15 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in Missouri

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dog is chilling at the branson landing in branson in a dog friendly vacation in missouri

Known for its giant structure, the 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch, Missouri is a state full of everything from inner cities to lush green forests and rugged countryside. It is a place for fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, biking, and camping as well as learning about the history of the area. Only one of two states that are bordered by a record of eight states, Missouri is surrounded by Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Iowa.

The state boasts more than six million residents and an estimated one million fur babies, Missouri is a pup popular place to live or visit. Its winters are cold and snowy and summers are hot and humid with January high temps in the 30s and July in the lower 90s so you can enjoy all four seasons in the Show-Me state. 

Home to both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and thousands of lakes, ponds, and streams, boating and fishing are popular all year long. There are even two ski resorts in Missouri, even though there are no real mountains. With so much to do, you should not be surprised to know there are over 3,000 pet-friendly vacation rentals, 1,250 pup-popular restaurants, a whopping 90 dog parks, and even a few dog beaches. Here are some of our favorite vacation spots in Missouri.

St. Louis 

Home to the Gateway Arch and over 300,000 people, St. Louis is a dog-friendly town with an estimated 50,000 dogs. Maybe that is why they have so many (15) dog parks and 300 pet-friendly rentals to pick from. Couples with dogs love St. Louis because of the many romantic places like the bed and breakfasts that allow dogs. Two of these include the Benton Park Inn and the Central West End Bed & Breakfast. 

Another romantic thing to do in St. Louis is a trip on the riverboat. Take a romantic dinner trip or a sunset cruise with your leashed fur baby in tow. Then, visit Citygarden, a unique urban oasis of beauty and modern sculptures. During the summer, your pup (and you) are welcome to cool off in the water features as well. 

When you are ready for a beer, let Fido play with the other pups while you and your honey relax with other pet parents at Bar K St. Louis. There are two play areas, inside and out. Both with toys, supervision, and fun.


Located in southwestern Missouri, almost to Arkansas, Branson is home to Table Rock Lake, which is one of the largest lakes in the state. It has 43,100 acres, 16 campgrounds, and miles of lakeshore enjoyment. There are lots of dog-friendly activities around the lake and in Branson like Table Rock State Park, Lake Taneycomo, and Buster’s Old Time Photos on the Landing. You can even take him to the Tiger Sanctuary and Crazy Critter Crafts.  

For some off-leash enjoyment, take your little buddy to Elmo & Rosalea Marrs Memorial Dog Park where there are 1.5 acres of fenced play including a small dog section. There is also agility equipment, water fountains, benches, and concrete pathways. Pepper Dog Park is another great off-leash spot for pups in Hollister. It is not huge but has a special section for little dogs too. 

Something unique you can do in Branson is to visit 1984 Branson. Leashed dogs are welcome to accompany their humans while they try to beat the high scores on video games and pinball machines. There are more than 75 different games!

Elephant Rocks State Park

Even though it is the smallest state park in Missouri, with only 134 acres, Elephant Rocks State Park is one of the most popular. It is famous for being the first Missouri park with a trail made for those with visual and physical limitations. The Braille Trail is just under a mile long and features a quarry pond and a maze of humongous rocks. The park is located in southeastern Missouri and has a bunch of granite boulders to play on. 

Make sure you don’t miss Fat Man’s Squeeze. It is a spot where two boulders have just a narrow space between them where you can get to the secret abandoned quarry. There is another hiking path called The Maze, that has 100 feet of scattered boulders to maneuver through. There are also two small lakes that have some excellent fishing opportunities. 

While you are out that way, stop at Buford Mountain Conservation Area and see the 1,740-foot-tall mountain, the second-tallest in Missouri.


Summer in Eureka means lots of exciting roller coasters, fun games, and delicious carnival food because it is home to Six Flags Mid America. Six Flags has 323 acres of incredible enjoyment for all, including a 180-foot-tall Ferris wheel and over 35 more rides, including nine roller coasters and a water park. The water park itself has four slides, a raft ride, a water volcano, and Adventure Cove, which has 71 interactive water slides, gadgets, and other fun.

After all the fun and games, take your best furry friend to Broemmelsiek Park Off-Leash Dog Area, where he can let off a little steam. It has five acres of dog-friendly space, including a small pond for dogs to splash around in without a leash. 

Once everyone has worked up an appetite, you can visit Culvers for a burger and fries or Jo Boccardi’s Ristorante for pasta and pizza. Then, grab a cone of something cold at Spooner’s Frozen Custard before heading back to the hotel.

