15 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in Kentucky

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dogs are posing at the boone county dog park in a friendly dog vacation in kentucky

Kentucky is a southeastern state with 4.5 million residents and approximately 750,000 dogs. It is surrounded by Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Nicknamed the Bluegrass State because of its stunning green grass brought there by the European settlers for raising thoroughbred horses. The state is known for its horse industry as it is the leading producer of horses in the country.  

Another thing Kentucky is known for is its caves. Mammoth Cave National Park has the longest cave in the world and is a major tourist attraction. But it is also known for its bourbon, moonshine, the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. With the Appalachian Mountains, Big Sandy River, and Tug Fort to the east, Ohio River to the north, and Mississippi River to the west, the state is surrounded by natural beauty. 

The state has hot summers in the upper 80s and mild winters in the upper 40s, you will find a lot of the local dogs and their humans playing outdoors any time of the year. There are 38 state parks, four state forests, 12 state historic sites, one national forest, and two national historic parks for everyone to enjoy, including your fur baby. Here are our top 15 choices for pet parents for vacation spots in Kentucky.


Named after King Louis the 16th, Louisville is a popular city with about 625,000 humans and their 100,000 fur babies. Couples with dogs will enjoy this fun city with its 12 dog parks including The Barklands. This three-acre space is separated into three equal areas. One for small dogs, one for large dogs, and one that is in a “resting” period to let the grass regrow. 

After letting your pup play for a while, drop him off at doggie daycare and take your sweetheart to Malibu Jacks to play. Located at Town Fair Center, this huge play area is perfect for everyone with go-karts, laser tag, mini-golf, a 4D motion ride, the XRider, bowling, basketball, and more. They even have a large arcade with hundreds of games and prizes. 

Later, take your two best friends on a tour of the city with Louisville Tours. The 90-minute tour shows you 40 blocks of old mansions and homes while you get a narrative about the history. 


For something a little more romantic, bring your sweetheart and your pupster to Lexington where they have the most adorable bed and breakfast called the Lyndon House. The unique Victorian home has individually decorated rooms with high ceilings and vintage furniture. Dogs are welcome for an extra $35 fee, and breakfast is free. Known for its horse farms and racing, you can take your honey to the Keeneland Racetrack to see the thoroughbreds race. 

Then, take Fido to the 12-acre Coldstream Dog Park. It is divided into two spaces with one for smaller dogs. Your pooch can run around leashless, play a game of fetch or frisbee, or chase the other pups. During the summer, they have a doggie fire hydrant with a sprayer and a small lake but they do not have fresh water so bring your own. 

If you like to sleep under the stars, take your honey and your pup to the Kentucky Horse Park Campground where they have 260 pet-friendly campsites with a pool, playgrounds, a bike trail, and tennis courts. 

Mammoth Cave National Park

If you and your pooch enjoy hiking or exploring, take him to Mammoth Cave National Park. The 53,000-acre park covers three acres in south-central Kentucky, where you can visit the longest cave system in the world. While your pooch is welcome in the park, he cannot join you on the cave tour. But they have a doggie daycare on the property, so you can leave them there while you go see the huge underground wonder. 

After seeing the cave, pick up your pup and take him hiking around the park. He is welcome as long as he is leashed. The 1/10-mile Sand Cave Trail is the shortest and the half-mile Sloan’s Crossing Pond Walk is also a fast and easy hike. For something more challenging, the 3.3-mile Mammoth Cave Railroad North and 5.1-mile Mammoth Cave Railroad South are both moderately challenging. 

Do something unique with your pup here in Cave City. Dinosaur World is dog-friendly and has life-sized dinosaur models in lush vegetation and forest. You can even get a pic of your pup sitting in T-Rex’s mouth!

Bowling Green 

With over 72,000 residents and about 12,000 dogs, Bowling Green is one of the most populated places in the state. It is also one of the most family-friendly because of Beech Bend Amusement Park and Campground, which has been open since 1898. The humongous park covers 215 acres and has 47 rides, including three roller coasters and nine water park attractions. It also has a dragstrip and campground. 

Although pets are not allowed in the amusement park, they are welcome at the campground where they have more than 400 campsites for RVs and tents as well as cabins. There are hot showers, restrooms, a laundromat, playgrounds, internet, and fishing at the Barren River. 

While you are in Bowling Green, take your cuddly canine companion to the H.P. Thomas Park Bark Park so he can play without a leash. The fenced pup play area has 4.5 acres with a separate small dog area, water fountains, and shade trees as well as seating and doggie bags. 


Looking for a great pet-friendly hotel that will not break the bank? Paducah has plenty of them. In fact, there are eight of them, including Days Inn for under $80, which includes a pool, free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and family rooms. Also, Auburn Place, which is only $89, has a pool, gym, free Wi-fi, and breakfast. If you want something near the park, Super 8 by Wyndham is right across from Bob Noble Park and is only $65.

