Roadtrip activities with your dog through Nevada, Utah & Arizona

In November, we took a roadtrip with our dogs through Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. We went through the Desert with a pit stop in Las Vegas. We got caught in a wicked storm passing through the region but were still able to enjoy the dessert and sin city with the dogs. Due to the heat throughout the Nevada, Utah, and Arizona desert landscape, October – April are the best times to visit with your dog. The weather in the desert changes quickly so come dressed in layers. Over our five day roadtrip, we experienced heat, rain, snow, hail, and cold winds.

Essentials to pack when visiting the desert with your dog

During the summer months, the heat in desert climates is brutal and reaches dangerous temperatures. It is best to visit in late fall, winter, or early spring to avoid heat related injuries, especially when hiking with a dog. At any time of year, when you visit the desert with your dog, be sure to bring a backpack with the following:

Is the Mojave Desert Pet Friendly? 

The Mojave Desert extends through Southeastern California into Nevada and has become one of the most visited tourism destinations in North America (due to its proximity to Las Vegas). The desert receives less than 2 inches of rain a year – which happened to be while we were visiting. The desert includes the major National Parks of Death Valley and Joshua Tree as well as multiple state parks and recreation areas. National Parks are always less dog friendly than state parks/national preserves so we did not visit National Parks on this trip. As a general rule of thumb, you can almost always find pet friendly alternatives to National Parks close by. We visited Joshua Tree National park in early 2019 but enjoyed the pet friendly options more on this road trip. Pro Tip: always opt-out of National Parks if you are visiting with your dog and look for alternative attractions. The top pet friendly destinations of the Mojave Desert are the Mojave National Preserve, Valley of Fire State Park, and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Mojave National Preserve – California

The first day of our road trip, we drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas by traveling through the Mojave National Preserve. There are many pet friendly destinations throughout the preserve but we have highlighted the two most unique experiences. Before entering the Mojave, be sure to fill up your gas tank as there aren’t any gas stations once you are inside.

Kelso Sand Dunes with your Dogs

Our first stop in the Mojave with the dogs were the Kelso Sand Dunes. The dunes tower at over 600 feet so you can’t miss them – depending on the direction that you are traveling, you will turn off Kelbaker Road onto Kelso-Dunes Road where you will continue for 4 miles until the trail restrooms at the trailhead. Kelso-Dunes Road is unpaved and bumpy but is passable by most vehicles without 4WD.

The dunes cover 45 square miles and due to the shifting sand, there is no marked trail to the top. Keep your eyes on the tallest summit as your goal or follow the footprints in the sand. The trail trends upwards with up and down hills of sand until the final climb to the top. If you are walking upwards, you know you are going the right way. Luckily, it is impossible to get lost as you will always be able to see your goal (the highest sand dune) in front of you and the parking lot behind you.

As the crow flies, the entire experience covers around 3 miles, but the climb is strenuous – not a walk at the beach.  As you climb, each step becomes more difficult and you will find yourself falling into a 2 step forward, 1 step back pattern. The final summit is the hardest so rather than going up the largest dune, try to find an easier path (on the right side of the ridge). Walking along the ridge is easier than climbing the largest dune  head on. As you walk, your steps will create little sand avalanches below but eventually, you will make it to the top.

Once you make it to the top of the summit, have a seat and take in the views before you roll or run back down. When we visited, a sand storm started without warning once we reached the top. The storm made it difficult to see our way back down and the wind turned the sand into tornados. As we made our way back down, many of the hikers had to turn back as the winds continued picking up. We got back to the car covered in sand but satisfied with the beautiful views we enjoyed from the dunes.

Bring your dogs to the Mojave Desert Lava Tube (4WD Needed)

What is a lava tube?

A lava tube is an underground cave that has been formed by hardened lava. Lava tubes are made interesting by spotlights from above where holes in the molten lava let in light. Without the spotlights from the sky above, the tube would just be a dark cave.

When is the best time of day to visit the Mojave lava tube?

We visited the lava tube at sunset and found that the lighting was very dim compared to what we would have experienced around mid day (11am-2pm) with the sun higher in the sky. From research I have done online, the best time to visit the lava tube is right around noon. The strength of the light beams you experience from the holes in the ceiling of the tubes will depend on the sun’s strength on the day you visit.

The road to the trailhead

The pet friendly Mojave Desert lava tube is another unique desert experience – If you decide to go to the lava tube, make sure to look up the route beforehand and familiarize yourself with the path to the trailhead: the turnoff from Kelbaker Road is unmarked (about 15 miles from the Kelso Depot). If approaching on Kelbaker Road from the Kelso Depot, turn right on the unmarked Aiken Mine Road. Keep left when you eventually get to the fork to remain on Aiken Mine Road. Eventually, you will reach what appears to be a parking lot and the lava tube is about 1/4 mile from parking. The road to the trail head is very bumpy – do not attempt without a high clearance or 4WD vehicle. The sand is relatively deep in parts and there are alternating areas of rocks and holes on your way to the trailhead. We were perfectly safe with our 4WD Subaru Outback but would not have attempted with a normal sized Sedan.

Finding the lava tube entrance

Watch this 2 minute video from California Through my Lens for a look at how to find the lava tube.

Once you park your car, you will head up a path lined with lava rock. Keep to the right and within a few minutes, you will see a few mounds of lava rocks. Continue towards the mounds of lava rocks until you see holes in the ground. The holes indicate that you are walking over the lava tube! Those holes are where the light shines through from above once you are in the tube. Finding these holes in the ground means you are close to the entrance!