Mark Twain National Forest 

Located in southeastern Missouri around Rolla, the Mark Twain National Forest boasts over three million acres of nature that includes the six wilderness areas of Rockpile Mountain, Piney Creek, Paddy Creek, Irish, Hercules-Glades, Devils Backbone, and Bell Mountain. It is also home to hundreds of lakes, creeks, rivers, and trails, including Eleven Point National Scenic River and the Glade Top Trail National Scenic Byway. And your fur baby is welcome as long as he is on a leash.

The forest is a popular spot for boating, swimming, fishing, biking, hiking, and camping. Its waters have more than 200 types of fish as well as many wild animals including bears, wolves, and bobcats. You can find about 40 campgrounds with more than 500 campsites as well as 250+ miles of hiking trails. 

Be sure to let your cuddly canine off the leash for a while to play for a while. One good place to do that is Rolla Dog Park at Buehler Park on Highway. 


Columbia loves dogs and their pup parents and provides lots of opportunities to save money while you are in town. First, you have your pick of 10+ hotels with rooms under $100. In fact, the Super 8 Motel is only $60 and has an indoor pool, hot tub, and housekeeping. Right in the middle of Missouri, this is one of the most populated cities in the state and has 128,000 residents as well as 21,000 fur babies. 

Some of the best things to do here are free. This includes several dog parks including Garth Nature Area with a three-acre fenced pup play area with a pond for cooling off in the summer. It also has picnic tables, trails, and a restroom. Cosmo Park is the largest park in the city and has a 70-acre off-leash dog park. However, they should be voice-controlled in such a large area. 

Afterward, grab some cheap but delicious burgers and custard at Freddy’s or Dairy Queen. Dogs are always welcome outside on a leash.

St. Charles 

Another pup popular place, St. Charles has about 70,000 residents who have an estimated 11,000 pooches. Where else can you go antiquing, enjoy some homemade fudge, catch a huge catfish, and learn about Lewis and Clark in the same place? Frontier Park is a dog-friendly recreational space on the Missouri River where you will see lots of local anglers trying to catch something big. You can also get some selfies with the Lewis and Clark Monument with their Newfoundland dog.

Nearby, you and Fido can stroll along the cobblestone streets of the St. Charles Historic District, where there are dozens of antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, and a fudge shop that gives out free samples. Some of the shops are dog-friendly for leashed dogs. 

Just across the way by Highway 370, another fantastic park to visit is the 370 Lakeside Park. Not only does it have a fishing lake and creek but it also has RV camping with 75 sites, a boat dock, and two dog parks!

Kansas City 

With a population of over a half million people and approximately 80,000 dogs, Kansas City is where dog lovers love to visit and live. If you are looking for a place for your next anniversary or another special vacation with your love, take them and your fur baby to Kansas City. First, drop off your pup at Dog Pawz Stay and Play so he can hang out with the other pups while you hit the town. 

Now, take your honey on a KC Barbecue Tour where you and your sweetie can spend four hours tasting different delicious bites from all over town. After, go to the Green Lady Lounge where you can enjoy some drinks and jazz music in a romantic atmosphere. 

Then, pick up your pup and let him play off the leash at Wayside Waifs Bark Park. It has five acres with tunnels and other fun equipment. Finally, go to The Old Red Bridge in Minor Park where you can write your initials on a padlock and lock it to the fence on the bridge. 

Big Lake State Park 

If you want to go camping, head to the northwestern corner of Missouri, where you can find Big Lake State Park. It has over 400 acres of recreation, including the largest oxbow lake in the state, which has 646 acres of its own. The park has 76 campsites open from April 15th to November, but make sure you reserve one well in advance, with 17 of them right on the waterfront.

Most sites have electricity and water for RVs, but others are just basic tent sites. There is also a campground host, restroom, shower house, and playground. The park also has cabins, but they do not allow dogs at this time. The lake offers boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, and just hanging out with your fur baby. He must be leashed at all times, though, and pick up anything he drops. 

Take a break from grilling and let Quackers Bar & Grill cook your steak for you. Fido is welcome to join you on the patio as long as he is leashed.


This city in southeastern Missouri is a mixture of a busy metro and natural beauty. It is packed with trendy shops and eateries, as well as huge parks and natural spaces. For example, Fantastic Caverns is one of those places that will warm you up in the winter and cool you off in the summer so it is always a fun place to visit. And leashed dogs are welcome! You get a 55-minute ride through the caverns to see some of the most incredible underground formations in the world.

Afterward, take Fido to Tied and Timber Beer Company, where you can enjoy some quality craft beer and other items in the beer garden. There is also a heated patio if it is cold. Just make sure you bring doggie bags to clean up after your pup and keep him on a leash at all times. 

Don’t miss the pup-friendly Bass Pro Shop which is one of the largest in the country. It even has a dog-friendly restaurant, boat center, and archery range. 

