Dog-Friendly Outdoor Destinations in North Carolina

North Carolina’s natural scenery sets the backdrop for endless adventures, which is perfect for visitors looking for hikes in the mountains or romps along the coast with their canine companions. Because you don’t want to leave your pooch at home during your next vacation or getaway, we fetched several dog-friendly destinations with rustic recreation in the Tar Heel State.

Adventure on the Coast

The town of Duck is a popular beach destination on the Outer Banks. Located on the shore, this seaside community boasts 7 miles of beach, the Scarborough Faire Shopping Village and the Waterfront Shops. Launch a canoe along the Currituck Sound, go crabbing at Duck Town Park and bike along Duck Trail. This dog-loving destination also invites visitors to bring their hounds to splash around at the beach, play Frisbee in the Town Park and dine al fresco at the local eateries, such as Aqua Restaurant and Eventide.

For those who don't want sand between their toes and paws, visit the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, located in nearby Corolla. With your pup in tow, climb up all 220 steps of the red-brick lighthouse for sweeping views of Corolla Village and the Currituck Sound. Also check out the indoor exhibits that showcase coastal lighthouses and local shipwrecks.

The Cliffs of the Neuse State Park is another pet-welcome nature destination. The area sits just on the edge of the coastal and central regions, roughly a four-hour car ride southwest of the lighthouse. Visit this massive park and take advantage of the 11-acre lake, picnic areas, campgrounds and hiking trails. Cast a line for some bluegill, explore around the riverbank with your four-legged friends or go for a dip in the lake.

Recreation in the Piedmont

Woman walking dog alongside pond with fountain surrounded by trees and grass

The middle region of North Carolina is home to Eno River State Park, an ideal spot for outdoor activities. Get some fresh air with your furry friend, and hike through the hardwood forest along the Cox Mountain trails or go fly fishing for some chub. Eno River State Park is only 10 miles from downtown Durham, but it feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Introduce some more thrill to your itinerary with a visit to Charlotte’s U.S. National Whitewater Center, which is another Piedmont destination that welcomes two- and four-legged visitors. Hike the trails with your pup or climb one of the largest rock walls in the South. Looking to make a splash? Hit the rapids on a whitewater rafting tour, stand-up paddleboard on the flat-water areas or take a slalom kayaking session to round out the day. If you're looking for more of a relaxed experience in the Queen City, Freedom Park's 98 acres offer plenty of trails meandering past ponds and bridges – perfect for sniffs. 

Fun in the Mountains

The western portion of the state plays host to Chimney Rock State Park. Along with providing pet-friendly hiking trails, including Four Seasons trail and Skyline trail, the park features Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot waterfall. During a visit to this nature spot, search for the ominous-looking Devil's Head at the beginning of Skyline Trail, take a rock climbing excursion and head to the Opera Box lookout for some of the best views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge.

For a more leisurely activity, mosey over to scenic Asheville. Every summer, the Montford Park Players host outdoor performances at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre. Keep your pup leashed while you enjoy free Shakespeare plays such as Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Whether the shore is whispering your name or the mountains are beckoning, answer the call with a trip to North Carolina. With fly fishing spots, waterfall hikes and rock climbing opportunities, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures for you and man’s best friend to take in the Old North State.

This article was produced in partnership with Expedia Viewfinder.

Visit Outdoor NC for additional tips on how to connect with nature and help preserve the natural beauty of our state, plus useful information on traveling with pets.

Updated May 3, 2022
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