driving cross country with a dog arches national park

Driving Cross Country With A Dog: Los Angeles to Chicago Through Denver

Before beginning to share the story of my recent adventure, driving cross country with a dog, more specifically, my wonderful 12, almost 13-year-old Shepard mix, Berlin, it’s important to note for posterity that this trip was completed during the winter of 2020, when COVID was still very much a worry but also the reason this trip was possible.

With the forecasted need to shelter due to the anticipated spike in cases over the holidays, and missing our families out east, my husband, Matt, Berlin and I set out on the open road…with lots of spray disinfectant, face masks, and gloves. No matter what, this was going to be a special and very memorable trip.

Driving cross country with a dog (at any time) should be planned out so you’ll be ready for anything while making the most of it.

Since we were leaving in Winter but desperately wanted to drive through the mountains, I planned and booked hotels for both the northern (through Colorado) and southern (through Texas) route from Los Angeles. After closely watching the weather reports leading up to our departure, we decided to take a chance on the northern route since it looked like we were going to be a day ahead of a snow storm.

Berlin almost always looks this skeptical.

PART ONE — Driving Cross County With A Dog: Los Angeles to Chicago through Denver in 4 days / 3 nights

Dog Friendly Road Trip Checklist

Berlin, our adorable 12-year-old Shepard mix

Me, her thirty-something-year-old mom

Matt, my husband and co-pilot, who is continuing past Chicago to see his family in Virginia

Agatha, our huge rental car since my car, now named Perpetua, can no longer handle such a trip in her golden years

Map of hotels, dog parks, and other fun things along the 2,000-mile journey to Chicago downloaded to my phone

Bagheera, our 5-year-old cat, who stayed behind to protect the house, along with our friend and housesitter

Kitty cat cuddles
Bagheera got to stay home and guard the fort.

Want to see my complete packing list for this road trip with my dog (in winter) and a month away from home (during COVID)?



Legend for list of hotels, attractions, and restaurants below:

✅ Places we stopped

🍴 Noteworthy Food

🛏️ Dog-Friendly Hotels

✖️ Places we did NOT stop
due to lack of time/necessity

Dog Friendly Road Trip: Day One, Los Angeles, CA to Salina, UT

Is it ever NOT hectic leaving for a trip? Even if you plan ahead for things large and small, there’s always things to do up until the last second. With all the running around, Berlin definitely knew something was up and needless to say,

✖️ Mohave National Preserve (Zzyzx, Teutonia Peak Trail, Kelso Dunes, Hole-In-The-Wall)
We really wished we could have stopped here but ZZyzx was closed due to COVID and the others were too far off the highway with how late we left and how far we wanted to go on day one.

✅ Timber Creek Overlook Trail
Ok, we didn’t make it to this specific trail, which we thought was dog-friendly, but we did enjoy a short hike along the Taylor Creek Trail, which technically isn’t dog-friendly either — Oops! We discovered afterward that the only dog-friendly hike in Zion National Park is the Pa’rus Trail. I don’t recommend following our lead and hiking non-dog-friendly trails with your dog nor should you ever leave your dog unattended in the car while you hike.

🛏️ Super 8 by Wyndham Salina/Scenic Hills Area
375 E 1620 S, Salina, UT 84654
No frills, but clean. Just what we needed for a good night’s rest after a long day.

✖️ Love’s Travel Stop
915 S State St, Salina, UT 84654
Get some gas after enjoying their small dog park with your pup.

✖️ Salina City Park
1500 S. Old Hwy 10, Salina, UT 84654
A city park with picnic tables, a playground, ample parking, a pavilion, and open green spaces.

driving cross country with a dog what to pack
Packed and ready for the open road.
Berlin enjoying our illegal hike at Zion National Park
Stopping at Zion for a hike, which we found out was not allowed. Oops!

Dog Friendly Road Trip: Day Two, Salnia, UT to Golden, CO

Heading out of the way to enjoy the Arches of Moab, but not in Archest National Park since it is not dog friendly.

✖️ Jeep Arch
After attempting to drive to this trail, we deduced that it’s called Jeep Arch because you need a Jeep for the off-roading trip it takes to get there. We didn’t have the tolerance or time to weather the bumpy road for 45 minutes one way, so we turned around and headed toward the Corona Arch.

✅ Corona Arch
What a beautiful hike! It is narrow at parts as well as a ladder so be prepared, or if you’re like us, stop just shy of the ladder and enjoy the view of the arch from a far.


✖️ Grandstaff Canyon, Faux Falls, Fisher Towers Trailhead
Some other dog-friendly options in the area.

✖️ Dinosaur Hill, Morrow Draw Trailhead, Rollie Gordon Park, Grand River Park, No Name Trailhead. Hanging Lake, Berry Creek, June Creek Trail, Booth Falls

Our hike in Moab pooped Berlin out and we wanted to make it through the mountains before dark (we did not succeed), so we weren’t able to stop at any of these…plus some were closed due to some recent fires.