Lake of the Ozarks 

If you and your pup are ready to do some hiking, head to Lake of the Ozark in Lake Ozark, Missouri. First, pack plenty of doggie bags and water for both of you. Then, go to Lake of the Ozarks State Park where they have 13 dog-friendly trails to explore. The easiest is the one-mile Coakley Hollow Trail with glades, woodlands, and streams. Another easy one is the one-mile White Oak Trail that runs along a ridge so you get some stunning views.

For something more challenging but still short, try the 3.4-mile-long Bluestem Knoll Trail, where you can see what the paths looked like 200 years ago. The park maintains its natural appearance but makes it easy to traverse. If you want to get high, the Rocky Top Trail is about 2.2 miles and takes you to the highest glade in the park. 

If you want to explore the water instead, you can rent a boat at WFO Watersports or a kayak from River Monkey Kayak Rentals. 

Jefferson City 

In the very center of the state, you will find the capital of Missouri, Jefferson City. It is not the largest and definitely does not have the most people, with just 43,000, but being central, it is easy to get anywhere. The first place to go is to check in at your hotel for your weekend getaway. There are quite a few pet-friendly properties in Jeff City but one of the most popular is Capitol Plaza, which has an indoor pool, restaurant, and bar for less than $75!

Next, take your dog to North Jefferson Recreation Area Dog Park with two acres of playing space for Fido to run around off his leash. There is a small dog area for pooches under 30 pounds, lots of shaded seating for pup parents, water fountains, and a waste station with baggies. 

Recharge and refill your bellies at JQs on High, where they serve the best burgers in town or Arris Pizza for a slice of something delicious.

Roaring River State Park 

Deep in the Ozarks of southwestern Missouri, Roaring River State Park has more than 4,200 acres of space on the Roaring River. There are 14 miles of riverfront for fishing, swimming, camping, and boating. It is a popular location for trout fishing and is one of the few lakes in Missouri that gets stocked with rainbow trout every year. Be sure to get a Missouri fishing license and trout tag if you plan to try your luck. 

The park also has seven awesome trails like the short and rugged Deer Leap Trail that leads to the overlook at the fish hatchery and the easy half-mile Springhouse Trail where you can see a variety of wildflowers. If you are up for it, try the rugged 2.6-mile Eagle’s Nest Trail that features a bridge, bluffs, and lilacs. 

If you want to camp at the park, there are three campgrounds with a total of 182 sites to choose from. They all have electricity, showers, restrooms, and laundry sites. 


Located in eastern Missouri just minutes from St. Louis, Wildwood is an affluent neighborhood of about 35,000 people and about 5,800 dogs. It is also home to the only ski resort in the state. Hidden Valley Ski Resort has 65 acres of skiable terrain with nine lifts, 15 trails, two terrain parks, the highest elevation of 860 feet, and the longest vertical drop of 320 feet. What’s more, the resort lodge welcomes dogs to stay with you. However, they are not allowed on the ski lifts or slopes. 

After playing on the slopes all day, you may be tired, but your fur baby still needs to get rid of some excess energy. Take him to Quail Ridge Dog Park in Wentzville. It features over two acres with a large covered area with seating for pup parents, water fountains, doggie bags, and a special small dog space.

Or, take your pup to Purina Farms, where you can explore the grounds, watch a dog show, see cow milking, and even get a wagon ride. 

Branson West 

Another fun city with a lot to do with the kids, Branson West is home to Silver Dollar City. The 61-acre theme park has 31 rides with seven roller coasters and nine water rides as well as some legendary shows and entertainment. You can watch them make candy, candles, and even knives. They even have a blacksmith. The food is incredible too! 

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed, so you will have to leave your pooch with a dog sitter. Take him to Branson Pet Resort, where he may end up having more fun than you! Later, you can pick him up and go to Olivia’s Wonderland, where the kids and you can make crafts with glitter, paint, and other messy items while Fido watches. 

Then, you can all go to Billy Bob Dairyland for some burgers, fries, and ice cream. Your canine compadre is welcome to join you on the patio as long as he is leashed. He may even get some treats. 

The Final Woof

Missouri is called the Show-Me State for many reasons. One of them is because it has so many incredible things to see. Luckily, dogs are popular, too so Fido can join you on many of your adventures. Couples with dogs love St. Louis for its cozy bed and breakfasts and riverboat and Kansas City where you can listen to some jazz and attach a lock with your initials on it at The Old Red Bridge. For a family trip, Branson West has Silver Dollar City, and Eureka has Six Flags. You can find a lot of history on a St. Charles getaway or do some swimming and boating in Branson. Whatever you want to do, Missouri can show you where to go.

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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