Steep staircase with a dog: the lava tube entrance

Once you reach the large hole in the ground with the metal staircase, you’ve found the lava tube! The entrance to the lava tube is to the left once you get down the steep (but stable) staircase. I was alone with the two dogs and luckily they were confident enough to make their way up and down the staircase. In order to stay safe,  I went down first and then called the dogs down one by one. If your dog is afraid of open back or steep stairs, you may have to carry them down. The staircase is very stable but is almost a 90 degree incline. Calvin and Samson were so ready to explore the lava tube that they nearly flew down once I called them to meet me.

Explore the lava tube with your dogs!

Once you reach the bottom of the staircase, you are almost to the final attraction! The tube begins to the left of the staircase – you need to walk down and into the darkness for a few moments (use your phone flashlight) before you find the wide, open cavern on the other side. The opening to the tube is only about 3 feet tall so you will crouch down (watch your head!) and walk a few steps into the dark. Don’t worry, it’s only a few steps to the main cavern. The main cavern isn’t particularly long – only a few hundred feet but the adventure to getting there was all part of the experience. Take a moment to enjoy the quiet peace-fullness alone with your dogs. We spent about thirty minutes enjoying the lava tube and by the time we emerged, the sun was setting over the desert. Our next stop – Las Vegas.

As we drove onwards to Las Vegas, we watched the sun continue to set over the desert. We were meeting up with the rest of our family in Vegas, so the day in the desert had been just me alone with the dogs. It was a strange experience spending the day with my two companions who asked for nothing but my presence. At first, I was worried that I would get lonely without speaking to (or seeing) any humans for a entire day. Instead, I felt far from alone even as we crouched into the darkness of an underground cave.

Las Vegas with Fido – Nevada

Is Las Vegas Pet Friendly? 

The top reason we stopped in Las Vegas during this road trip was to take a rest and explore the pet friendly attractions that are driving distance from the Vegas Strip. Many of the hotels in Las Vegas are pet friendly and have dog relief areas throughout the complexes. However, pets are only allowed to walk on the Las Vegas strip between the hours of 5am to noon so we do not consider Vegas to be particularly pet friendly. Pets are allowed to walk through casinos if they are going to and from their hotel rooms but not allowed for any other reason.  Additionally, pets are not permitted in the dining or shopping areas  If your dog is a legitimate service dog (ESA is not included), it is exempt from these regulations. We stayed in Las Vegas as we were passing through to Utah during our road trip and the hotel had no issues with two dogs in the hotel room. Calvin adhered to the rules and still had a lot of fun in the hotel room during out visit, while Samson (a service dog) accompanied us throughout the day.

This was my first time visiting Las Vegas and we stayed at the pet friendly Cosmopolitan right next to the Bellagio fountains on the Vegas Strip. I highly recommend staying right on the Vegas Strip during your stay – this will allow you to walk around but also take breaks throughout the day if necessary. The following hotels on the Vegas Strip are Pet Friendly: The Cosmopolitan, The Mirage, Bally’s, Delano, Planet Hollywood, Bellagio, Four Seasons.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – Nevada

20 minutes from Las Vegas, your dog is welcome at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. During our stay, a massive storm was crossing through the region so we were unable to fully enjoy the red rocks. Start at the visitor center area to check out the trails, use the restroom, and fill up on water. Check out the available trails here to determine the right distance for you and your dog.

Valley of Fire State Park – Nevada

The Fire Wave is dog friendly!

The famous “Wave” at Coyote Buttes in Utah is breathtaking but unfortunately requires an almost impossible to acquire permit. Luckily, you can enjoy a smaller version of the famous wave for free and without permits in the Valley of Fire State Park! The Fire Wave’s orange and white stripes are wild – until you actually approach and walk on the sandstone you may be convinced that the stripes are painted on. The stripes are a natural phenomena found in sedimentary rocks accumulating in layers over thousands of years. Parking is available at the Fire Wave trailhead and the 1.5 mile out and back trail is well marked.

White Domes Trail

The White Domes Trail packs all of the magic of the Valley of Fire into a short 1 mile loop – sandstone formations, slot canyons, colorful rocks. The trail starts off with a steep rocky slope but flattens out after the initial descent. The trail leads to a wide slot canyon and then ends with a sandy path surrounded by red rocks. Ample parking and restrooms are available at the trailhead.


Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness – Utah

On what ended up being the last night of our road trip, we found ourselves in Hildale, Utah….in a snowstorm. We cuddled up in an airbnb that was essentially just a bed surrounded by 4 walls of wood planks…and a makeshift “roof”. We slept with all our winter gear on and woke up to a fresh layer of snow the next morning. This was Samson’s first snow, and he loved it!

Unfortunately, we were unable to complete most of the items on the list below due to the storm that followed us along the trip. We were only able to visit the Toadstools Hoodoos but wanted to include the other items as they were at the top of our list if we had been able to. The weather conditions were so sketchy, that when we arrived at the Bureau of Land Management visitor center, the rangers warned us not to try any of the more difficult to access trails. Slot canyons can become extremely dangerous during inclement weather as they can fill up with water and flood. Additionally, the clay along the canyons becomes very slippery in the rain so even the one trail we did complete was very dicey. We didn’t even attempt to try the sandy roads as those had turned into slush.

Toadstools Hoodoos

After checking out the Bureau of Land Management for trail information, the rangers recommended that we attempt the Toadstools Hoodoos trail down the road. The Toadstools Hoodoos trail is a 1.8 mile out and back hike that under good weather conditions should be relatively simple. Due to the storm passing through, the clay on the trail was especially slippery and we had to get on our hands and knees to get up some of the hills. The creek was flowing and our easy hike turned into quite an adventure over the soft clay soil. This trail starts at the wide canyon opening that eventually narrows and leads to the rock formations that resemble mushrooms.

