It’s prime time to get outdoors for long, sunny days on the trail and in the water—and you don’t have to leave man’s best friend home alone. From shady dog parks to dog-friendly brewpubs and restaurant patios, Gaston County parks and businesses welcome dogs and their owners with open arms, free treats, and dog bowls filled with fresh, cool water.
Before you plan your summer’s worth of pet-friendly adventure, make sure you have everything you need to keep your dog healthy and happy as temperatures climb. Keep a six-foot leash, portable water bowl, and bag of treats handy, along with a roll of disposable bags for quick clean-up when nature calls.
A monthly dose of flea, tick, and heartworm prevention is essential for keeping adventurous pups in prime condition. Perhaps most important to remember is to take plenty of rest breaks, hanging out in the shade or splashing in a creek or lake to keep you and your dog from getting overheated. With these safety checks in place, it’s time to check out our top picks for dog-friendly outdoor adventures in Gaston County.
1. Make New Friends at the Dog Park
Let your dog frolic with other pups at Gaston’s three fenced, off-leash dog parks. The five-acre canine playground at George Poston Park is divided into two sections, one for breeds under 25 pounds and the other for larger dogs. Dogs and their ice cream-craving owners can romp in the shade on Goat Island, then walk the greenway to downtown Cramerton for a cone at Floyd and Blackie’s. Mount Holly’s Tuckaseegee Park also has a divided dog park for small and large breeds, along with walking trails through surrounding wetlands.
2. Go For a Hike
Enjoy a long walk with your dog on miles of hiking trails over Gaston County’s dual peaks and along the Catawba River and its tributaries. Start at the Crowders Mountain State Park visitor center for a five-mile loop that takes you to the highest point in Gaston. Add another four miles on an out-and-back trek to the summit of King’s Pinnacle. For a leisurely stroll on flat trails, hike over five miles on the out-and-back Seven Oaks Preserve Trail or 1.6 miles on the lakefront loop at Rankin Lake Park.
3. Try a Flatwater Paddle
If your dog loves kayaking and SUP boarding as much as you do, the South Fork River Blueway is the perfect spot for a relaxing paddle. You’ll find Class I-II rapids on the upper stretch of the river, so put in below the whitewater at the South Fork Village Access for a slow float trip into downtown Cramerton.
4. Spend the Night Under the Stars
It’s an easy one-mile hike to the dog-friendly backcountry campsites at Crowders Mountain. Eleven shady, private family and group sites are the perfect spot to hang your hammock, build a campfire, and snuggle with your furry camping buddy.
5. Attend a Pet-Friendly Festival
Four-legged baseball fans get in free at Sims Legion Park when the Gastonia Grizzlies host Bark in the Park from May through August. Dogs are welcome every day of the year at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, where you can hike the trails, splash in the Catawba River, or just hang out along the whitewater channels with your pup, a burger, and a craft beer. All the Center’s special events are pet-friendly, including the River Jam concert series, Whitewater Film Series, and monthly festivals. Many festivals even include dog-centric events like the Twilight Dog Jog during Tuckfest in April.
6. Dine on the Patio
After a long day of outdoor exploration, sink into a patio chair at one of Belmont’s dog-friendly eateries for an icy cold beer and a hearty snack or dinner. The String Bean Restaurant offers small bites, burgers, salads, and hearty entrees on their covered patio, while The Station at South Main Cycles serves unique local craft beers from their renovated train depot taproom and patio.
7. Indulge in Some Retail Therapy
Pamper your pooch with new toys, a day of grooming, or a “barkday” cake at Happy Dog Cafe in downtown Belmont. The all-in-one pet shop, doggie daycare, canine spa, and bakery offers baths, tooth brushing, blueberry facials, and even creative hair coloring for your pup. Their obedience training helps you and your dog get on the same page with basic commands.
8. Hang Out at a Craft Brewery
Happy dogs and craft beer go together like hops and yeast, so it’s only natural that Gaston County breweries welcome the dog crowd. Take your dog with you to Rivermen Brewing for 20 rotating taps and nightly dinner specials, or to Cavendish Brewing Company for their flagship brews on trivia night. Your pint is that much more satisfying with your devoted pooch laying at your feet at Ole Dallas Brewery.
Written by Ann Gibson for Matcha in partnership with Gaston County Gov.