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Four Regional Road Trips that are Human & Pet Approved

“You wanna go for a ride?” is a phrase not to be uttered in my household unless you are 100 percent ready to open the passenger door for our 12-year-old mutt, Sadie. 

Odds are your furry sidekick is the same way; many dogs love to join their humans on any and every excursion away from home. Since overnight accommodations can get tricky with four-legged travelers, day trips are the perfect way to include your furry family member. 

Here are a few dog-friendly itineraries that I think you — and your pooch — will love! 

Sniff around Smith Mountain Lake
Enjoy an early lunch at Drifter’s Restaurant (1617 Crystal Shores Dr., Moneta), which is open during the summer season and has ample patio seating next to the water. Servers have water bowls ready for pets and even a menu for dogs only. (Just ask about their “puppy platters.”) Jake’s Place (1041 Harbour Inn Lane, Moneta) is another dining option with ample outdoor seating where dogs are welcome. (They have to be — the restaurant is named after a dog!)

After lunch everyone (and every dog) will want to stretch their legs, so pop over to Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston. Take advantage of their range of walking trails that are perfect for dogs on a leash. The Turtle Island Trail, Chestnut Ridge Trail and Walton Mountain Trail are rated “easy” and offer spectacular views of the lake. 


After your exercise and a water break, pack up the car and head about 30 minutes northwest to Fables & Feathers Winery (2117 Bruno Dr., Goodview). They make it clear on their website: “We love to see your well behaved & leashed puppies! Bring ’em on in!” They sell flights of their sweet, white or red wines in a “fledgling” or “full” size ($8 and $14 respectively). Beer and cider are also on the menu. 



History for hounds in Lynchburg/Forest
Start your day with an outdoor excursion at Percival’s Island Natural Area in Downtown Lynchburg alongside the James River. The island is approximately 1.5 miles long, and visitors can hike or bike on the paved trail that used to be a railroad bed. A family photo at the LOVE sign located at the entrance to the trail is a must. 


For lunch, there are several dog-friendly options nearby, including The Water Dog (1016 Jefferson St., Lynchburg) and My Dog Duke’s Diner (1007 Commerce St., Lynchburg), both within walking distance of Percival’s Island. Also, take a short drive down the road to the newly opened and dog-friendly Oliver’s (2496 Rivermont Ave., Lynchburg), featuring lunch favorites such as smashburgers and tacos. 

After lunch, head 15 minutes down the road to one of the region’s most interesting historic destinations, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. Jefferson’s vacation home has been meticulously restored, and there is continued archaeological research on the property. Pets are welcome on the grounds but must be leashed at all times. They are not allowed in buildings, but there are a limited number of temporary kennels on site. 

By now, you deserve to prop your feet up and relax. Cap off your day at the nearby Apocalypse Ale Works (1257 Burnbridge Road, Forest) with one of their many beers on tap. Enjoy your brew in the expansive beer garden located out back. 

Go fetching for fun in Richmond
To begin, an outdoor spot with a lot of space for you and your dog to explore is Belle Isle, a preserved park island in the middle of the James River in Downtown Richmond. A pedestrian footbridge will take you to the outdoor sanctuary that includes wooded trails, interpreted historical sites, and a granite rock climbing wall. Locals like to soak up some sunshine on the large flat rocks surrounding the island, too. 


You could also choose to spend the day at Ruff Canine Club (1924 Ellen Road, Richmond), a destination that was created for dog people just like you. The private membership park features a bar with a rotating draft list and snacks, synthetic turf and free tennis balls for a never-ending game of fetch. (Note: A day pass to Ruff Canine Club is $10, and you have to create a profile in advance that provides proof of vaccinations.) 

There is no shortage of dog-friendly patios in Richmond, including the highly recommended Hardywood (2410 Ownby Lane, Richmond), the largest independently owned craft brewery in Virginia. Hardywood boasts an expansive outdoor beer garden with tables and casual seating. Main Line Brewing (1603 Ownby Lane, Richmond) is right down the street and welcomes dogs to join the fun in their unique outdoor space. They have water bowls and treats on hand, too! 

It’s a ‘ruff’ life in the Roanoke Valley
You can begin this journey just outside the Star City at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, a truly breathtaking natural gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It offers 60 miles of trails bordering the scenic reservoir. 

Or, if a long hike isn’t quite what you had in mind, head straight to Main Street Salem and stroll around the beautiful campus of Roanoke College. You can also check out the latest produce and products at the Salem Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to noon or even do a self-guided tour of Salem’s numerous historic sites. 

From Salem, take a short drive to downtown Roanoke for lunch where there are numerous pet-friendly places to eat. One option is Beamer’s 25 (357 Salem Ave. SW, Roanoke) where locals love to build-their-own-burger. Grab a beer from one of Roanoke’s many local breweries, including Big Lick Brewing Company (409 Salem Ave. SW, Roanoke) with its expansive taproom and beer garden. 

For dessert—at least, for your dog—walk over to Unleashed Dog Bakery & Boutique (131 Campbell Ave. SW, Roanoke) for some high-quality dog treats and other specialty pet items. 

Planning ahead for your dogcation
Before you pack up the family pet for a full day of adventure, there are a few things to keep in mind. Timberlake Animal Hospital’s Dr. Anthony Pearson shares his top five pieces of advice for traveling with pets. 

  • Have your pet microchipped—“Traveling to new places can often be intimidating for our fur babies, and this extra precaution can reunite pets and owners should the unthinkable happen.” 
  • Keep motion sickness medications on hand—“Many dogs/cats, like people, can experience motion sickness if it is a longer trip. Medications like Cerenia are often useful. Talk to your veterinarian for suggestions.” 
  • Always be aware of the heat— “Never leave pets in a vehicle unattended. Keep plenty of water on hand and try not to be out in the heat of the day on hot surfaces for extended periods of time.” 
  • Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccines and preventions—“You never know what other animals your pet may encounter and what their protection status is. And ticks are always a big problem in our area year-round.” 
  • Prepare for anxiety—“Discuss with your veterinarian options for reducing anxiety when traveling to new places.” 

If you’re visiting a new place and want to see if it’s pet friendly, check out or call ahead and ask. In general, make sure your dog is on a leash and well-behaved when out in public. Always bring supplies to clean up after your pooch!


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