White Pocket (High clearance vehicle needed)

White pocket is another destination that allows you to enjoy an alternative to the famous “Wave” at Coyote Buttes. Getting to the white pocket is part of the adventure but should not be attempted without a high clearance vehicle and/or 4WD. Check the current road conditions at the BLM office before attempting to get to White Pocket. The sand is very deep and the road sees little traffic in the event of your car getting stuck. See here for more information on how to access white pocket plus some additional landmarks to visit.

The Wave at Coyote Buttes (Lottery required)

Although we did not win the lottery to hike The Wave at Coyote Buttes, we do want to call it out as a highlight of the region. We have some friends who were lucky enough to visit with their corgi and documented their adventure here. If you are planning on visiting the region, try your luck with a lottery ticket to “Surf the Wave” at Coyote Buttes.

Lake Powell & Antelope Canyon (Dogs only allowed if kayaking into the canyon)

Antelope Canyon remains on our bucket list after this trip but we wanted to include it as it is a once in a lifetime experience with your dog if you are willing to kayak into the canyon. Dogs are unfortunately not allowed on the guided tours but with some online research and help from some great Dog Moms, we found that a good amount of the famous canyons can actually be explored as long as you kayak into an alternate entrance. If you are interested in this adventure, check out Born Wild & Fancy and Pawsitive Development as they have detailed descriptions on how to have a pet friendly adventure in Antelope Canyon with the dogs. Check out Amber’s great video of her Antelope Canyon Adventure below:

Horseshoe Bend – Arizona

Our road trip was supposed to extend further into the Grand Canyon, but as weather conditions worsened, we made the call to see Horseshoe Bend and then turn back to sunny Los Angeles. We are grateful to have been able to see Horseshoe Bend right before the hail began but definitely need to redo this road trip with better weather in the coming years.

Getting to the Rim of Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend refers to the beautiful aerial view of the Colorado River looping around Glen Canyon. To get to the trailhead, pay the $10.00 parking fee per vehicle and follow the crowds. To avoid the worst crowds, it is best to visit Horseshoe Bend at sunrise. From the parking lot, it is about a 10-15 minute walk to the famous view over Glen Canyon. A lot of the viewpoints are not fenced so please exercise caution when taking photos or approaching the edge. Additionally, dogs must be kept on leash – the photos below have experienced some photo magic and are also taken from an angle that creates the illusion of being close to the edge while actually being very far from it.

Final Thoughts

It was a shame that our trip was washed out from the storm but we still managed to enjoy our time together as a family. The areas we visited were extremely dog friendly and we will definitely be back soon hoping for better weather conditions. Next time, we’re hoping to check off Antelope Canyon and White Pocket.

Happy Roadtrippin’
-Your Pal Cal

What to Expect at the Airport with your Dog

service dog on airplane

Taking a dog on an Airplane: What to Expect at the Airport

Every wonder what you need to know to bring your dog on a plane? Wonder how to succeed at airplane dog travel? What kind of paperwork do you need to bring your dog in cabin? As we sit on yet another cross country flight, we figured we would take the time to discuss all the challenges, processes, and people that you may face when traveling with your Service Dog or ESA. We would also like to include some tips for training your dog to succeed in such a busy and hectic place.  For more information about flying with a dog please see our post about it here. Enjoy this full list of things to prepare for at the airport. But first….

Emotional Support Dog vs. Service Animal

We would like to make clear that there is an important distinction between a Service Animal and an ESA (Emotional Support Animal). A Service Animal is defined by the ADA here. This means that the dog is individually trained to perform certain tasks that directly mitigate its handler’s disability.  A disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Having a particular diagnosis does not make you automatically “qualified” to have a Service Dog or defined as disabled.  You can be suffering from a similar diagnosis (Panic Disorder, Anxiety, PTSD) as someone with a Service Dog and it can have some impact on your life, BUT this does not mean that you are disabled. These diagnoses impact people in different ways and have different implications in daily life. Only a trained psychiatrist or physician who knows you diagnoses well can determine if you are disabled and require a Service Dog .A well trained ESA is NOT a Service Dog. It is our personal opinion that it is important for ESAs to be trained – worrying that your animal is going to misbehave on a plane or bark all day in your no-pets allowed apartment, lunge at other dogs ect, is definitely not comforting and very disrespectful to those around you.

What is Calvin? What is Samson?

Until late 2018, Calvin was an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) but his role eventually changed. After task training, public access testing (although not required), and doctor recommendation, Calvin became a fully trained Medical Response Service Dog. Over time, it became clearer that Calvin is better suited for other activities. He loves to work and continues to do so at home, but his energy levels have not been as well suited for public work. Samson has since taken over Calvin’s role and spent the first year of his life training with professionals to be a great helper. His training will continue but he has done an amazing job so far.

We keep our private life private and do not center our social media presence on the boys working. We included a little bit more information about the dog’s roles in our other airport guide and will therefore not go into detail here.

Airport processes with a dog:

  • Check In Line
  • Security Line
  • Waiting at the gate
  • Boarding
  • Exiting Plane

service dog in airplane cabin under seat

Sounds and Stimuli to Expect: If your dog comfortable around loud sounds? 

The best way to prepare for flights is to find similar stimuli outside of the airport and then work your way up to practicing in the airport without a flight booked (before security).  Stand in lines, sit at baggage claim, ect.

Moving walkways and escalators
Dogs are not naturally inclined to walk on escalators and moving walkways. Watch out for their toes! Practice at dog friendly outdoor places (if you have an ESA).  Try over and over until your dog gets used to the moving platform. When Calvin is afraid of something, we walk by it over and over until he can do so without darting away.

