Whether you’re planning to take a drive, hit the trails or set up camp, fall is the perfect time to visit a state park with Fido. Load up your pup and head to one of these dog-friendly state parks where the fall foliage is on point. Keep in mind that many state parks can reach capacity or lack enough parking during leaf season, so plan your visit for a weekday to avoid crowds.
Posted by Lauren Barker
Brown County State Park
There’s a reason Brown County State Park in Nashville, IN has been named “Little Smokies.” Its small-scale resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee makes it the perfect place for midwesterners to vacation in autumn. The park covers almost 16,000 acres of hills, ridges and ravines bathed in hues of red, orange, yellow and brown from mid-October to early November, making it a hot spot for leaf peppers. Take Fido for a drive on the 20 miles of tree-lined roads, stopping at overlooks along the way. Or, venture out on foot and paw, exploring some of the 17 miles of trails that pass below oak, hickory, sassafras, beech and maple trees, including the nearly one-mile Ogle Hollow Nature Preserve Trail which gives hikers a view of the rare and state-endangered yellowwood tree.
Spend a weekend exploring Brown County State Park and all the pet-friendly activities in Nashville, like shopping at Fallen Leaf Books and Bone Appetit Bakery when you stay at Brown County State Park Campground or at Abe Martin Lodge and Cabins within the park.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Take Fido on a fall adventure at Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which encompasses over 12,000 acres of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Your hiking hound can join you on some of the more than 35 miles of pet-friendly trails that feature stunning panoramic views of rolling forested hills. The dark green of ponderosa pines and junipers is mixed with stands of aspens that turn bright yellow in the fall and peak in mid-October. If you’re not up for a hike, take a scenic drive through the park, stopping for a picnic lunch along the way, then make your way to nearby Eldorado Canyon State Park for more jaw-dropping vistas.
Pitch a tent amidst all the beauty at Golden Gate Campground, or stay in the heart of Golden at this downtown bungalow. The backyard is fenced for Fido, and you’ll be close to dog-friendly hangouts like Golden City Brewery.
Frozen Head State Park
Visitors in search of fall foliage in east Tennessee can escape the traffic of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and travel one hour northwest of Knoxville to Frozen Head State Park in Oak Ridge. This 24,000-acre park in the Cumberland Mountains includes 50 miles of pet-friendly backpacking and day-use trails where you can bask in the fall colors and visit one of the park’s two waterfalls. Four-legged hikers up for a challenge can join you on the 7-mile Lookout Tower Trail which leads to the summit of Frozen Head, a 3,324-foot peak. Climb the park’s fire tower with your small dog in a backpack, and you can take in 360-degree views which stretch all the way to the Smokies on a clear day. Pack a lunch and stop for a bite at one of the picnic areas nestled among the trees. Fall colors tend to peak in the third week of October in east Tennessee.
Bring your tent and set up camp at one of the pet-friendly rustic, primitive or backcountry campgrounds, or spend the night nearby at this pet-friendly two-bedroom home nestled among the trees in Harriman. Fido can run off leash in the fenced yard while you lounge on the deck and enjoy the sound of the creek on a fall evening.
Palisades-Kepler State Park
Limestone river bluffs, deep ravines, and 840 acres of hardwood trees and meadows fill pet-friendly Palisades-Kepler State Park in Mount Vernon, IA. Located along the banks of the Cedar River, the Cedar Cliff trail follows the river’s edge and gives hikers on two legs and four a birds-eye view of the river and fall foliage surrounding it. Black walnut, hickory, maple and basswood paint the scenery in a perfect fall palette. You may spot wildlife like white-tailed deer, turkeys, and even bald eagles also enjoying a fall afternoon. Colors are vibrant throughout October and usually peak near the third week of the month.
Find more fall foliage around the water at Lake Macbride State Park just 20 minutes to the southwest. Stay close to everything at this Lake Macbride Cabin which provides gorgeous lake views and easy access to surrounding trails.
Amicalola Falls State Park
Just eight miles from the Appalachian Trail and within the Chattahoochee National Forest, Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, GA is one of the best places to spot fall foliage in the state. Fido is welcome to join you on any of the 10 trails that lead hikers through 829 acres of wilderness. Take the 0.3-mile path to the park’s namesake, the southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall. Or, for a more challenging hike to the falls, climb two miles along the East Ridge Loop Trail which leads hikers from the bottom of the falls to the top. Visit in late October and early November to catch the dazzling display of colors at its peak.
Enjoy all the fall fun north Georgia has to offer, and stop in nearby B.J. Reece Orchards to pick your own apples before calling it a day at this creekfront cabin in the woods in nearby Ellijay. Fido can relax in the fenced yard and join you around the outdoor fire pit.
Van Sickle Bi-State Park
When you think of fall foliage, California may not be your first thought, but from the Pacific Coast Highway to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, there are actually many places to revel in the colors of fall. Van Sickle Bi-State Park in South Lake Tahoe, bordering the Nevada state line, is no exception. Until October 31, vehicle traffic is allowed in the park, giving you and Fido a chance to drive through ribbons of aspen groves and beautiful meadows along the south shore. Several easy to moderate hikes will take you and your pup to scenic overlooks with panoramic views of the fall foliage and the lake. The Rim Trail Connector ties into the 170-mile Tahoe Rim Trail, which provides even more breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding peaks.
Robert H. Treman State Park
Take Fido for a hike on nine miles of dog-friendly trails at Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca, NY. Follow the Gorge Trail past 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls, and take in the dramatic views a mile and a half down the wooded gorge filled with old-growth oaks, sugar maples and black birch. Stop to admire the view from the cliff staircase, which gives hikers a showy display of fall color dotted with the dark greens of hemlock. This region of the Finger Lakes is colorful throughout October, and usually peaks during the last week. Explore more pet-friendly trails through fall foliage at nearby Buttermilk Falls State Park.
Glamp with your pup at Gorges-Hideaway, a Tentrr campsite in Ithaca. Admire more fall foliage from the Adirondak chairs on the tent’s front porch and gather around the campfire to stargaze on a cool fall night.