We’re heading into a spectacular time of the year … when Mother Nature sets off her fireworks and lights up the hills and vallesy with color. It’s the perfect excuse to pack the car, buckle up your pup, and take off on a dog friendly road trip!
All across the country, the opportunities for leaf-peeping abound, and we’ve pulled together our top 10 picks for pet friendly fall foliage destinations. Of course, it’s also fun to get out there and discover a new place all your own!
Named for a tree, you can bet the city of Aspen won’t disappoint when it comes to fall foliage. In late September the Aspen forest turns brilliant yellow – set against the evergreens and rugged mountain peaks, the effect is truly extraordinary. And it’s the perfect time of the year to visit, while you can enjoy the hush that settles in just before the crowds descend on this world-famous ski town.
There is no shortage of pet friendly activities in Aspen. Enjoy a decadent 5-star lunch at the Terrace Bar at The Little Nell, where your pup will have his own pet menu, have a romp at the Smuggler Mountain Road Off-leash Area, and don’t miss the photo op at the Continental Divide at Independence Pass – just 19 miles southeast of Aspen on CO-82.
Just 90 minutes north of Manhattan, the Hudson Valley stretches out along the backbone of the Catskill Mountains. Steeped in history and natural beauty, this area is at it’s most vibrant when the reds, yellows, and oranges of fall paint the hillsides.
Prepare to be dazzled as you and your dog take in the views from the overlook at Bear Mountain State Park, enjoy a tasting in the courtyard at Brotherhood Winery – America’s oldest winery and lunch on the pet friendly patio at Vinum Café, and then catch the spirit of the season with a stroll around Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
Just east of Portland’s dynamic neighborhoods, the Columbia River Gorge cuts through the Cascade Mountains for 80 miles, dividing Oregon and Washington. The area’s contrast between cosmopolitan and natural beauty will exceed the expectations of every traveler – and the timing couldn’t be better – the foliage is at it’s prime from mid-September to mid-October, just before the rainy season arrives.
With twenty-six bakeries turing out the most creative dog goodies you can imagine, Portland may be your pup’s favorite destination! When it’s time to walk off those treats, make your way to Forest Park for more than 70 miles of hiking and walking trails, and don’t miss the numerous waterfalls along the Gorge – more than 90 on the Oregon side alone! The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area is managed by the US Forest Service, so leashed pets are welcome to join you on the trails.
Running between Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi, the Natchez Trace is 445 miles of pure perfection. Once buffalo paths, then Native American trails, this became one of our country’s most famous frontier trails. Now the National Park Service administers the two-lane highway that parallels the original trail, so you can experience the landscape as it’s always been.
Stop at one of the visitor centers, located at either end of the parkway, and pick up a map with descriptions of the historic sites, scenic overlooks, picnic areas, and areas where you can walk sections of the original Trace along the way. The mile markers are clearly indicated and you’ll find plenty of interesting places for you and your dogs to stretch your legs.
Nestled in Vermont’s Green Mountains, Stowe is the ticket to one of the best displays of color you’ll find in New England. Take the Green Mountain Byway along the spine of the mountain range between Waterbury and Stowe for some of the most spectacular scenery. The beech, birch, and maple trees put on their fall show from mid-September through early October.
For a sweeping view of the area, head out to Stowe Mountain Resort for a dog friendly gondola ride, enjoy the Stowe Recreational Path, 5.2 miles of paved trail that winds along the river into town, stop in at Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream in Waterbury to stock up on your favorite flavors – leashed pets are welcome on the grounds.
Just a few miles south of Grand Teton National Park, and right on the border of Bridger-Teton National Forest, sits the little town of Jackson, Wyoming. Magnificent scenery is a given here, but in early to mid-October, when most of the tourists have gone, Mother Nature pulls out all the stops and puts on a show like you’ve never seen. The larch trees, a deciduous conifer, turn a flashy gold – laced between the evergreens, against the snow-capped peaks, it’s a spectacular site. And if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some wildlife, too!
Enjoy the 43-mile scenic loop drive through the national park, but be aware that pets are not allowed on any of the trails there. For some dog friendly fun, check out the trails in the national forest – Snow King is a favorite for it’s convenience to town and the inspiring views of Jackson.
The quiet hardwood forests of the Midwest meet the shores of Lake Superior in the city of Duluth. Highway 61 is all that divides the lake and the national forest, winding through sleepy towns and past the lighthouse sentinels that have been keeping a steady watch for decades. A highlight of this road trip will be stopping to bask in the hospitality of the friendly people you’ll meet along the way.
Stretching for four miles along Lake Superior, Duluth’s Downtown Lakewalk is not to be missed, nor are the trails at the Superior National Forest. Be sure to snap a picture at the Ariel Bridge, and if your pup likes to splash, head over to Park Point Beach, where dogs are welcome to go for a swim!
Encircled by Acadia National Park, and hugging Maine’s rocky shore, Bar Harbor is a sight to see any time of the year, but fall gives it a special glow. This quaint maritime village bustles with a plethora of boutiques, galleries, inns, sidewalk cafés, specialty shops, and guest houses. And visitors here have the unique opportunity to wonder at the fall colors by car, bike, boat, or on foot.
There seems to be no end to the 165 miles of dog friendly hiking trails and carriage roads spiderweb through Acadia National Park, opt to admire the coast from a dog friendly schooner cruise, and plan to spend some time at the swimming pond and off-leash play area between Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor.
Just 75 miles from Washington, DC, Shenandoah’s wooded hollows, cascading waterfalls, and serene vistas reach the hight of their fall color in mid- to late-October. Skyline Drive is the jewel in this crown, as it snakes for 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Front Royal and the Charlottesville, Virginia area. Any of the 75 overlooks along the route is sure to leave you breathless.
On your drive through Shenandoah, plan to stop the car and hit the trails! There are more than 500 miles of park trails, and only 20 are off-limits to dogs because they require rock climbs or have difficult passages.
Bend’s sunny days and crisp, cool evenings are the epitome of fall weather, and the autumn perfection doesn’t stop there in this high desert town. The dazzling foliage is only part of the attraction here, as the city dubbed “Beer Town USA” celebrates Oktoberfest, complete with live music and the annual Wiener Dog Races!
Grab a map of the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway and enjoy the 66-mile trip with plenty of places where dogs can explore. Don’t miss 10 Barrel Brewing Company, our first choice for tasty pub food on the dog friendly patio. And, if you enjoy that, check out all fourteen local favorites on the Ale Trail Beer Tour, including Boneyard Beer with it’s DAWG GROG, a non-alcoholic brew your pup.
Can you hear the road calling your name? It’s time to get out there and feel the wind in your fur. Have a great time and waggin’ trails!