15 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in Kansas

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dogs are having fun at the Iliff commons in topeka in a dog friendly vacation in Kansas

Located in the middle of the country, Kansas is about as center as you can get. In fact, Smith County, Kansas, is the exact center of the 48 connected states in the United States. Some people may recognize it from the show The Wizard of Oz since it was where Dorothy lived in the movie. It also gives it a reputation as being a tornado city, which it is. However, Kansas is much more than that. 

Surrounded by Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Colorado, the state is also known for its flat appearance. It turns out that it really is flatter than a pancake. In 2003, scientists from Arizona and Southwest Texas Universities mathematically proved that Kansas is flatter than a pancake from IHOP. But the 2.9 million people living there do not mind, and neither do their 480,000 dogs.

Being such a central state, Kansas has both cold winters and hot summers, with mild weather in spring and fall. That is why there is something to do no matter when you decide to visit. There are 28 state parks, over 1,000 county, city, and community parks, and hundreds of gardens, lakes, and rivers. You can go skiing in the winter, swimming in the summer, and everything else in between. Here are our 15 favorite vacation destinations in Kansas for dog parents.

Kansas City 

No matter what time of year it is, it is always 84 degrees F at Great Wolf Lodge Water Park. That is because it is indoors so you and the kids can play all day no matter the weather. The water park is 38,000 square feet of fun including six huge waterslides, a lazy river, hot springs, Chinook Cove water ball, and the Cub Paw Pool for the little ones. But you will not be able to rent a room here because they do not allow pets. 

However, Kansas City has over a dozen dog-friendly hotels and resorts including the Residence Inn Marriott, which has its own indoor pool, gym, free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and family rooms. Then, take everyone to Wyandotte County Lake Park where there are 1,500 acres of recreational space including a large lake, miles of trails, and picnic areas. 

Afterward, you can take the whole family to Boulevard Drive-In to watch some movies in the world’s first 4K drive-in theater. Dogs are always welcome as long as they are leashed.


If you want to save some money on your hotel, Wichita has over a dozen hotels that allow dogs with rooms starting under $100, like Motel 6, which is $55 and has a pool, and the Wyndham Garden for $60 with a pool, two restaurants, and a fitness center. Also the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham also has a pool, but it has a garden, kitchen, and BBQ area as well for just $64. What’s more, the city also has a pet resort dog park!

The Chisholm Creek Pet Resort Pup Park has 10 acres, including a really awesome agility course and swimming lake. Although they want you to get a membership, you can get a free pass if you are a visitor wanting to check it out. Your pup is also welcome to join you at the Kansas Aviation Museum to see some cool airplanes. 

Then, you can go enjoy a brew at the Hopping Gnome Brewing Company or a homemade cider from White Crow Cider Company. Just keep your pooch on a leash and clean up after him. 

El Dorado State Park 

If camping is your thing, there are over 700 campsites at El Dorado State Park for you and your fur pup to choose from. Located in the southeastern part of the state, the park has over 4,000 acres along the El Dorado Reservoir, where bass, catfish, walleye, and crappie are just waiting to be caught. The lake itself is 8,000 acres with 98 miles of shoreline.

About 300 of the campsites have electricity and water while 160 also have sewer hookups and about 220 with no hookups at all. All sites have a picnic table and fire ring with a tent pad or RV parking pad. Your fur baby will need to be on a leash at all times and you have to pick up after him so bring doggie bags.

When your pupster needs to run off some of that excess energy, take him to The Dog Park in Central Park on Central Avenue in Andover. There is a separate space for small dogs, plenty of seating for pet parents, and all sorts of logs and boulders for dogs to play on.


As a populated city with over 126,000 residents, you probably would not expect many hiking trails. But Topeka has lots of them. Maybe it’s because there are so many parks. There are 18 parks in Topeka, which is a lot for such a small area! If you are looking for something short and easy, Central Park has a half-mile trail that is perfect. Or try the Blue Heron Bay Lop at Blue Heron Bay Park. It is just under a mile long and takes you around the lake.

For something longer, the Shunga Trail at Crestview Park is almost 18 miles long and takes you from Crestview Park to several other parks in the city. It is mostly flat and gentle but it is a long trip that usually takes about five hours. The Azura Trail is about 3.6 miles and is a bit more difficult with an elevation gain of 249 feet. 

Afterward, let your pup romp around off the leash for a while at Hill’s Bark Park. It has a shelter, a separate small dog area, water, and waste stations, lighting for evening use, doggie toy boxes, benches, and agility stations. 


Bring the whole family and your dog to Salina this summer for some waterpark fun. First, drop your pup off at doggie daycare and head to The Kenwood Cove Aquatic Center. It is open May through August and has 1,400 feet of slides, including the 20-story Blue Cyclone, 250-foot Purple Twister, 320-foot Green Monster, 73-foot 45-degree angle Tsunami Swirl Ride, and the Funderstorm, which is the biggest in the park.

