When you think of the most pet-friendly states places like California, Oregon or Florida may come to mind. You may not think of South Dakota. However, the Black Hills Region of South Dakota takes a back seat to no one as far as a vacation paradise for your four legged friend. The main catch is it's far from most places. If you are driving cross country on Interstate 90 you will pass right through the region. You should stop and spend a few days.
Coming from the east on Interstate 90 before you get to the Black Hills you should visit the Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo. This automobile and machinery museum takes up ten large hangers and welcomes your leashed dog inside and out. After a visit to the Pioneer Auto Show, you can drive through scenic Badlands National Park. Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails that leave the roadway in Badlands National Park, however, most of the scenery is visible from the many pull outs and parking lots. Also, your well-behaved, leashed dog is welcome to visit the grounds of the Badlands Petrified Gardens where you can view petrified animals and tracks from the past.
The most famous attraction of the Black Hills is, of course, Mount Rushmore. Dogs used to be allowed on the paved observation area but a number of years ago the Park Service unfortunately banned dogs from the complex. Now the closest view your pet can get of the famous mountain is from the parking lot. This still offers a good view of the mountain and is well worth seeing. However, it can be very hot here in the summer so please don't leave your dog in the car without a person staying with them. True dog-friendly attractions in the Black Hills are plentiful. They include Bear Country USA, where you drive through a wild animal park, Thunderhead Underground Falls, and the Reptile Gardens in Rapid City where you can see probably more types of snakes and other reptiles than you might want. In Rapid City, take a look at the Berlin Wall, which are sections of the actual Berlin Wall. You can take your dog with you to Dinosaur Park on the hill overlooking Rapid City. This unique city park, listed on the official National Register of Historic Places, has a number of real life sized statues of dinosaurs. There are also a number of dog-friendly restaurants where dogs can eat with you on the patio. Thirsty's is a good choice and our travel guide lists many others as well.
For those of you whose dog would appreciate an long hiking experience, there is the 111 mile Centennial Trail to hike. From Wind Cave to Bear Butte State Park, this trail offers many scenic views and is usually kept in excellent condition. Please bring your own water.
Pet-Friendly hotels and campgrounds are plentiful in the area, from the major chain hotels in Rapid City to hotels in Custer and Hot Springs. If you are camping and have kids, consider the Flintstones Bedrock City Theme Park Campground and Amusement Park which is pet-friendly.
If you are driving cross-country this is a must see vacation spot for you and your companion 4-legged traveler. If you fly with your dog it is easy to fly into the Rapid City Airport from major airline hubs.