Hiking with your dog has its perks at any time of the year, but no season quite compares to fall. The views are made even more beautiful by the natural foliage changes, and the temperature shifts mean the risk of your pup overheating becomes significantly lower. However, not all hiking spots welcome Fido, and many that do have restrictions. To help you enjoy the season with your pooch, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best pet-friendly hiking trails for fall around the country.
Posted by Mary allen Talley
While renowned for its incredible views of the Green Mountains during the fall, Stowe Pinnacle has also gained fame for its two most popular hikers: a pair of Golden Retrievers named Baylor and Sampson. They’ve been known to hike with visitors or by themselves several times a day and often can be found at the peak together. Baylor and Sampson live near the trailhead and hike the trail so often that locals have dubbed them the “Pinnacle Pups.”
The hike to the top of Stowe Pinnacle is only 2.8 miles up and back, but it is steep enough to be challenging. At the top, you and your dog (and likely Baylor and Sampson, as well) can view the Green Mountains, including Mount Mansfield. Try to visit during the peak foliage change in mid-September through October for the most spectacular views. For a shorter hike, you can shave off an entire mile by beginning on the Pinnacle Meadows Trail, which still allows access to the top without the steep climb.
After a day on the trails, let Fido rest his weary paws at nearby Commodores Inn. Welcome treats and a pet blanket are available upon request to make his stay more comfortable.
Shenandoah National Park
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is a can’t-miss destination for those looking to admire fall's tapestry of colors. Fall in the Blue Ridge turns the usually blue mountains orange, completely changing the horizon of central Virginia in mid-to-late-October. At sunset, the mountains appear purple against the backdrop of the fiery orange sky.
Only 20 of the park's 500 hiking trails are closed to dogs. If you and your pup are looking for a quick, easy hike, the Fort Windham Rocks Trail covers 1 mile of the Appalachian Trail and is known for its unique rock formations. For a longer, more moderate trek, try the Snead Farm Loop, a 3-mile circuit up to a barn and lookout point. Experienced two- and four-legged hikers can tackle Mary’s Rock from Meadow Spring, a 2.8-mile trail leading up to the summit and a beautiful view of Virginia’s section of Appalachia.
If Fido isn’t keen on hiking, take a ride down Skyline Drive, a popular stretch of highway with unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge. Better still, book a pet-friendly vacation rental in the area and discover all that Shenandoah has to offer in the fall.
Upper Piney Lake Trail
The 5.9-mile Upper Piney Lake Trail features stunning views of Colorado’s autumn as it winds through Aspen forests to Piney River Falls. You and your pooch can admire the autumn scenery for the entire duration of your hike. Dogs are welcome along the entire trail but must be on a leash at all times. To see Vail at its fall foliage peak, plan your trip from mid-September through October.
This is a heavily trafficked trail, so go early in the day to beat the crowds. In order to reach the trailhead, you’ll need to drive 45 minutes on a 10-mile winding dirt road through the Rocky Mountains. The road will bring you and Fido to Piney River Ranch, which is located on the shore of Piney Lake and at the start of the trailhead.
Stop for lunch at the ranch either before or after your hike, or book a night's stay and stay close to the trail. Pets are welcome at Piney River Ranch for an additional fee of $30 per pet, per stay.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park, one of the most dog-friendly national parks in the country, boasts more than 45 miles of pet-friendly trails. Starting in mid-October, much of Maine is swathed in warm orange, which only heightens the park’s already stunning natural beauty. For an easy yet beautiful way to see Acadia, hike the Ocean Path Trail through old-growth forests that hug the Maine coastline. If Fido is looking for a greater challenge, the Gorham Mountain Trail cuts across the mountains and offers views of both the coastline and the surrounding peaks. Take a break at the 525-foot-high summit and soak in the spectacular autumn display.
Acadia merits more than a day's exploration. Book a nearby pet-friendly Airbnb and enjoy the park at your leisure.
Cardigan Mountain State Park
The bare granite summit at Cardigan Mountain State Park offers panoramic views that paint a scenic masterpiece when the fall colors set in. Bring Fido to the top of the mountain, where you can see the surrounding area all the way to Camel’s Hump in Vermont and Pleasant Mountain in Maine. To catch this view in all its peak autumn glory, plan your trip in early October.
The West Ridge Trail will take you and your pup around 45 minutes to trek the 2.7 miles to the top, ending with a brief but strenuous series of steep granite rocks before the peak. If your dog prefers to walk among the trees rather than take in the view from above, try the Manning Trail. The 4.2-mile hike takes you to a waterfall where Fido can rest and appreciate New Hampshire’s fall.
Extend your stay in this scenic part of New England and book a pet-friendly vacation rental in Orange, NH.
