Everyone loves to go on vacation, including your four-legged friends. So we’ve put together our best advice for a 3-day, dog-friendly getaway. But first, a few ground rules. While all of the businesses listed below are dog-friendly, they all agree on a few things: always clean up after your pet, always have your dog on a leash (unless otherwise stated), remember to pack water for them, and please be sure your dogs are current on their vaccinations. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get on to the fun stuff.
You just arrived in the Black Hills and both you and your companion need somewhere to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. First, pull into the Founders Park parking lot and take a nice, leisurely hike up Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park (the locals lovingly refer to it as “M-Hill”), located right in the center of Rapid City. Depending on the route you choose, you can expect to spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours hiking.
After that, you’ll definitely be ready for some food so keep an out for the NOSH Mobile Eatery in the Founders Park parking lot, and be prepared to have the best food truck experience in the Midwest! If they aren’t there, then we recommend heading down to Thirsty’s, where their large outdoor patio is dog-friendly—allowing you to bask in the ambiance of downtown Rapid City.
After some great food and a few drinks, it’s time to head to bed. If you’re planning on camping, both Lake Park Campground and the Rapid City KOA allow dogs and make a great place to pitch your tent. If you’d rather have a soft bed and a hot shower, the historic Hotel Alex Johnson and Big Sky Lodge allow dogs for a small fee.
After waking up and letting your pup outside, you can either head to Tally’s Silver Spoon for an outstanding breakfast on their outdoor patio or pack breakfast and head to your next destination. Located 10 minutes south of Rapid City is Reptile Gardens. Cited in the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest reptile zoo, Reptile Gardens is also pet-friendly throughout their entire facility. Note: If your dog doesn’t react well to birds, you may be asked to sit in a different spot or leave the bird show.
Once you’re all reptile’d out, jump in the car and enjoy the scenic drive all the way to Sylvan Lake. This is where the trailhead for Harney Peak starts and it’s a hike both you and your dog will remember for a long time to come. Lasting about 4 hours round trip, you will be hiking to the tallest point between the Rockies and the Swiss Alps. Feel free to take your dog all the way to the summit, but be warned—to get all the way up you will have to traverse some fairly steep stairs. At the summit, take your time enjoying the 360° view of the Black Hills.
The next stop on the list truly surprised me when I found out about. Nestled in the Heart of the Black Hills is Hill City, or as I like to now call it, the Dog Mecca of the Black Hills. Within this small town are 22 businesses that allow dogs on or in their grounds. After the hike, you’ll surely be ready for lunch and I recommend stopping at the Alpine Inn for an authentic European lunch menu. Your dog is more than welcome on their veranda as you partake in some excellent food and drink options. Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time to go shopping.
The Handbag Store, opened in 2013, is your destination for handbags, jewelry, scarves, caps & kid items. If you prefer history, be sure to take your dog to Everything Prehistoric/The Museum @ Black Hills Institute. Packed wall to wall with fossils, gems and other prehistoric goodies, both you and your companion are able to enjoy the entire museum and gift shop together. Round your trip out with some contemporary art from local artists at the Warrior’s Work & Ben West Gallery. As long as your dog is leashed, well-behaved and has good taste in art, they are more than welcome to be in the gallery. For a complete list of the businesses in Hill City that allow dogs, be sure to read to the end of this post.*
Back in the car and ready for dinner, you have a few choices in Hill City. Stop at either Prairie Berry Winery or Naked Winery and dine on their outdoor patio while enjoying some of their locally sourced and crafted wines. At your own pace, make your way up Highway 385 to Spearfish, where pet-friendly lodging is easy to find.
If you’re going the camping route, I can’t recommend Chris’ Campground highly enough. Approximately 75% of their guests have animals and they love having pets around. They will even go so far as to watch your dog for you for a short period of time at no extra charge in their large outdoor, covered dog kennels. They do request that your dog has all of its shots if you wish to use this service. Be sure to call them for more information. If a bed and flushable toilet is more your style, the Spearfish Canyon Lodge will allow your dog in any of their rooms for a small fee. Regardless of where you choose to stay, you’ll be sure to get a good night’s sleep and be ready for the last day of your trip.
After your dog wakes you up at 5:30 a.m., you’ll probably want to get a few more hours’ sleep, but there is so much to do in the Spearfish area I wouldn’t recommend it. The three trails that we’ve selected will be sure to fill up your morning before making the drive back home. While Spearfish Canyon has numerous trails, not all of them are dog-friendly. For those looking for an easy hike to a gorgeous destination, we recommend the Roughlock Falls Trail. Clocking in at around a mile one-way, this trail has minimal incline or hazards along the way and ends at the picturesque Roughlock Falls State Nature Area.
For those a little more adventurous, a hike to Devils Bathtub is a morning well spent. Lasting at least 1.5 hours (but extendable to as long as you want), this hike is challenging and visually pleasing to all that make the trek. But be warned, you will very likely get wet, so be sure you have good hiking boots and nothing that will get ruined by some water. You’ll probably want to pack some old towels with to dry off your pup before getting back in the car.
Lastly, we have the ’76 trail. Although it’s one of the shortest hikes in the canon, only ¾ of a mile in length, the steepness makes this the hardest one on our list. Ascending 700 feet over a half mile, this hike will reward you and your canine friend with a breathtaking view of Spearfish Canyon.
Once you’ve completed the last hike of the trip and depending on when you’re ready to get on the road for your journey home, Spearfish has two great offerings you may want to visit. If you’re looking for a nice lunch on a dog-friendly outdoor patio, stop by the Bay Leaf Café and indulge in their eclectic local and European menu offerings. Unfortunately if you made this trip on a 3-day weekend, the Bay Leaf is closed on Sundays, but there are plenty of other lunch offerings. If a light, early dinner with a large drink selection is more to your tastes, the Spearfish Creek Wine Bar opens at 4 p.m. and has two patios for you to enjoy some chill time. There’s a strong possibly you’ll be graced with some local musical talent, too.
At this point, both you and fido are probably ready to head home. While I structured this itinerary as a 3-day weekend, everything I suggested could apply to any 3-day period in the Black Hills. We look forward to seeing both you and your best friend in the Black Hills soon!
*For those of you that stuck with me through the post, here is the full list of dog-friendly businesses in Hill City: Alpine Inn (for their guests who dine on the veranda); Mangy Moose Saloon; Bloom; Broken Arrow Trading Co.; Dakota Stone Co.; DJ’s Boutique; Bargain Barn Christmas Corral; Everything Prehistoric; The Farmer’s Daughter; The Handbag Store; Heart of the Hills Antiques; Hill City Hardware; Stage Stop Leather & Gifts; Things That Rock; Naked Winery Tasting Room in Hill City (Outdoor Patio); Prairie Berry Winery (Outdoor Patio); Stone Faces Winery; Twisted Pine Winery; Dakota Nature & Art Gallery; Jon Crane Gallery & Custom Framing; Doc & Alice Boutique; Warrior’s Work-Ben West Gallery.