Traveling with a Dog: The Importance of Dog Parks

We recently spent seven days and six nights on the road. We spent three of those nights in Phoenix visiting my parents.

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Traveling south on Interstate 25.

I’ve done a lot of road trips but just recently, all of them have included our new German Shepherd. Her name is Fritzi, she’s seven-months-old and most days I love her. 

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Sunset Point Rest Area, Arizona (north of Phoenix) on Interstate 17.

Traveling with a dog changes things, but it’s not a drastic change. We realized that as long as we could run her at a dog park on each long car day, she was an angel.

On day one, before we pulled out of the neighborhood, we took her to the local dog park. We played fetch despite the falling snow and chilly temperature. It was perfect. As soon as she got into the car, she went to sleep. We walked her several times on the way to Albuquerque and I’d give her an A+ for that first day.

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Walking Fritzi in Trinidad, Colorado.
RELATED: Meet Fritzi, the German Shepherd Colorado Dog & Head of Security

On the second day, we stopped at the City of Gallup Dog Park in Gallup, New Mexico. It’s a big park with permanent agility structures and the large dog park has a covered area. There is a big and little dog area and we played fetch with Fritzi and tried to stop her from digging holes (there were already holes that had been dug by other dogs so she didn’t understand our admonition).

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We made it to the north Phoenix area that evening and on day three we found the dog park at Surprise Lake. There is an area for small dogs and one for large dogs. This is a beautiful dog park. It had rained a lot the night before and the large dog area was slightly flooded although no dog seemed bothered by the impromptu lake. In fact, the Labrador we saw there absolutely loved it.

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A ball-crazed German Shepherd.
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Fritzi played chase with a young husky. She seemed to think he was quite handsome and chased him around for a long time. She also played a lot of fetch, and wasn’t territorial about her ball (she’s acted like an only child in the past about the ball so I keep a close eye on this issue). 

There is a nice dog watering system here as well as a covered picnic table area. We actually tried to go the next day but the dog park at Surprise Lake is closed on Wednesdays for cleaning so we had to find another one.

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The dog park at Surprise Lake has an adjacent human park.

We found Gateway Dog Park in El Mirage, Arizona. With both a small and large dog area, this one is smaller than the others but shaded, a lovely surprise in Arizona. We had the park to ourselves. Water was turned off to the dog watering fountain but there was a water hose and buckets had been filled. 

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The next day, we took off for Utah but not before heading to a private dog park at my parents’ recreation center. It is a bit of a walk to get to the big dog park but it was well worth it and relatively busy. Fritzi befriended an 11-month-old fellow Colorado dog. The dog’s humans live part of the year in Cañon City, Colorado. The two dogs played until they were too tired to jump and proceeded to just run into one another. “Can’t stop playing!” We left with an exhausted pup.

Please note that you can’t go to one of these private dog parks without someone who lives in the community tagging along with you. 

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Fritzi in Flagstaff, Arizona.

We were heading home with the idea that it may take us two or three days and we would search for more dog parks. Utah, it turns out, was fascinating and we slowed way down. We decided to stay in Bluff, a tiny little town just waking after zipping up tight for the winter season. 

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On the trail to the river behind Recapture Lodge.

We stayed at the dog-friendly Recapture Lodge on the first night they were open for the season. There’s a long dirt trail behind the motel leading to the San Juan River. On Friday morning, we let Fritzi off-leash on the way back and she had the time of her life.

Be aware that southeast Utah has “an open season” and lots of hotels/motels close in the winter. Plus, many places aren’t dog-friendly. We were lucky to find Recapture Lodge with the help of the owner of the dog-friendly Willow Street Cottages. I recommend both places should you find yourself with Fido in Bluff.

After exploring Western Utah’s treasures, something I will write about later, we finally found ourselves in Moab after dark. With a bit of looking we found the dog-friendly The Virginia Motel. We didn’t know until Saturday morning that The Bark Park is located almost directly behind the motel. 

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Moab, Utah

Note: Finding a dog-friendly hotel in Moab isn’t as easy as you think it would be, and while there are some, I think they count on dog people to camp. Best to call ahead.

We walked the Mill Creek Parkway trail, behind the motel, and Frizti played fetch at the dog park. A gaggle of miniature pinschers loved chasing up her and down the fence as she went after balls.

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The Bark Park in Moab, Utah.

We head home, over I70, with a very tired dog. 

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I know now, more than ever, the importance of dog parks when traveling with a dog, especially a puppy. If you are planning a road trip with Fido, it’s not a bad idea to look up local dog parks in the places you’ll be visiting. You might be surprised at how many towns have them and you’ll thank me for it. 

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A Twitter friend calls these “The Simpson” clouds. Winslow, Arizona.

1 Comment

  1. Nice and good info. Fritzy is adorable.


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