It’s the end of a long work week. You’re low on energy and enthusiasm, but your four-legged BFF is just revving up for some ball-chasing, tail-wagging good times. Lucky for you, it’s a dog’s life in Gaston County, with plenty of opportunities to get outside, reconnect with your pup and recharge your batteries. Check out Gaston’s top 10 canine-compatible outings.
1. Happy Dog Café Boutique & Spa
Everybody knows your name—or at least your dog’s name—at this one-stop shopfor everything a dog could ever want in Belmont, N.C. A display case full of beautifully decorated dog treats greets customers as they enter the front door. Grab a few treats for later and head to the back of the store to check out the full service dog spa. A la carte specialties include aromatherapy, blueberry facial, hot oil treatment and creative hair coloring. You heard me, for your dog, not for you. For those rare occasions when you can’t take your fuzzy buddy with you, Happy Dog Café offers doggie daycare, with lots of play time and field trips to local dog parks.
2. George Poston Dog Park
Gaston County’s largest and most popular dog park has gradually sloping terrain so your pup can run, jump, wrestle and fetch to their heart’s content. Mature trees offer shade on hot summer days and there are designated areas for small and large dogs. If your pooch is on the shy side, you can explore seven miles of nature trails.
3. Tuckaseegee Dog Park
Mt. Holly’s canine hotspot boasts ample tree canopy and separate play areas for large and small breeds. A play date at Tuckaseegee Dog Park is best followed by a concert or movie in the park, hosted by the Mt. Holly Parks & Recreation Department.
4. Goat Island Park
Nestled in the trees on 29-acres, Goat Island is an ideal jumping-off point for a water-loving pup. After some land-based socialization in the shaded dog park, there’s plenty of shoreline for getting his paws wet. The South Fork of the Catawba River offers calm waters and limited boat traffic, ideal conditions for a game of fetch. For the tandem boating canine, Goat Island’s two boat launches put you, your pup, and your canoe, kayak, or SUP on the slow-moving waters of the South Fork tributary. It’s four-mile, out-and-back paddle to McAdenville.
Put the finishing touches on your visit with a walk to Floyd & Blackies Coffehouse & Ice Cream in downtown Cramerton. Milk shakes, coffee, pastries and ice cream make this a mandatory stop on the way home.
5. Lake Wylie
Explore 78 acres of undeveloped land on one of Gaston County’s most scenic stretches of the Carolina Thread Trail, the Seven Oaks Preserve Trail. A five-mile loop connects to trails at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. Portions of the hike hug the Lake Wylie shoreline for dogs eager to take the plunge.
6. Crowders Mountain State Park
Miles of hiking trails at Crowders Mountain State Park will test the mettle of even the most hearty trail dog. Some of the best options for you and your pup include the one-mile Lake Trail, the 3.6-mile Tower Trail and the four-mile Pinnacle Trail. Less technical than some of Crowder’s rockier and more strenuous trails, these hikes can be combined with others to increase distance. Tower and Pinnacle include steep sections, but taking in the Charlotte skyline with your beastie by your side at the top…priceless.
7. Gastonia Grizzlies Baseball
Every summer, Gastonia’s minor league baseball team, the Gastonia Grizzlies, calls out the dogs for “Bark in the Park.” Bring your dog to the game and enjoy two-for-one beverages all evening.
8. String Bean Bistro & Market
On any given weekend, you’ll find a half dozen or more dogs and owners enjoying lunch or dinner on String Bean's outdoor patio. Drink orders come with a bucket of cold water for your pup. Spacious seating and shade make it easy to enjoy a craft brew—more than 200 available—while your canine companion naps under the table.
9. Road Races, Parades & More
Gaston County’s community events will bring out the show dog in any pup. Gaston’s road race series, the Gaston Cup, includes over a dozen races open to walkers or runners and their dogs. Belmont’s July 4th and Christmas parades are great opportunities to get in the holiday spirit and the Town of Cramerton hosts an annual pet contest in May, with prizes for best tricks, largest and smallest pet, and best costume.
10. U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC)
You and your pup can go sun up to sun down at this outdoor playground. Run more than 20 miles of trails; swim in the Catawba River; kayak or stand-up paddleboard on the Catawba (rentals available); grab a bite at the River's Edge Bar & Grill River’s Edge Bar & Grill; or hang out on the rocks surrounding the whitewater channels. With a host of festivals, concerts, and outdoor films scheduled throughout the year, you and your pup can stay up late to enjoy the center under the stars.
So no excuses—grab that leash, get that tail wagging and head out to Gaston County for some of the best canine adventure in the region.
Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated in partnership with Gaston County Gov.