The park also has a lazy river, a Zoom Flume, a pool with a diving board, a lily pad rope course, and Soggy Bottoms Kiddie Area. They even have a rock wall. It is one of the largest municipal waterparks in the US. After wearing out the kids, go pick up your pup and take him to Barkley Park where he can get worn out too. 

Barkley Park has two acres with a special section for small dogs. There are also benches, trees, waste and water stations, and agility equipment. Your fur baby will love it and so will you!


First, get a luxurious dog-friendly suite with a spa bath for you and your two best friends at Holiday Inn Express & Suites. It also has an indoor pool with a jacuzzi, free breakfast, a fitness center, and room service. Then, after you check in, take your puppers to PetSmart to get groomed while you and your honey go to Ultimate Escape Day Spa, where you can get a couple’s massage, body treatments, and try out their infrared sauna. 

Pick up your pup and take your two sweethearts to Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse for a delicious steak dinner where leashed dogs are always welcome on their patio. They also have other dishes like teriyaki salmon, betta bruschetta, and lobster macaroni and cheese. For dessert, Smallcakes Cupcakes has outdoor tables where you can all enjoy something sweet. 

When you are ready to let your canine companion run off some of that excess energy, take him to Heritage Park Dog Off-Leash Area. There are 30 acres of fenced space with a pond, trail, woods, and lush terrain. 

Lake Scott State Park

If you are looking for a nice lake vacation, take your fur buddy to Lake Scott State Park in Scott City. The 1,280-acre park has a gorgeous 100-acre spring-fed lake where you can catch all sorts of fish, like largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, walleye, and trout. Just remember to get a Kansas fishing license and bring your fishing gear. You can rent a canoe or fish from the bank.  

You do not have to worry about a hotel because Lake Scott State Park has six campgrounds with a total of 235 campsites to choose from. They all have picnic tables and fire rings and some have utilities. There are restrooms with hot showers, camp hosts, boat ramps, historic sites, trails, and picnic areas as well as a swimming beach. There is also a disc golf course and playground.

Do not miss seeing the archaeological sites in the park, but please keep your pooch on a short leash so he does not disturb anything. 


Thinking of a camping trip with the kids? Well, if you stay in Lawrence, there are quite a few dog-friendly campgrounds so you can bring your fur baby too. If you have some young ones, they will love Jellystone Park, where they can meet Yogi Bear and Boo Boo too! They have daily activities all year long, including live entertainment, a pool, playgrounds, wagon rides, and mini-golf as well as a swimming beach, boating, and more.

There are other options in town too such as KOA Holiday where they have 80+ sites, playgrounds, a dog park, a store and cafe, and a pool. If you want to stay by Clinton Lake, there are over a dozen. Clinton State Park has 378 sites, Cedar Ridge has 101, Walnut has 91, and Oak has 22.

Don’t forget to let Fido off the leash for a while. The Mutt Run Off Leash Dog Park has 30 acres with fountains, fields, and woods, as well as benches and waste stations. The Riverfront Park Off Leash Park has several acres of wooded space for running off the leash. However, it is not fenced.  


Everyone has heard of Manhattan in New York but few even know there is a Manhattan in Kansas. The small city is often referred to as The Little Apple because it has a lot to offer (like the Big Apple) but with a small-town charm. There are only 54,000 residents with about 9,000 fur babies but that is a lot considering how small the town is. But with the Tuttle Creek State Park in its boundaries, you will find plenty to do on a weekend getaway. 

The 1,200-acre park has a vast array of fun activities to enjoy, including camping. They have 700+ campsites, including eight with full hookups, 159 with electricity and water, 44 with just electricity, and 500 primitive sites with picnic tables and fire rings only. There are also seven trails to explore, a large lake for fishing, swimming, and boating as well as picnic areas and playgrounds. 

When your pooch needs some off-leash time, take him to Fairmont Park, which has a fenced dog park for off-leash play. It has lots of seating, water and waste stations, and a separate area for dogs under 15 pounds. 

Kanopolis Lake State Park 

Located by Ellsworth and Marquette, Kansas, Kanopolis Lake State Park was the first state park in Kansas, opened in 1948. It has 22,000 acres and a 3,000-acre lake with trails, camping, and water sports available all year. In fact, ice fishing is a popular winter sport in Kanopolis State Park, so bring your equipment and a fishing license. You can rent a cabin and do some ice fishing. Then, take your pooch on the trails, where there are 30 miles to explore.

You may be able to spot ospreys or bald eagles fishing in the river since it does not freeze. Bring a camera. If hunting is your thing, you can hunt a variety of wildlife at different times of the year such as rabbits, waterfowl, turkey, deer, quail, and pheasant. The Horsetheif Canyon Trail is one of the most pup popular with creek crossings, cool rock formations, and huge hills to climb for awesome views. 

Wherever you go in the winter with your pup, bring plenty of doggie bags and make sure he is warm enough. Even winter dogs like Huskeys need protection from the cold.