Nothing much to say here – business as usual.

Large trolleys
Trolleys carrying baggage, people, garbage ect are all things to expect.  They have big wheels and make a lot of noise.

 Hand dryer in bathrooms
If your dog is afraid of blow dryers, the bathroom is going to be a challenge. Practice at home when you dry your hair by keeping your dog in the bathroom with you.  Do this every morning until they seem comfortable with the sound.

Rolling suitcases
Just another thing to get used to. No biggie here.

Metal detectors/Security Equipment
Be prepared for a lot of commotion at the security line – it’s a good idea to place the dog into a down-stay while you are unloading your bag, taking off shoes, ect.  Down-stay is also useful when going through the metal detectors.  Some TSA agents make the dog go through fully naked while others allow them to keep on their vest (I think Service Dogs are allowed to keep their vests on but do not quote me on that).

Dealing with Reactive dogs
We do not believe that a legitimate ESA or Service Dog should be reactive on leash.  Airlines have clearly defined rules that reactive dogs cannot be allowed on planes, but there has not been any crack down on it. We have had reactive dog situations more times than we can count.  One woman’s small dog freaked out at a sleeping Calvin at the gate, looked us straight in the eye and said “sorry, she doesn’t like big dogs.” We weren’t sure what to make of this other than….wtf?! (excuse the language).  Part of us felt badly for her, but then we realized that dog training is entirely up to the owner and leash reactivity is not appropriate for working dogs. We have many more stories including a miniature pinscher “service dog” fighting with a Chihuahua “service dog” at the gate.  We like to think that Calvin (while watching and holding his down-stay) was silently laughing. Don’t even get us started on the Frenchie that we watched wiggle its way through security while its owner chased it. Establish a reliable “leave it” when walking by other dogs and use treats if needed to reinforce the command. Please note, that we believe ANY breed CAN be a Service Dog or ESA, we are just describing these particular experiences which have nothing to do with the dog’s breed, just their training.

service dog on airplane cabin

Types of people you will meet while traveling with your dog:

The REALLY Rude People
If you are an introvert (like me) having everyone watching your every move is already really intimidating.  Now, add in the rude people who think they have the right to hoot at you, throw things (yes this happened), make mean comments really loudly, squeak things in your dogs face while laughing (this literally just happened).  The list goes on and on. Most people are already in a bad mood because they hate flying, and you have to be ready for them. When situations arise, we have found it is best to keep our cool and just let Calvin sit politely while they are being rude so that they look like FOOLs. Some people are rude for no reason – let’s hope they’re just having a bad day.

The Curious People
These people mean no harm, they are just unfamiliar with the process and are understandably curious at how a 60 pound dog fits under a seat (he does!). They will ask questions, and it is up to you if you want to answer.

The Children
Children love dogs. They’ll want to say hi. Calvin also loves children…and wants to say hi. Sticky fingers, nose boops, ear pulling….his kryptonite.  For this reason, we tend to keep him under our seat at the gate so that he is seen by as few people as possible.  It is up to you whether or not you want to engage with the children.  We used to let children pet Calvin more when we were still socializing him but now we keep him tucked under our seats wherever we are.

The Dog Haters
Some people have had bad experiences with dogs, which is unfortunate.  They have also seen the news of untrained dogs causing havoc at airports or people trying to get their peacocks onto flights.  All of these things make them cringe when they see a dog, even well trained, walking through the terminal.  Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do but ignore them. If your dog isn’t bothering them and is tucked away under your seat, there really isn’t anything they should be upset about.

The Allergic to Dogs
This happened to us on a flight once and it was important for us to respect the woman’s allergy. She did pet Calvin at the gate (while sitting next to us) and was sitting three rows behind us (but let’s not talk about that).  Some people ARE severely allergic to dogs which leads to a more tricky situation that should be respected.  When this happened, the attendant came to let us know and we told her we were open to relocating to the very back of the plane to accommodate the woman’s request.  I am unsure what the protocol is if this happens with a trained Service Dog team and how they weigh the two requests so I cannot say what would happen in that situation.

The pilot and staff
They are generally friendly if you fly on the more “dog friendly” airlines.  We have noticed that airlines are inconsistent with how friendly their staff are so it’s just depends on who is checking you in. Many times, the pilots will want to say hi.  Of course, this is entirely up to you and they always ask for permission and understand your preferences. We generally let Calvin give them a BOOP for good luck.

Your dog can generally keep its gear on when going through security.  You will put him in a down stay and then walk through the metal detector with your back to him.  Then you call him to you.  TSA will test your hands and often will pat down your dog (Calvin’s favorite part).  They are generally very friendly but you should expect more scrutiny in terms of bag checking and pat downs. Also, if you bring canned food, they’ll let you by but it will set off the alarm. We set it off every time and they like to play a “what set off the alarm game?” – someone always wins with the dog food guess.

What does the dog do on the plane? How to prepare your dog for plane travel:

Jet bridge sound
You know when you get onto the jet bridge and walk down that long hallway to the plane entrance?  The air is stuffy, and it sounds like you are heading straight for a big vacuum. It took Calvin about 4 flights to finally get used to this sound. We had a great crew on one flight that let us practice Calvin (since we pre-board).

Treats and comfort are your friend. If your dog is used to being in the car, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Limited leg room
There is going to be a leg room shortage if your dog weighs anything more than 30lbs.  To pre-empt this, it always helps to ask at check in if there are any available seats on the plane.  If so, they can move you to a row with an empty seat or bulkhead.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a very common situation.  To prepare for less leg room, travel light and get your dog situated before other passengers get on the plane.  The best way to fit them is to push their behind all the way under the seat in front of you.  This fits a 60lb lab even though it is uncomfortable. If you are traveling with another person, the leg room is not an issue.  We have found that the comfortable amount of leg space for a big dog is 1.5 seats.  We rarely travel solo so Calvin’s head will often invade a bit of his dad’s legroom.