Leashed dogs are welcome at Bob Noble Park, which has 135 acres with a large lake, fishing piers, a pool, trails, a skate park, a gazebo, a music garden, and playgrounds for the kids. There is even baseball, basketball, tennis, horseshoes, pickleball, and a civic center. 

After, take your pup to Stuart Nelson Park. The 55-acre park has disc golf, a trail, a playground, and even a dog park! The fenced dog area has seven acres separated for large and small dogs with water, seating, and waste stations. 


Feeling lucky? How about a gambling getaway? Leave Fido at Doggie Paddles doggie daycare and head to Turfway Park, where you can play the slots, play cards, bet on sports, and watch the horses race all in one place. You can also eat at one of the three awesome restaurants or enjoy some live entertainment from musicians to magicians. You will not have to worry about your fur baby because they have indoor and outdoor play, petting sessions, and a stellar reputation. 

After you play at the track for a while, pick up your pup and take him to The Bark Park and Patio. This dog park does have a small fee for a day pass or you can get a monthly or annual membership if you plan to be around for a while. You get to choose from over 20 IPA brews and pour your own so you do not have to wait for someone to help you when you are ready for the next flavor. 

You will have to sign a waiver and your pooch has to be at least four months old, be spayed or neutered, have all the required vaccines, and he must play well with other dogs. 

Daniel Boone National Forest 

Named after the famous explorer, you and your cuddle buddy can also explore the 2.5 million acres of woods, water, and wildlife at Daniel Boone National Forest. The huge woods spread out over 21 counties and include the Ohio River, Cumberland River, Kentucky River, and Licking River as well as Laurel River Lake, Lake Cumberland, Buckhorn Lake, and Cave Run Lake. Also, there are 18 campgrounds to choose from, so you can stay a while. 

The largest campground in the Cumberland District is Twin Knobs, which has over 200 sites. Holly Bay Campground is the largest in the London Ranger District, with 75 sites. In the Stearns District, the biggest campground is the Barren Fork Horse Camp, with 40 sites. They all have fire rings, picnic tables, and bear boxes, and some have hookups and utilities. 

The forest also has three state parks with over 600 miles of trails as well as hundreds of fishing opportunities at the many rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds. In addition, you can enjoy boating, swimming, tubing, waterskiing, and floating. 


Located in southeastern Kentucky, Cumberland is a small town of just over 2,200 residents and approximately 350 dogs. It used to be called Poor Fork because it has a section of the Cumberland River considered to have poor soil conditions. However, the river is a lot of fun for a weekend trip with your best buddy. The main attraction in the city is Kingdom Come State Park, which has plenty of river fun to enjoy with your pupster. 

With its elevation of 2,700 feet, you can get some of the most incredible views in the area and the park offers you eight overlooks to check it out. There are also some awesome fishing opportunities here along the river or in the mountain lake. Make sure you have a fishing license, and you can catch monster bass, catfish, trout, and crappie. 

There is also a mini-golf course, horseshoes, pedal boating, and several picnic areas with BBQ grills and restrooms. Or you can take Fido for a walk on one of the 13 trails. Just keep him on a leash and bring doggie bags.


Frankfort is the capital of Kentucky but is not one of the most populated cities, with only 28,000 people and 4,600 cuddly buddies. It is located in the northeastern area of the state and has the Kentucky River running right through the middle of it from north to west, making it a fun place for summer activities like swimming, boating, floating, and fishing. It is also a great place to enjoy a dog-friendly boat tour. 

The historic bourbon boat tour and other river tours can be found by several different companies and most of them allow leashed dogs as long as they are well-behaved. You can learn why the Kentucky River was so important to the bourbon industry. The city also has nine parks, including the East Frankfort Bark Park on Hickory Drive. The fenced area has wooded trails, agility fun, and lots of room. 

Lakeview Park also has a fenced off-leash dog park as well as a golf course, skate park, ballfields, and soccer. 

Natural Bridge State Resort Park 

Even in the winter, Kentucky is incredible, and Natural Bridge State Resort Park has lodge rooms where your dog can join you for an extra $30 per stay or cottages for an additional $50 per stay. The temperatures in central Kentucky during the winter usually range in the upper 40s to lower 50s so it is a great place to go for a hike in the woods. Just keep your pup on a leash and bring doggie bags and water. 

One of the hikes you cannot miss is the Original Trail to the Natural Bridge. It is only a half-mile long, so you can do it easily. Another is the 0.75-mile Balanced Rock Trail, where you can see some incredible rock formations. However, it is the steepest hike, with more than 600 stairs, so keep that in mind.

