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Road trip! It’s time to pack up and go explore some of the state’s many great options. Do you have your camera? Your guide books? Your dog? Wait, what??
Yep, more and more people are rejecting the idea of leaving Fido behind in a kennel or with friends and instead, taking him along on small trips, family vacations, and even larger travel stays. In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association found this year that 67% of pet owners surveyed said they travel with these furry friends.
Here in Arkansas, there are a lot of great opportunities for sightseeing with your pooch, with many outdoor activities, festivals, and attractions that are both people- AND dog-friendly. Just make sure you check ahead of time for any specific rules.
I’ve taken my dog Dakota on several adventures around the state, including to Murfreesboro to go digging for diamonds.
Crater of Diamonds State Park actually lets visitors look for these elusive gems in their 37-acre field. And if you find them, you keep them! I visited recently with my dad and my dog and although we didn’t find any diamonds, we had a good (but muddy!) time hunting, walking around, and just enjoying the day.
Dogs can visit for free and are very welcome there, as long as they’re on leashes. There’s also a “wash off” area with hoses and brushes for human and canine visitors to spray down and get cleaned up from all the dirty fun.
By the way, take some time beforehand to also wander around Murfreesboro’s historic town square and many antique shops. I was pleasantly surprised when two of the shops’ owners came outside when they saw Dakota and me walking by. Both good-naturedly demanded that I bring him in so we could do some shopping. Ha! Smart shopkeepers – of course I purchased some items at both places. 🙂
Throughout the state, there are lots of wonderful trails and areas that allow leashed dogs to accompany their owners. We often walk along the beautifully manicured lawns around the old fort and courthouse/jail building at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, as well as an almost hidden path in the shady, wooded area in back that winds along exhibits about the Trail of Tears and offers views of the Arkansas river. As many times as we’ve been there, we’ve only seen a handful of other guests – even on summer weekends!
For a wider choice of fun trails and truly stunning views during any season, check out the highest point in Arkansas — Mount Magazine State Park. Again, the look-out areas and often shady trails are open to four-legged friends, as long as they stay on leashes at all times. This includes the giant over-look outside the resort’s main lodge and restaurant. Although dogs are not allowed inside this building, they can enjoy walking on the patio’s cool stones and laying at the feet of owners soaking up the view of the Petit Jean River Valley from the comfort of large wooden rocking chairs. Heaven!
One of the resort’s 13 rental cabins (#4!) is also designated as dog friendly – meaning he or she is allowed to spend the night inside the rustic yet cozy accommodations. But if you leave for a few minutes, they can only stay unattended in the room if crated.
Another “cool” option is the War Eagle Cavern in Rogers. The owners there are a little dog-crazy and very welcoming of those on leashes to the surrounding trails, cave walkways, and guided tours. The cave is only open from March to October, but that should offer plenty of spelunking opportunities!
But what if your dog would prefer a more relaxing adventure? Then Hot Springs might be a great place to check out. The Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat allows dogs to enjoy the cool breezes and panoramic water views of Lake Hamilton from its upper deck. Reservations are highly encouraged.
The riverboat is currently shut down but will start its schedule back up on Valentine’s Day. Or, weather permitting, you can take your dog boating now on a Hot Springs National Park Duck Tours ride. These amphibious vehicles start out rolling down the town’s streets before plunging into Lake Hamilton for a gentle cruise around St. John’s Island. Very well behaved dogs are allowed to sit by their owners throughout the tour and sometimes even play first mate to the Captain.
Afterwards, be sure the two of you take a visit through the town’s Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum. Dogs are allowed to come in and wander the aisles looking at lifelike celebrities and historical figures but again, only if on leashes and only on the condition that an owner immediately cleans up any possible accidents.
Overall, here are a few pet-traveling tips to keep in mind:
Stay tuned for part two in the Spring, when I’ll be packing up the dog and exploring more of the state. What are some places you’d recommend that Dakota and I check out? We’re ready for more Arkansas Adventures!
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