We do not want to sugar coat – the first flight will be stressful! especially if you are dealing with anxieties. It is totally normal for the handler AND dog to feel a little bit nervous on their first flight.  One thing that we used to settle Calvin immediately is one of our sweatshirts.  We always place a sweatshirt that smells like our home on the ground before we set him into a down-stay.  He feels more at home and immediately snuggles into it

Take off and landing
A Boeing weighs about 970,000 lbs. As a human, even I am shocked when they catapult into the air carrying 200 passengers and a full cargo of luggage. Because your dog will be at your feet, they will get the brunt of the engine rumbling.  Have your treats ready and you may need to hold them down for the split second that the plane takes off (again this will likely only be for your first flight).  They’ll likely settle down once you reach 10,000 feet.

Narrow aisles
Aisles are not large enough to fit a dog and human side by side.  Either have your dog follow in a heel, or walk between your legs (we call this “scoot”).  We aren’t really sure why but have noticed that we tend to use the heel when getting on the plane and scoot when exiting.

A reliable “back” command is useful if you are dealing with the narrow aisles and leg space.  If your dog ends up facing the windows, it will need to back out of the row to exit the plane.

Happy Flying (LOL),
Your Pal Cal

Bringing Your Dog to Canada. Pet Friendly Activities in Banff National Park – Alberta, Canada

banff national park moraine lake. lake moraine is a very blue lake. dog standing in front of lake moraine

Dog Friendly Things to Do in Banff National Park

There are so many dog friendly activities in Banff National Park – In September, we visited what has got to be one of the most beautiful places in North America. We made our way up North to Alberta, Canada to visit Banff National Park. Even in person, the turquoise lakes seem unreal, and the surrounding mountains of the Canadian Rockies are breathtaking. Compared to the National Parks in the United States, Banff was entirely dog friendly. Calvin was allowed on all trails, campgrounds, and most hotels. Additionally we loved that most lakes had access to both easy and more intense hikes.
But First…Why is the water in Banff SO blue?
Banff is so breathtaking that most people think that these shots were taken in front of a green screen with Calvin dropped in. Truth is, Banff is even more beautiful in person.
Banff National Park is known for its unbelievable blue/turquoise colored water.  The color most closely resembles the Glacier Freeze Gatorade flavor. Based on the surroundings, time of year and time of day, the lakes take on a different shade of blue.  So why does the water look so blue? During winter, rock flour/silt is created when glaciers grind against the underlying rock. Come spring, the glaciers melt and bring the silt into the lakes. When sunlight meets the silt, the lake appears to reflect a blue color. The lake’s color can change by the hour as the sun moves across the sky.
 snow in moraine lake. lake moraine snow. blue glacial lake

How to bring your dog into Canada

It is relatively easy to travel to Canada with your dog. From the United States it is super easy to bring your pet through the border. You have two options for crossing the Canadian border with a dog: either drive across the border or fly. If you are driving across the border, you must carry a valid rabies certificate.  For flying, the dog goes through the formal custom process so it is important to look up all relevant rules to make sure you have proper documentation. We had to submit a lot of information regarding Calvin’s vaccines, health information, and additional doctor’s notes. Customs also asked for proof that he had been trained (we showed his CGC paperwork). We would not recommend flying to an international destination unless your dog is objectively very well trained – the rules are stricter and customs does not fool around. For people traveling with Service Dogs there is less documentation required but it is important to note that the ADA is technically only covered in the United States so the Border Officers are allowed to ask additional questions and are not as familiar with US laws (although American based Airlines traveling to Canada do recognize ADA laws).  As always, make sure that you check all airline rules when traveling to international destinations because they can get confusing.

When to visit Banff with your dog 

We’ve heard that it is best to visit Banff in every season to get the full scope of its beauty.  While we were there, we got a glimpse of fall and winter.  September is generally considered a good time to visit because many of the crowds are gone and the weather is still good. Additionally, the lakes haven’t frozen over for the winter yet. We ended up in a full blizzard so we weren’t able to do most of the hikes we initially planned – the locals assured us that this type of weather is not typical for September. In the spring time, the lakes are especially blue as the glaciers melt. Don’t expect to hike if you visit in the winter, the lakes freeze over and the snow is deep.
It’s best to research seasonal pet restrictions when you plan to visit Banff. Many trails are in “core” grizzly bear areas and therefore have additional hiking rules and do not allow pets during cub rearing season.

Dog & pet friendly places to stay in Banff National Park

If you are into camping, the Lake Louise campground is the cheapest place to stay given its proximity to Lake Louise (about 1 mile away). The campground is surrounded by bear fences so you do not have to worry about unwanted furry friends. Additionally, the campground is lined with a flowing river which makes a great swimming hole for pups. Be WARNED…the cold can start in September and we got stuck camping in freezing rain and snow.  We made it 1 night before we had to look for lodging in the town of Banff. During the summer months, camping is definitely the most affordable (and pleasant) option if you want to be close to the lakes. Book about 4-6 months in advance.
There are only a few hotels in close proximity to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake and they come with a hefty price tag. Your options are slim since the one of the only pet friendly hotels is the Fairmont Hotel. This hotel overlooks the lake for a whopping $800 per night. The other hotel near the lake is not pet friendly.  For affordable pet friendly hotels you will have to look into the town of Banff which is about 40 minutes away – after freezing in a tent for a night, we stayed in the town of Banff for the remainder of our trip.  There were so many pet friendly options to choose from and the town is great to explore in the evenings. We booked last minute so we stayed at the Red Carpet Inn (no frills) and the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort (full kitchen, fireplace, cozy living room). Luckily, it isn’t too difficult to find pet friendly hotels in the area.  Many hotels in Banff allow dogs.