After working up an appetite, take Fido to Miguel’s Pizza, where he is welcome to join you for a slice of the covered patio area.


Located at the very northern tip of the state, Covington is a home rule-class city with just over 40,000 people and an estimated 6,000 fur babies. It is right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, which has one of the most incredible suspension bridges in the country. The bridge was the longest of its kind in the world when built in 1866 at 1,057 feet long until the Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1883. 

While you are in town with your fur baby, take him with you to Braxton Brewing Company where he can play with the other fur babies while you enjoy a brew with the pet parents. They even have dog treats made from their own beer malt. Then, take a walk through Devou Park where you can have a picnic at the Stone Shelter or the Scenic Overlook. 

The park also has several dog-friendly trails to explore and enjoy with your pup. Just don’t forget the doggie bags and extra water. 


Take your cuddly canine compadre with you to Richmond for a fun vacation with wine, beer, and water. The water is Lake Reba at Judy Rains Memorial Dog Park. This fantastic lake has 75 acres and is stocked with plenty of fish so bring your fishing gear and a Kentucky fishing license. They even have a boat dock. But the best part for your pup is the fenced off-leash dog park where he can run around and play with the other pups. 

Then, take your pooch with you to enjoy a beer at Dreaming Creek Brewery. It is the only taproom in the city and allows pups to join you inside and out. They even have a food truck that visits on weekends. If you would rather have wine, Chenault Vineyards on Barnes Mill Road welcomes dogs as well. They have handcrafted wine, charcuterie boards, sandwiches, and even boozy cupcakes. 

Baldwin Farms is another fun place where leashed dogs are welcome. Depending on what time of year you go, you can enjoy the pumpkin patch, Christmas Tree farm, or just come to see the goats!

Olive Hill 

Pup parents can bring their fur babies with them to see two different state parks in one small town. First, you can book a room at Carter Caves State Resort Park where they have a swimming pool, restaurant, free Wi-Fi, and you can choose from the lodge or a cottage. You can also camp at any of the 125 campsites. If you like to hike, there are 12 different trails to explore with your pup as well. 

You can also visit Grayson Lake State Park with its 1,500-acre lake and stunning canyon slopes. They also have 71 campsites if you would rather stay there. It is a perfect spot for boating, hiking, swimming, and fishing. There have been a number of large bass and catfish pulled out of the lake. 

Rent a kayak and you can visit Grotto Falls or just pick a spot along the 74 miles of shoreline to have a picnic with your pup. Be sure to bring water and doggie bags.

Kentucky Kingdom 

This summer, pack up the pup and the family and head to Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay near Louisville. Although your pooch will have to stay with a doggie daycare, you and the rest of the family can spend the day enjoying 54 rides, including five roller coasters and two water rides on 67 acres. You get two parks in one here because Kentucky Kingdom also has Hurricane Bay Water Park with seven slides, two wave pools, and two lazy rivers. 

Many may remember Kentucky Kingdom as its former name, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom but Six Flags was dropped in 2010. It took several years for the park to open back up with its original name but now it is bigger and better than ever. The park also has 30 restaurants and over a dozen shops. 

Afterward, pick up your fur baby and take everyone to Brown Park for an evening of barbecue, playgrounds, and trails. As long as you keep your cuddly canine on a leash, he is welcome to join you. 

Golden Pond 

With the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Center in Golden Pond, you get to choose between Kentucky and Barkley Lakes for all your water fun. Actually, you don’t have to choose. Just enjoy both of them. With 171,000 acres and two large lakes, you can do just about anything this summer with your pooch. And camping is easy with more than 1,400 campsites. 

You can see the elk and bison prairie along the 3.5-mile paved driving loop trail or get a look at the 1850’s working farm. They even have a mini-zoo at the Woodlands Nature Station. While some of the park space is in Tennessee, most are in the Kentucky area. There are 10 trails covering more than eight miles altogether with the longest being the 4.6-mile Honker Trail named after the geese that live there. 

Take some time to stop in at Patti’s 1880’s Settlement in Grand Rivers. There are nine boutique shops to check out with your leashed pup. 

The Final Woof

Kentucky has close to 2,000 motels, hotels, and other vacation rentals, as well as 1,000 dog-friendly restaurants, bars, and cafes, 65 dog parks, and 70 dog-friendly stores. The state has several cities that are popular with couples with dogs, such as Louisville, which has a fun town fair center, and Lexington, which has a bed and breakfast. Also, families will love Kentucky Kingdom Amusement Park and Bowling Green’s Beech Bend Amusement Park and Campground. For hiking and camping, Mammoth Cave National Park and Daniel Boone National Forest are good choices. For a winter break, check out Natural Bridge Resort Park. Lots of places are great for a summer break, like Frankfort, Richmond, Olive Hill, and Golden Pond. 

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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