It’s fall, y’all! The start of autumn brings crispness in the air, more cranberries, apples and squash on offer at the markets, the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte—and, of course, depending on where you live, the kaleidoscope of colors on the changing fall leaves. That means now’s the perfect time to plan a leaf peeping adventure with your pup by your side.
What is leaf peeping, anyway? Well, it’s exactly as it sounds: It’s traveling (near or far) with the purpose of viewing the changing fall foliage. And your dog—you know, the one who loves long walks, exploring new places and discovering new smells—just might be the perfect partner for your stroll through the trees. So, if you’re looking to get out of the house (finally!) for a safe, outdoor activity with your pup, read on. We’ve rounded up the best leaf peeping destinations across the country, based on dog-friendliness, nearby activities and amenities, and of course, leaf peeping potential.
New York: Walkway Over the Hudson
Maine: Camden Hills State Park
Massachusetts: Mount Greylock State Reservation
For Berkshires leaf peeping at its finest, head to the top of Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the state. (Unless you’re up for a serious hiking challenge, you’ll want to drive to the summit.) From there, head along one of the Berkshires’ many dog-friendly trails. You’ll be able to take in the breathtaking views of Vermont’s Green Mountains and even the Taconic Mountain Range that spreads across New York state and New England.
If you’re staying overnight, book a room at The Old Inn on the Green, which has pet-friendly accommodations and offers treats for sale at the front desk as well as an outdoor play area. Round out your trip with a visit to Hilltop Orchards to wander the grounds with your pup while picking your own apples and sampling wine from Furnace Brook Winery.
New Hampshire: Miller State Park
Vermont: Stowe Recreation Path
The roughly 11-mile out-and-back Stowe Recreation Path starts in historic downtown Stowe with shopping, dining and scenic mountain views, then winds into the woods from there. The path is paved, more of a relaxing stroll than a rigorous hike. Dogs must be leashed on the recreation path, but the adjacent Stowe Quiet Path is a grassy area where dogs are free to interact off-leash.
If you’re from out of state, Vermont is a great weekend getaway destination. Fairbanks Inn in St. Johnsbury is one of many canine-friendly options for lodging. While you’re there, visit Dog Mountain, a public park and gallery with art by Stephen Huneck, who often features dogs in his work. You can the park with your pet, enjoy the mountain views, and visit Dog Chapel, a structure honoring dogs and the roles they play in our lives.
Colorado: Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Wyoming: Tongue River Canyon
Leaf Peeping Precautions for Your Pup
Before you hit the road, there are a few precautions you’ll want to take to make sure both you and your dog stay safe. Take this advice from Maria Christina Schultz, author, dog trainer, and dog-mom to three adventurous Australian Shepherds:
- Buckle up your dog. Make sure your dog is properly secured in the car. No matter if you’re going around the block or across the country, your dog should never be free to roam in the car. Not only does a loose pup make for distracted driving, but if you are in a collision, your dog could become a projectile or sprint away in fear if a window is broken or a door swings open. Opt for a dog safety belt or harness to keep all your car passengers secure.
- Bring treats and water. Treats will make sure car rides and hikes are a positive experience and that good behavior is rewarded. Schultz recommends bringing water from home since water from different sources can upset a dog’s stomach. A portable water bowl can make it easier for your dog to get hydrated.
- Have a back-up plan. Some common questions to ask yourself before heading out: If your dog got injured, what would you do? How would you get your dog out? How long will you be walking? Are you going with someone? Can your dog fit in your backpack? Who would you call if you needed help? These answers will help you build an exit strategy in the case of an emergency.
- Do your research. Make sure to consult the latest COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding travel restrictions and safety measures in the location where you’ll be leaf peeping. You’ll also want to check the weather and the difficulty and length of the hike or path. If your dog is not conditioned for a 3-mile hike, increase their stamina with several shorter outings first.
- Avoid standing water. Never let your pup drink from a puddle, as they can be filled with bacteria from other wildlife that can cause infections such as leptospirosis.
- Protect your dog’s paws. Even the most seasoned adventurer pups can experience raw skin, scrapes, burns and cuts on their paw pads from various surfaces they encounter while outside, but this is especially true if your dog’s paw pads are not conditioned to trails. A pair of dog boots can save your pup’s paws from the elements.
- Leash your dog. This not only helps avoid encounters with wildlife—“your dog is going to see a snake moving in the grass long before you do,” says Schultz, so you want to keep them close—but also other dogs and people you may encounter on the trail. Plus, it may be required, depending on where you go.
With a little preparation you and your dog can be out enjoying the wonders of leaf peeping this fall. Who knows? It just might become your new family tradition.