How much does it cost to get into Banff National Park?

Banff National Park has a per car entrance fee. When you enter Banff, you will have to pay a per vehicle fee of C$19.60 per day.

Get to the Banff lakes early

This pointer gets its own section because it was our biggest takeaway from the trip and something we were prepared for. The parking lots at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are small and fill up quickly. Shuttle buses are available but we have heard horror stories from friends who waited hours in the summer time. In peak tourist season, expect the parking lots to be full by sunrise (6/7am).  During our stay (September) we visited Louise and Moraine on different days so we could be there in the early morning (7am) before the crowds arrived – by 9am the lots were full.  We also had no trouble parking at Louise in the afternoon (after 4pm) when crowds had left.  Parking lots at the remaining lakes were busy but we managed to find a spot.  We presume that parking is an issue at all the lakes during the summer.

Don’t sweat the photos

At first we were disappointed that the weather did not prove to give us the best visibility for photos. Many of the lakes we visited were total white outs or too foggy to make out any mountains. The weather in Banff is very unpredictable so don’t let “failed” photos impact your admiration of the beauty. I’ve included the lakes that were on our bucket list. We didn’t get to see all of them but be sure to try to check em out if you are visiting for a few days.

Do you need Bear Spray in Banff? 

For peace of mind, we recommend picking up some bear spray especially if you are visiting during cub rearing season. Bears generally do not want any trouble but Grizzlies are generally considered more aggressive and will certainly charge when threatened. Be sure to keep your dogs on leash in bear territory for safety. There are many dog friendly trails throughout Banff – you are going to be hiking through Banff with your dog bear spray could come in handy.   See this great article from Orvis about what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking with your dog.

Map of Places to Visit in Banff

The Lakes in Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Parks

Visiting Banff means hopping from lake to lake.  All of the lakes have both easy and hard trails.  The harder trails are steeper inclines that lead to a birds eye view of the lake.  These are less crowded.
Pet Friendly Lake Louise
Lake Louise is dog friendly! Lake Louise is probably the most famous destination in Banff National Park. It is known for its picture perfect blue water and mountain reflections. We visited Lake Louise multiple times during our stay since we fell in love with the Deli inside the Fairmont Hotel. The Fairmont overlooks the lake and is definitely worth a visit – check out the 24hr deli on the first floor for some great snacks.
There are quite a few trails that leave from Lake Louise. We were snowed in but would have loved to make the hike Lake Agnes Teahouse (closes at 5pm). This is a half day hike (1.5-2 hours each way). Once at Lake Agnes, you can walk about 500m to the lookout at the back of the lake. There are additional hikes including the Little Beehive (1km), Big Beehive (1.6km) or the High Line Trail (5km) that goes to an additional tea house.
Pet Friendly Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is another one of the most famous lakes in Banff – rivaled only by Lake Louise. There are a few ways to enjoy Moraine Lake without breaking sweat (arduous hikes are available for those who want them). The best way to enjoy the lakeshore is to take the 1.5km out and back Moraine Lakeshore trail.  This trail has no elevation but has lots of great lookout points along the way.
For an elevated view of the lake, there is .3km trail that starts right at the parking lot and leads to the Moraine Lake Viewpoint. From there, you’ll get one of the most famous views of Banff.
Dogs welcome at Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is about a 20 minute drive from Lake Louise and is technically in what is known as Yoho National Park. Like other lakes in the area, a lot of tour buses come through but you’ll find that they do not venture to the lakeshore trail.  To best enjoy the lake in peace and quiet, you’ll want to walk around the lake’s perimeter. There is a 5.2km mostly paved trail with minimal elevation. We got caught in a downpour but still had a fabulous time.
Bringing your dog to Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is close to the town of Banff so be sure to check it out after you visit the town center. If you want more, the Lake Minnewanka trail follows the lakeshore but has multiple restrictions that must be followed due to the high concentration of momma bear activity in the area.  If you are planning to hike, be advised that dogs are not permitted past the Stewart Canyon bridge and you MUST travel in groups of at least 4. See additional seasonal restrictions here.
Dog shaped Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake is famously known for looking like a dog. Unfortunately we were unable to see it as we went by during a snowstorm. There is a 2.6km trail to the lake lookout point which is quite easy when it’s not icy.
Swimming in Bow Lake 
Bow Lake was one of our unexpected finds that we came across while looking for a restroom.  We are so glad we got to stop by – Calvin was able to swim in the water and the lake was looking amazing from the Bow Glacier runoff. If you have time, you can take the ~5km Bow Glacier Falls Trail for some extra views.

Visiting the Town of Banff with your Dog

En route to the lakes, be sure to stop in the town of Banff! Banff is located about 45 minutes from Lake Louise. It is also where you will find the most reasonably priced pet friendly accommodations. The Main Street, Banff Avenue is where you will find lots of cute boutiques. Most non-food establishments are pet friendly. The town gets very crowded so we found that the best time to stroll around was the early morning.

Renting Canoes in Banff

Banff is very dog friendly, including the canoe rentals on the lakes. The Lake Louise & Moraine canoes start at about $100-$115 per hour…Eek! The Emerald Lake canoes are cheaper to rent, at around $70 per hour. If you have your own canoe, you are allowed to self launch it on the lakes but there is no public boat launch. We did not take a canoe out onto the lakes but it is surely a unique experience.

Pet Friendly Jasper & Yoho: Other Pet Friendly Sights to See in the Banff area….

