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CANINE CRUISIN': Rutherfordton, NC

Fourpaws1007 013 Rutherfordton, NC is a first-class doggy destination for several good reasons. First, right in Rutherfordton, you'll find a kind of canine camping nirvana for your dog called Four Paws Kingdom. This first-class campground is dedicated to dogs -- really! Four Paws Kingdom is a 30-plus acre site that features a large fenced off-leash dog park, a fenced off-leash agility fun playground, a fenced off-leash small dog play area, a fenced off-leash area with a creek, and a fenced off-leash doggy swimming pond. Plus there are twenty acres of on-leash nature trails, clean private restrooms/showers, over 40 RV sites with full hook-ups, and even dog-friendly on-site trailers and cabins you can rent. Owners Meik and Birgit Bartoschek are exceptional hosts who throw many parties and cook gourmet meals for their guests. Schroeder and Lucy (see photo) are the resident greeters. The Four Paws camping season runs through December, so check them out at www.4pawskindgom.com.

Two more reasons the area rocks for dogs are Chimney Rock State Park and Lake Lure, both of which are within 30 minutes of Rutherfordton. Chimney Rock welcomes on-leash dogs. It has natural beauty and hiking trails galore perfect for hours of fun. Chimney Rock holds a special "Bark in the Park" every year in the Spring that welcomes dogs and features special demonstrations. Past years have included agility and guide dogs. To learn more about Chimney Rock, go to www.chimneyrockpark.com.

Lake Lure is a stunning lake with a marina, beach area, boardwalk, and lake tours. While dogs are not allowed in all areas, you can take a refreshing on-leash walk and get a great view of the lake as a cool-down after your Chimney Rock excursion (or as a leisurely alternative to hiking in Chimney Rock). Both Chimney Rock and Lake Lure are worth the visit -- and Four Paws Kingdom makes a great base of operations in the Rutherfordton area.

Visit the CANINE CRUISIN' page for more about Four Paws Kingdom and Chimney Rock Park.

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