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Named for its location -- as it's nestled in a bend on the Arkansas River -- Great Bend, KS truly has the best of both worlds. The Barton County seat is large enough to have access to everything you need, but compact enough to have a small-town, neighborly feel. This tight-knit community wasn’t always so family-friendly, though -- the city was settled in the late 1800s, and with the arrival of the Santa Fe railroad, Great Bend became known as a rowdy Kansas cowtown. The scenes of day-to-day life could have been taken straight out of a Western movie, as the frontier settlement became infamous for its dance halls, saloons, and shoot-outs.
Don’t worry, though -- this town is big enough for the two of yeh! Great Bend is fantastically fur-friendly. It boasts its own dog park, and there are plenty of community parks that are just perfect for leashed walks. The citizens certainly take pet care seriously -- there are five veterinary clinics based in Great Bend, with emergency services available right in town. Not only that, but there are some excellent dog-friendly hiking options right on your doorstep.
With all these amenities, you and your pooch are sure to have a doggone good time in Great Bend!
The City of Great Bend Dog Park in Veteran’s Memorial Park really is a mutts-visit! This off-leash area might not be the largest, but there’s still plenty of room for your pup to leap about and tire themselves out in. Bags, water, and toys are all provided, so all you need to do is BYOB (Bring Your Own Beast)! Careful, though -- the park doesn’t get much shade, so it might be wise to give it a miss on a hot day. It’s also well worth taking a leashed wander through the people side of the park, where you’ll find some shaded walking trails and a gorgeous, serene fishing lake.
Cultured canines might get a kick out of a stroll around downtown Great Bend! Your pooch is welcome to join you on the Kansas Quilt Walk, a historical exploration of the crafting skills of pioneer women. The city has embedded authentic quilt squares in the pavement all around the courthouse to pay tribute to the role these women played in weaving the fabric of American history. Or, you two can check out the Birdhouse Art Tour! Decorated by local artists, more than 75 unique birdhouses can be seen perched in front of Great Bend businesses, a project designed to celebrate the diversity of avian wildlife in this part of Kansas.
If you and your pup are looking for a place to hike, look no further than the Great Bend Levee Trail! This seven-mile trail is pretty pawpular with local dog owners, and it’s easy to see why -- the walk curls around a calming stretch of the Arkansas River, often only a trickle in the warmer months. This is a favorite spot for wildlife watchers -- so you might want to keep an eye on your little tearaway! Like most hikes in Kansas, the trail doesn’t have an incline, so it’s suitable for all ages and abilities. Remember to bring your own bags and water! You can access the trail from Locust Street.
Great Bend’s residents usually head to the nearby Cheyenne Bottoms Refuge to get their nature fix -- however, the wetland sanctuary doesn’t boast many options for hikers, and the diversity of wildlife means that the preserve isn’t the most pet-friendly place. Never mind, though -- you and your pooch are welcome to hike at Lake Barton. Located just four miles north of Great Bend, the trails on and around the drained lake aren’t nearly as scenic as those on the Arkansas River, but the inclines make this a pawfect option for fitter furry friends looking for a challenge!
Brit Spaugh Park is a true Great Bend gem! Your pooch won’t be able to join you at the famous free zoo, of course, but you two are still sure to sniff out something to do! There’s plenty of green space ideal for the two of you to stretch all six of your legs on -- as long as your fur baby is leashed, that is. Visit around the holidays and you two can take in the Trail of Lights! This fabulous festive walk begins in Brit Spaugh Park and winds its way down all the way to the city’s historic downtown.
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