Johnston Canyon – Lower Falls, Upper Falls, Ink Pots
Takakkaw Falls
Other Lakes to check out: Vermilion Lakes, Hector Lake, Cascade Ponds, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, Grassi Lakes, Lake Agnes, Twin Lakes
Have a great time, 
Your Pal Cal

Pet Friendly Boston Massachusetts: Dog Friendly Activities in New England

 Dog sitting in front of a blue and red door in marblehead massachusetts

Dog Friendly Places Massachusetts

There are many fun things to do with your dog In Boston and New England.  We visited multiple Pet Friendly towns throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Even though there are many dog friendly activities in Boston, we focused on the small towns along the coast. Rent a car and check out all the dog friendly spots in the Boston area.

We recently visited Massachusetts and New Hampshire – the variety one can find in New England is awe inspiring.  From rural farmland, coastal towns, to big cities – New England seems to have it all. Although having a pet excludes you from visiting the museums in New England, all of the towns we visited were overall pet friendly – outdoor patios, water bowls for Fido, and lots of fun pet shops. If visiting with your pet, try to avoid the rainy seasons since pet friendly activities and patios are exclusively outdoors.

sunrise photo of a pet friendly beach in Massachusetts

When to visit Massachusetts with your Dog

Our favorite times to visit New England with the dogs are during the fall, and early summer.  During the fall, the whole family can enjoy all of fall’s best activities; apple picking, hot cider, leaves changing color. The winter is great for those who find peace and serenity in cuddling up in front of the fire place while snow falls outside.  As Californians, we are intimidated by the winter frost but love admiring its beauty from afar.  The early summer is great for visiting before the area fills up with tourists.  By early summer the rain has hopefully stopped and New England is left green and luscious.

dog standing on a rock at a pet friendly farm in massachusetts

Pet Friendly Hotels in Massachusetts

There are many pet friendly hotels in Massachusetts. For a more standard hotel experience, the Hampton Inn hotels allow pets for an extra fee ($50). We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Exeter, NH and had a great time.  We felt comfortable leaving Calvin alone while we attended a wedding and the front desk was very welcoming.

For a more pet friendly hotel experience, Kimpton Hotels are our favorite choice.  Check out their locations to see if they have one near your destination.  We will be staying at the Kimpton Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, MA when we visit again next year. They provide water bowls and even a bed for your pup with no extra charge!

This trip, we stayed in a hotel during out time in New Hampshire and an Airbnb during out quick stop through Boston, MA. We only book Airbnbs when we know Calvin will not be left alone since we feel uncomfortable leaving him alone in a house that is not his.  We know that in a hotel room he would not be able to escape even if he wanted to, but in a house he may be able to get creative (he’s never tried this but you never know).  It’s hard to predict what the security situation will be like in a house that you are unfamiliar with. Plus, hotels have constant staff to alert you of any types of issues that may come up with the dog if you step out. Ultimately, this decision is up to whatever feels most comfortable to you and Airbnbs tend to be more affordable.

dog laying on a king sized bed in a pet friendly hotel in Massachusetts

Are Massachusetts beaches dog friendly?

Many of the Massachusetts beaches are not pet friendly in the summer months. The Massachusetts beaches are refreshing and relaxing, especially in the early morning before the crowds come in.  Depending on when you visit, pets may not be allowed on some beaches especially during summer months.  Look for signs or designated pet friendly beaches – some cutoffs are April, May, or others are open to pets year round.  Even if the beach itself is not pet friendly, most beaches have a concrete walkway along the sand that you are welcome to walk on with Fido. In Nahant, MA we stayed off the main beach but were able to walk along the concrete path.  We then found a designated dog beach nearby that we could enjoy.

dog wearing a red and white striped polo in massachusetts beach

Map of places to visit in Massachusetts with your dog 

New England towns are known for their picturesque cobblestone paths, colorful houses, and water views. We checked out the following towns and farms along the way:

Pet Friendly Marblehead, MA – A quiet coastal town

Fresh off the cross country flight, we stopped by Nahant, MA to check out the Doggie Beach before heading to Marblehead, MA located about 45 minutes out of Boston.  We wandered through the cobble stone paths of Marblehead and found this town to be the quietest of all that we visited.  We enjoyed the peacefulness and small town vibes without feeling like we had fallen into a tourist trap.  We were able to take a moment to stock up on coffee after our red-eye and take in a breath of fresh air after our trip.

We parked on Atlantic Ave in front of Seaside Park and walked through the town.  This appeared to be the main street with all the cutest shops – check out the boutique pet shop “Pawsitively Marblehead.” We ate at Java Sun Coffee Roasters.  After walking through the small town, we realized this was one of the only places to get an early breakfast.

We took our coffees with us as we meandered through the quiet streets.  We found a lot of quaint, colorful houses and followed the Marblehead Rail Trail for a few miles before looping back into town.

Our last stop in Marblehead was to the Fort Sewall – a landmark built back in the 1600s.  We saw dogs wading in the water before the fort, but the fort itself is an on leash area.  Have a seat along the water and enjoy the sailboats coming in and out of the bay. Take a moment to relax and reflect.

labrador retriever sitting next to a stuffed dog in marblehead Massachusetts

pet store in marblehead Massachusetts
Salem, MA – Rich history and cobblestone paths

Salem Massachusetts its great for walking around with your dog. Salem, MA is most famous for the 1692 Witch Trials and gives you the opportunity to enjoy the town with your dogs. The town is appropriately adorned in spooky decor and most shops and bars reference witchcraft.  The creepy but playful vibe is perfect for a fun stroll through the town.