🛏️ Origin Hotel Red Rocks
We weren’t thrilled with this hotel. It seemed like it was trying to be a fancy hostel with the prices of a luxury hotel. There also wasn’t a microwave in the room, which we think should be a standard, especially for the price.

🍴 Sherpa House Restaurant and Culture Center
1518 Washington Ave, Golden, CO 80401
We learned to look up where we wanted to eat dinner as we were driving so that we could order and pick it up before getting to the hotel. This restaurant did not disappoint. It was absolutely delicious.

Berlin looking skeptical on our cross country road trip
At least one of us is pumped to start Day 2 of driving cross country.
Berlin taking a break on a dog friendly hike in Moab
Berlin soaking in the sun at Corona Arch. The location seems appropriate given the current state of the world, right?

Dog Friendly Road Trip: Day Three, Golden, CO to Lincoln, NE

✅ Dinosaur Ridge Trailhead
16831 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465
Berlin and I really enjoyed this trail before getting on the road for the day.

✖️ Grant Terry Park and Matthews/Winters Park Trailhead
Some other great trail and park options on the west of Denver.

✖️ Elaine T Valente Open Space
Still need something as you’re heading out of the city? Give this spot a try.

✅ Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area
Slightly off the highway, this was nice for a quick walk along the beach and car picnic.

✖️ North Sterling State Park, Maloney Reservoir State Recreation Area, Yanney Park

If you or your dog need a stop between Denver and Lincoln, here are some other good options.

✅ The Archway
We didn’t stop here but we did enjoy driving under it. It wasn’t anything spectacular but it was nice to have a landmark to look out for in this long stretch of wide-open spaces.

✖️ Grand Island
Looks like a fun, quirky place to stop that just slightly off the highway.

✖️ Homestead Trail, Hickman Linear Park Trail, Mopac Trail, Rickmans Run/Holmes Lake Dog Park, Rock Island Trail, Roper East Dog Run, Stransky Dog Run at Peterson Park
Just in case you need some other options before getting to Lincoln.

🛏️ Best Western Plus Lincoln Inn & Suites
2201 Wildcat Cir, Lincoln, NE 68521
Spacious, comfortable rooms for midwestern city prices. Gotta love it!

Hiking before driving cross country with a dog
Starting the day with the Dinosaur Ridge Trail.
A walk at the Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area with my dog
Walk and picnic at Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area.

Dog Friendly Road Trip: Day Four, Lincoln, NE to Chicago Suburbs

The clouds rolled in and we got a lot of rain on this our final day of driving…like, a lot of rain. So, other than potty breaks, we left Berlin comfy and dry in the car.

✖️ Eugene T. Mahoney State Park/strong>
If it wasn’t raining we were going to stop here to enjoy the nice trails and ponds..perfect for sniffing and checking the pee-mail. Maybe next time.

✖️ Clive Greenbelt Trail, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens
Some stop options in and around Des Moines. We powered through to get to Davenport before sunset.

✅ My First College
Tracy Trivia: My first college closed after my second year (long story), and was eventually converted into a Senior Living Facility. It was bittersweet being able to stroll down memory lane, literally.

🍴 Whitey’s Ice Cream
Davenport, IA
I had many many of their peanut butter shakes while living here and despite the cold, rainy weather, grabbed my first one in almost 20 years. Mmmmmm! … No, Berlin did not get any.

✖️ Centennial Park
315 S. Marquette St, Davenport, IA 52802
I spent a little too long enjoying my old college so we had to skip this 250-acre green space with riverside trails and gazebos, dog area and more. That’s ok. Everyone was ready to get to our last and final stop for this trip anyway.

A special stop on our road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago.
My old college, which closed and is now a Senior Living Facility.
Ice cream stop while driving cross country with a dog
Whitey's shakes are as good as I remember.

What was driving cross country with a dog during COVID really like?

Not as bad as one would think, as long as you prepare and take precautions. We felt safe because we were able to walk Berlin out in the fresh air, wore masks (and gloves) when not in the car, including at all gas stations and in hotel common spaces (which was also required of all other patrons, at least on this route), packed enough food for our lunches, and only had to get take-out for dinners, wiping off the containers with disinfectant wipes before handling. Of course, if you are interested in taking a road trip, you will need to decide what precautions are right for you.


This trip was just what we needed and it was amazing to explore even more of this great country with Berlin.

Want To Read More About Our Trip? Check Out My Other Driving Cross Country With A Dog Blogs

Part Two: A Month in Chicago Suburbs With A Dog

Let’s put Berlin’s Winter boots practice to the test!

Part Three: Dog Friendly Columbus, Ohio

A road trip within our road trip.

Part Four: Cross Country Road Trip With A Dog — The Southern Route

We took a different path coming back. Check out what we saw and did through different states.

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