Enjoy a hike with your pup and fall colors across the US!
While New England is perhaps best known for its fall colors, there are plenty of great places to hike in fall with your dog all across the country and in Canada.
Whether you’re keeping an eye out for Maples, Alpines, or Larches, chances are that you’re not too far from a beautiful fall hike, no matter where you live.
With the cooler temperatures, the risk of dehydration and overheating are minimized and reduced crowds make autumn an ideal time to get outdoors with your dog. Some trails even reopen to dogs or allow them off leash during the fall months, due to the reduced number of people.
Remember that the days are shorter, so you’ll want to be sure to plan longer hikes within daylight hours and if you want to spend the night in the backcountry, bring extra layers, as the temperatures drop quickly onces the sun goes down.
Remember to always Leave No Trace, pick up after your dog, and practice good trail etiquette.
The list below includes some of the best dog-friendly fall hikes across the US and Canada.
Photo by Jen Sotolongo
Chain Lakes Loop, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
This 8-mile loop follows two of the state’s most prominent peaks, Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan for the majority of this hike. Blueberry bushes line the sides of the trails, resulting in a colorful explosion of reds, yellows, and greens. If you go early enough in the season, then you may get lucky and find a few trail snacks that have not yet overripened.
There are plenty of overnight options near some of the lakes on the route, which include vault toilets in some locations.
The window for this hike is fairly narrow, as snow covers much of the pass most of the year. September and early October are the best time of year to hit this trail.
Baker Lake, Bitterroot Mountains, Montana
This fairly easy hike located just outside of Darby, MT leads to a beautiful alpine lake after just 2.5 miles of hiking. If you are up for a mini-adventure, continue on to Middle and Gem Lakes. Finding the trail leaving Baker Lake requires some navigation skills, so make sure you have an offline map to help you along the way.
Gem Lake is especially beautiful thanks to the surrounding Larch trees that practically glow in a vibrant golden hue against the backdrop. They are the only pine trees to lose their leaves and can only be found in elevations ranging between 5,800 and 7,500 feet.
Backcountry camping is available at both Baker Lake and Middle Lake.
Photo by Jen Sotolongo
Photo by John B. Kalla
Kebler Pass Scenic Drive/Three Lakes Loop, Crested Butte, Colorado
Home to Colorado’s largest Aspen forest, Kebler Pass is an iconic destination for fall colors. Spend the weekend in the region to get the most of the journey.
The Kebler Pass Scenic Drive includes just over 31 miles of beautiful views of the Aspens with fewer crowds than other popular leaf peeping spots. While the road is passable for any vehicle, keep an eye on the snow conditions, as it sits at over 10,000 feet and closes in the winter.
Just 16 miles outside of the town of Crested Butte, turn off Kebler Pass Road toward Lost Lake. The short and easy Three Lakes Loop is just over 3 miles and features three alpine lakes, a quick waterfall detour, and of course shimmering golden Aspens.
Roan Mountain, North Carolina
Considered among the most beautiful hikes on the Appalachian Trail, Roan Mountain straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, traversing over three hilltops, or “balds.” The grass-covered bald summits provide unobstructed views of the valley.
Locals love the out and back hike that starts at Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge. The exposed hillsides let in views throughout most of the hike, and they just keep getting better and better as you make your way up and over the balds.
Photo by Dave Allen
Franconia Ridge, White Mountains, New Hampshire
This hike is long, strenuous, technical, very popular, and 100% worth the visit, especially during the fall. Franconia Ridge is an 8.5-mile loop that can be completed two different directions. The most popular route follows a counter clockwise loop starting with the Falling Waters Trail, however starting with the Old Bridle Path Trail is less crowded, and though steeper, leaves an easier descent at the end of a long day.
Weather conditions can change quickly here, so bring layers for all seasons. This hike involves a full day outdoors, so be sure to arrive early to maximize daylight and bring a headlamp in case you get caught after sundown.
Mount Van Hoevenberg, Adirondacks, New York
There are two options for arriving at the top of Mount Van Hoevenberg. The first is the relatively new East Trail, which opened in 2018 and starts from the Olympics Sports Complex in Lake Placid. The other is known as the West Trail. Both routes are moderate hikes that lead to ledges offering 180-degree views of nearby peaks like Mount Marcy and Algonquin.
The total distance for the hike comes in just over 4 miles.
Photo by Mike Saelens
Photo by Bob Stefko
Brown County State Park, Indiana
This state park, located in Nashville, IN features over 18 miles of hiking trails that range from easy to rugged. Each trail is named by number and hikers can connect a series of trails to create loops as long or as short as they like.
There are trails that loop around a pond, head to a lookout tower, and meander along streams. Just 60 miles from Indianapolis, this state park is worth the drive, for the tree-lined road alone.
Franey Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, Canada
Unlike in the US, Canada welcomes dogs in their national parks. If you’re itching for a nearby road trip from the east coast, then Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a great spot for a long weekend away.
The Franey Trail is one of the more popular hikes in the park and for good reason. The short, but steep hike ascends over 1,000 feet in over four miles and rewards the challenge with 360° views of the Clyburn Brook Canyon and the Atlantic Coastline.
Consider also driving the Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic byways in all of North America. This nearly 200-mile drive circumnavigates the upper part of Cape Breton Island, traveling through idyllic towns preserving both Scottish and French cultures.
By: Jen Sotolongo
Jen is the owner and writer of the blog Long Haul Trekkers, a leading resource for adventure dogs and their humans. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, and dog mom, of course. She loves trail running, hiking, and camping in the mountains. She is born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and lives in Bend, OR with her rescued cattle dog mix, Sitka.
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