestled in the mountainous terrain of Amicalola Falls State Park, this rustic chalet offers a solid selection of pet-friendly rooms. 

Roll down the windows and experience Abingdon, Va., for yourself. Photo by Chad Thompson

Travelers Rest, South Carolina 

In the early 1800s, Travelers Rest emerged as a stopover spot for livestock drovers and wealthy families traveling to and from the mountains. Though a lot has changed in the centuries since, this South Carolina city still accommodates all sorts of visitors, the four-legged kind included.

Aaron Crowell, owner of Travelers Rest Pet Sitting, enjoys plenty of pooch-approved activities with LB, his 5-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

“There’s tons to do, from the Swamp Rabbit Trail to the local state parks,” he says. “Plus, almost every restaurant has outdoor seating, and the local apartment complex has a free doggy park.” 

WHAT TO DO: Lace up your jogging shoes and take Rover for a trail run in Paris Mountain State Park, a 1,540-acre recreation area located about 20 minutes southeast. If you’re looking for a challenge, finish the 10.6-mile Paris Mountain Big Loop and then go swimming in Lake Placid. 

WHERE TO EAT: Fill your belly at Coastal Crust, a wood-fired pizza joint Crowell says is “pretty much the life of the party” in Travelers Rest. Wash it down with an ice-cold IPA from The Community Tap next door. 

WHERE TO STAY: Rest your head at the Swamp Rabbit Inn, a bark-tastic bed and breakfast named after the town’s 28-mile greenway.

Camp out with your pup in Abingdon, Va. Photo by Chad Thompson

Abingdon, Virginia 

They say Virginia is for lovers. But in Abingdon, a small mountain village located about 130 miles southwest of Roanoke, it’s all about the dog lovers. That’s according to local Amanda Smith.

As a licensed veterinary technician, owner of a doggy daycare called The Dog Lodge, and proud pawrent to five goldendoodles, Smith spends a lot of time exploring Abingdon’s houndish haunts and is happy to report that it’s a dog-gone delightful place. 

“It’s a small town,” says Smith, “but it isn’t lacking in restaurants, breweries, shops, and trails for dog lovers.”  

WHAT TO DO: If you’ve got a high-energy hound, take them for a cycle on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34.3-mile rail-to-recreation trail starting in Abingdon and traveling through Damascus, Va. Just remember that all dogs must be kept on a six-foot or shorter leash. 

WHERE TO EAT: Dogs deserve fine dining experiences, too. That’s why Smith always takes her pack of pups to Rain Restaurant and Bar, an upscale eatery serving everything from octopus to ribeye. “They have an outdoor patio,” says Smith, “so I can take my dogs anytime, and the food is always delicious.”

WHERE TO STAY: Skip the hotel and camp at Abingdon Vineyards instead. Situated just minutes from downtown, the winery offers two private RV spots along the banks of the South Fork of the Holston River. 

“We are known to love the pups,” says Anne Kirk, marketing director of the Wardensville Garden Market.

Wardensville, West Virginia

Wardensville is ruff country. Stroll around this tiny town of fewer than 300, and you’re sure to spot as many hounds as you do humans. Depending on the day, you might even run into Ashley Eklin and her two dogs: Ruxin, a four-year-old Corgi, and Bandit, a four-year-old border collie-spaniel mix. 

Eklin moved to the Eastern Panhandle with her husband last year and quickly fell in love with woof-worthy Wardensville during a day trip.  

“We are excited to continue to explore and take adventures,” she says, “and it’s easier when our pets are welcomed and encouraged to join us.”

WHAT TO DO: Last time Eklin was in town, she took Bandit up to Big Schloss, a rock outcropping accessible via the 4.3-mile Wolf Gap Trail. 

WHERE TO EAT: Post-hike, head over to Lost River Trading Post for espresso, pup cups, and yummy treats. If you’re craving some fresh produce, check out the Wardensville Garden Market less than half a mile down the road. “We are known to love the pups,” says Anne Kirk, marketing director.

WHERE TO STAY: Lodge your Labrador at the Cottage at Lost River Ridge, a three-bedroom mountain retreat with a doggy poo station for your pup and a bidet for you. According to hosts, the latter might just “change your life.” 

“We are known to love the pups,” says Anne Kirk, marketing director of the Wardensville Garden Market

Cover Photo: Take your dog for a hike at Elk Knob State Park near Boone, N.C. Photo courtesy of Explore Boone

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