We’re heading into a spectacular time of the year … when Mother Nature sets off her fireworks and lights up the hills with color. It’s the perfect excuse to pack the car, buckle up your pup, and take off on a few dog friendly road trips!
The opportunities for leaf-peeping abound all across the country, and we’ve pulled together our top 10 picks for pet friendly fall foliage destinations. Of course, it’s also fun to discover a new place all your own!
Dog Friendly Road Trips for Fall
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 enjoy the hush that settles in just before the crowds descend on this world-famous ski town.
Aspen has no shortage of pet friendly activities. Enjoy a decadent 5-star lunch at the Terrace Bar at The Little Nell, where your pup will have his own pet menu. Afterward, 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.
The Hudson Valley, New York
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 most vibrant when the reds, yellows, and oranges of autumn paint the hillsides.
Prepare to be dazzled as you and your dog take in the views from the overlook at Bear Mountain State Park. And enjoy a tasting in the courtyard at Brotherhood Winery – America’s oldest winery. Then revel in the spirit of the season with a stroll around Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
Portland, Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge
Just east of Portland’s dynamic neighborhoods, the Columbia River Gorge cuts through the Cascade Mountains. The dazzling contrast transition between cosmopolitan and wild beauty will exceed every traveler’s expectations. 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 turning 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.
The Natchez Trace Parkway
Winding for 445 miles between Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi, the Natchez Trace is a favorite for dog friendly road trips. Once buffalo paths, then Native American trails, the trace was one of America’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. As you travel the trace, stop to enjoy the scenic overlooks, picnic areas, and hiking opportunities. The mile markers are clearly indicated and you’ll find plenty of interesting places for you and your dogs to stretch your legs. You’ll also find campground and accommodations in the towns and cities along the route.
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 popular Green Mountain Byway along the mountain peaks between Waterbury and Stowe for some spectacular views. The beech, birch, and maple trees put on their fall show from mid-September through early October.
For sweeping views of the area, head out to Stowe Mountain Resort for a dog friendly gondola ride. Then hit the Stowe Recreational Path – 5.2 miles of paved trail that winds along the river into town. And don’t forget to stop at Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream in Waterbury to stock up on your favorite flavors. Leashed pets are welcome on the grounds!
Just south of Grand Teton National Park, 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 many 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 amongst the evergreens. With the snow-capped peaks in the background, 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 lighthouses that keep a steady watch. A highlight of dog friendly road trips here will be basking in the hospitality of the locals you’ll meet.
Stretching for four miles along Lake Superior, Duluth’s Downtown Lake Walk is not to be missed. And, for a real hike, check out 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 can go for a swim!
Bar Harbor, Maine
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 this area a special glow. The quaint maritime village bustles with boutiques, galleries, inns, sidewalk cafés, specialty shops, and guest houses. And visitors here can revel in the autumn colors by car, bike, boat, or on foot.
Spend your time exploring the 165 miles of pet friendly hiking trails and carriage roads in Acadia National Park. Or opt to admire the coast from a dog friendly schooner cruise. And be sure to visit the swimming pond and off-leash play area between Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
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 give the best vantage, as it snakes for 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Any of the 75 overlooks along the route will leave you breathless.
On your drive through Shenandoah, plan to stop the car and enjoy the trails! There are more than 500 miles of park trails, and most of them are pet friendly. Plan a picnic lunch, or grab your tent and make it a weekend trip!
Bend’s sunny days and crisp, cool evenings are the epitome of fall weather. And the autumn perfection doesn’t end there in this high desert town. The bright 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. There are plenty of places where you and your dog can explore along the way. Don’t miss 10 Barrel Brewing Company, our first choice for tasty pub food. And, if you enjoy that, check out all fourteen local favorites on the Ale Trail Beer Tour.
Is the road calling to you? Perhaps it’s time to get out there and feel the wind in your fur. Waggin’ trails!
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