Overland Park 

One of the most populated cities with almost 200,000 residents, Overland Park is also one of the most affordable. First of all, you can get an awesome room for under $100 at six hotels, several of which have swimming pools. These include Quality Inn for $72, Econo Lodge Inn & Suites for $75, Hyatt Place for $88, TownPlace Suites by Marriott for $96, and Savai Hotel for $99. Hyatt Place and Savai Hotel also have fitness centers.

Then, take your fur baby to play with other fur babies at the seven-acre Stoll Off-Leash Dog Park, which is free. The rest of the park is also dog-friendly as long as your pup is leashed. There is a pond, picnic areas, a playground, and a trail. Another park that allows leashed dogs is Meadowbrook. It has a fishing lake, outdoor exercise equipment, pickleball, trails, and a clubhouse.

You can also take your pooch to the Overland Park Arboretum. For just $5, you and your cuddly buddy can explore and enjoy 300 acres with 1,700+ species of plants. 

Elk City State Park

Located in Independence, Elk City State Park has 857 acres covered with woods and meadows of bluestem Indiangrass. It is right next to the 4,500-acre Elk City Lake, giving you plenty of opportunities for fishing, swimming, boating, waterskiing, and sunbathing. The park also has a disc golf course, picnic areas, hiking trails, and playgrounds for the kids. Also, if you want to sleep under the stars, you can choose from one of 152 campsites.  

There are four trails. The easiest is the half-mile Exercise Trail, which has a variety of exercise stations. The next easy one is the one-mile Post-Oak Nature Trail. It takes you from the scenic overlook at the dam through the old-growth forest with trees as old as 200 years. The Green Thumb Nature Trail is one mile and a little more difficult with an uphill incline. 

The last trail is a walking and boating trail called the Table Mound Hiking Trail. You start at the Scenic Overlook which takes you along a 20-foot bluff and rock walls, caves, and boulder fields. Be sure to bring extra water and doggie bags. 

Great Bend 

If you want a family vacation where you will not have to worry too much about the crowds, try Wetlands Waterpark. Since it is located in a small town in the middle of nowhere with a population of just 14,000, it is a kind of hidden gem that brings people back once they know about it. But with social media, it will not stay a secret for long. The only problem is that dogs are not allowed so you will have to leave Fido at the hotel. 

You will find the water wonderland at Brit Spaugh Park. It is open during the summer season from Memorial Day until mid-August. If you plan it right, you can come at the perfect time the day before they close. Then, you and the kids can swim for one day, and your pooch can go to Bark at the Waterpark the next day. 

Afterward, take your pup to the Bark Park at Veteran’s Memorial Park. This is an incredible park that looks more like a kids’ playground with a play area that has tunnels, steps, slides, and more. Both the small and large dog sections have play equipment, so it is fun for all. 


Couples with dogs enjoy Paola. Not only does it have a cozy bed and breakfast but it also has a vineyard and a drive-in theater. The small town has less than 6,000 residents with about 5,000 dogs but you will probably see some of them while you are there. First, check out Netherfield Place, a sweet little bed and breakfast with 12 signature rooms in a Victorian home. 

After checking in, take your two best buds to Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery, where leashed dogs are always allowed on the patio. They even have live music on Saturdays and Sundays. They do not serve food, but you are welcome to bring your own to go with the delicious wine. Pack a picnic lunch, and you can dine on the patio.

Then, head over to the Drive-In at MidWay. They open at 5 p.m., but the first movie starts at dusk, which is typically about 5:45 p.m. Bring your own snacks and water for your pup. Also, bring doggie bags for easy cleanup.

Council Grove Lake 

Council Grove Lake is actually two lakes in one, and they are both awesome. There are several dog-friendly campgrounds around the lakes, including Canning Creek Cove Campground, which has 39 campsites with restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and fire rings with a boat ramp on the big lake. Santa Fe Recreation Area has 33 sites just south of Canning Creek Cove with restrooms, picnic tables, and fire rings. Richie Cove Campground has 43 sites also with the same amenities on the other side of the lake. 

If you want to do something besides water sports for a while, get over to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. You can see the only bison herd in the area in the 11,000-acre tallgrass preserve. Keep your pup on a leash and bring baggies to pick up after him. You can take a walk on one of the trails to see some of the historic sites and buildings, too. 

Then, take Fido to play off the leash at Buck Fund Dog Park in Dryers Park. It has a small dog area, water fountain, and picnic tables for pup parents.

The Final Woof

The state of Kansas may be flat, but it has a lot of fun to offer pooches and their humans. There are almost a thousand vacation rentals, 550+ pup-popular restaurants, 45 dog parks, and 50+ dog-friendly trails. If you are looking for a family vacation, Kansas City has the Great Wolf Lodge Water Park, which is indoors, so it is open all year. Salinas has the Kenwood Cove Aquatic Center. And Great Bend has the Wetlands Waterpark. Couples with dogs should check out Paola or Olathe for a bed and breakfast or spa trip. Camping enthusiasts will love El Dorado State Park and Council Grove Lake. Hikers should also take a look at Elk City State Park. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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