A great first stop is the Visitor’s center to use the restroom and get a map of the town.  The visitor’s center offers many souvenirs but you will find prices are better in town.

We walked to Salem Common, the town park on our way to the House of the Seven Gables.  Even though most activities in Salem are indoors and thus not pet friendly, the area around the landmarks are fair game and are fun to walk around.  We did not enter the House of the Seven Gables but our path there took us through the spooky Salem streets and shops and we admired the house from the outdoors.

Loop over to the Salem Maritime Park where you can wade in the water and walk out to the lighthouse. From there, make your way to the Salem Witch Village where you can enjoy more witchcraft imagery.  We finished our Salem visit by walking through the main street (Essex Street) up to the Bewitched Sculpture.

a view of the pet friendly maritime park in salem

Exeter, NH – Picturesque shops and trails

We traveled to New England to attend a wedding in Exeter, NH and we are so glad we got to stop by.  Exeter is a small town and home to Philips Exeter Academy, an elite boarding school.  The school was founded in the late 1700s and resembles a stereotypical ivy covered university.  The town is clean, quiet, and quintessentially New England with a river flowing through.  It takes less than an hour to walk through so have activities lined up nearby. For an additional activity, you can walk the Exeter trail along the river.

Hampton Falls, NH – Walk through Applecrest Farm Orchards and dine on the patio

After checking out Exeter, we drove to a nearby pet friendly farm. Applecrest Farm allows you to walk through the grounds and offers apple picking in the fall.  You can grab brunch on their patio overlooking the farm. We picked up some apple cider before heading to our next destination. Sometimes, their farm animals are out for petting.

Salisbury, MA – Check out the dog friendly beach!

The only stop we made in Salisbury was to the dog friendly beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation.  There is a caveat though – the “ocean” side beach is NOT dog friendly, only the “river” side beach.  The beaches are connected but dogs are only allowed off leash on the part that is in front of the campgrounds, not the main parking lot.  Both beaches are great but the “river” beach is the one that feeds into the ocean so you see land in front of you rather than never ending water. It costs $14 to get into the beach and we waited about 10 minutes in line.  The beach was crowded likely because of the long weekend and good weather.

Newburyport, MA – A smaller version of Rockport.  Grab some clam chowder.

After the beach, we drove up the road to Newburyport. Newburyport was very busy on the Saturday afternoon we visited.  We put our names down at the Sea Level Oyster Bar (great outdoor seating and clam seafood) and walked through the Waterfront Park while we waited.  The wait was about 30 minutes so we also explored the town.  In typical New England style – the cobblestone streets are lined with cute nautical themed shops.  Stop by Dolce Freddo Gelato across the street from the Oyster Bar to satisfy your sweet tooth. We wanted to explore the entire town so we meandered through the streets and made our way to Frog Pond before turning back. We didn’t see any frogs, but Calvin was mesmerized by the turtles.

Peabody, MA – Stop by Brooksby farm if you are driving through

We love visiting local farms so we made a pit stop in Brooksby farm.  The farm shop had all sorts of delicious freshly baked farm goodies (and homemade dog treats!). Pets cannot enter the farm shop but they are welcome anywhere else on the grounds. We spent a long time watching the animals and made some new friends. Check their website to see what types of crops are available for picking when you visit.


Concord, MA – Check out the historic revolutionary trail

Concord, MA is home to the Minute Man National Historical Park where you can follow the Battle Road Trail for as long as you want to walk.  The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first of the American Revolutionary War – the trail acts as an outdoor museum with information scattered along the walk.

labrador retriever sitting on the minute man trail
Rockport, MA – Iconic New England Town

Another iconic New England town, but a little out of the way if you are headed to Boston. Check out Rockport Harbor and stroll down Mt. Pleasant St. for the New England feel and great views of Rockport Harbor.  There are many cute shops and a lot of food options to choose from.

Cambridge, MA – Historical ivy covered college town

We headed over to Alma Mater in Cambridge for a night to catch up with friends and walk around campus.  Cambridge is a cute college town that is home to Harvard and MIT.  For off leash dog park options, we recommend Fresh Pond Reservation Dog Park.  In terms of food options, we stopped at the college favorites that offered outdoor seating – Felipe’s Taqueria in Harvard Square may be the best bang for your buck burritos you’ll ever find.  L.A Burdick’s is a great stop for grabbing drinking chocolate for the rest of your walk (pets not allowed inside so lead fido outside and get an order to go). Take a walk around the Harvard Square for more cute shops and Harvard Yard for some classic campus shots.  Calvin was very popular in his polo and got a lot of belly rubs. Cambridge is connected to Boston via bridges along the Charles River.  If you are staying in Cambridge, it’s a nice walk over to Boston….

dog wearing a harvard polo sitting in front of the harvard library

dog wearing a harvard polo sitting in front of a brick building

Boston, MA – Is Boston a Dog Friendly City?

Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States.  We like to think of Boston as a mini version of NYC or SF (but cleaner).  Boston is pet friendly, walkable, in general pristinely clean, and has a lot of cool neighborhoods to check out.  We walked down Commonwealth Avenue to get a feel for the old cobblestoned Boston homes.  Parallel to Commonwealth Avenue you will find Newbury Street – lined with cute shops that get progressively more upscale, ending at the Public Gardens (also known as Boston Common).  Boston Common is essentially the Boston version of NYC’s Central Park.  From Boston Common, you can walk the Freedom Trail through all the remaining monuments (about 2.5 miles).  We stopped by Quincy Market and finally made our way to the North End for some Italian food.  On a nice day, walking along the Charles River Esplanade is a relaxing dog friendly stroll.

dog wearing a harvard polo

 Happy traveling, 
Your Pal Cal