Silver Falls State Park
Famous for its Trail of Ten Falls, a 7.2-mile loop that takes hikers around and behind 10 waterfalls, Silver Falls State Park is a beautiful place to take in Oregon’s fall. To see the foliage at its peak, plan your trip from mid-to-late-October. Dogs are allowed on the Rim Trail, Perimeter Trail, Bike Path and along more than 25 miles of backcountry trails if leashed. Pups can also cool down and rest after a long hike at the Upper North Falls.
The Rim Trail is the only portion of the Trail of Ten Falls that permits pets, and it offers great views of the North Falls. For the best autumn views, however, you and Fido should hike the 6-mile Perimeter Trail from the North Falls Trailhead to Rackett Ridge, the highest point in the park. Note that this trail does not have access to any waterfalls, so plan to stop by the Upper North Falls before leaving the park to enjoy its iconic cascades.
If you're spending a few days here, stay close to Silver Falls State Park by reserving pet-friendly accommodations in Sublimity, OR.
Mount Greylock State Reservation
Supposedly, writer Herman Melville got the idea for the white whale in “Moby Dick” from seeing Massachusetts’ Mount Greylock State Reservation covered in snow. While we cannot verify whether Melville really was inspired by Greylock, we can promise that in early October, it offers outstanding views of the changing foliage. And Fido will probably be much more impressed by that.
Mount Greylock’s 13-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail features several waterfalls and the highest point in the state, making it a postcard-perfect spot to take in New England’s autumn. On a clear day, hikers can see almost 90 miles of the surrounding area from its peak. Dogs are welcome on all parts of the trail but must be leashed at all times. To reach the summit, you and your hiking buddy need to climb a moderate 7 miles. For pups who want to see the view without putting in the work, the mountaintop can also be reached by car.
If you want to spend the night, bring your camping gear and reserve a spot at the pet-friendly Mt. Greylock State Reservation Campground.
Tallulah Falls Rail-Trail
One of three canyons in the state of Georgia, Tallulah Falls Rail-Trail is one of the best places to witness northern Georgia’s spectacular fall. The leaves begin changing in early November, and the change continues throughout the first half of the month. While dogs are not permitted on the gorge floor or the suspension bridge, they are permitted on all Rim Trails and the Rail-Trail.
Combined, the North and South Rim Trails follow 2.5 miles of fairly flat pathways. While your dog can’t approach the gorge up close for his own safety and that of others, the Rim Trails offer great views of both the valley and the changing leaves. Fido is also permitted on the Rail-Trail, a 1.7-mile paved circuit throughout the park that used to be a railroad line. While the trail does not approach the gorge itself, it does include a bridge over the Tallulah River.
While you're here, book a pet-friendly room in the area and visit the quaint Bavarian-themed town of Helen, GA, just 30 minutes by car from Tallulah Falls.
Winner Creek Trail
Located 45 minutes south of Anchorage, Winner Creek Trail runs through America’s northernmost rainforest. The trail appeals to both new and experienced hikers who want to experience the Alaskan wilderness. Plan your visit from late August through September to catch the best of Alaska’s beautiful fall.
The trail is split into Upper and Lower sections. Dogs are welcome on both sections but must be leashed at all times. The 3-mile Lower Winner Creek Trail is more popular because it covers a wide variety of wilderness while still being manageable for beginner hikers. It passes over the Winner Creek Gorge, allowing visitors to admire the rushing water from a bridge above. Toward the end of the trail, you and Fido will climb into a unique hand tram to finish your journey. Hikers pull themselves across the creek in an enclosed basket to complete the hike.
For those looking for a more challenging trek, the 9-mile Upper Winner Creek Trail ascends farther up the mountain toward Berry Pass. The hike is more strenuous, but the views approaching Berry Pass allow you to fully take in the Alaskan fall. From Berry Pass, you and your dog can either turn around and hike back down to the Lower Trail, or raft back. If you choose to take your pup rafting, be sure to bring a life jacket to keep her safe.
After a full day's adventure along Winner Creek Trail, retire to a nearby pet-friendly hotel or vacation property for the night.
Ozark Highlands Trail
The Ozark Highlands Trail runs more than 165 miles between Lake Fort Smith State Park and the Buffalo National River. Leashed dogs are welcome to hike most of the trail, excluding areas within the boundaries of the Buffalo National River. For the best time to see the foliage change, plan your trip for early-to-mid-October.
While you and your best friend could enjoy a long-distance hike across the entire trail, there are several shorter loops for those looking for a brief day trip. The 8.8-mile Redding Spy Rock Loop Trail includes several waterfalls and a view from the top of the surrounding Ozark Mountains. Most hikers go up the west side of the trail and down the east, but the trail can be hiked either way.
If Redding Spy Rock is too far of a drive, you can find closer trailheads at many points along the way. Book a pet-friendly hotel or vacation rental in Ozark and tackle different sections of the trail over the course of a few days.
What's your favorite fall hiking destination? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!
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