It's that time of year again! Time to break out the light layers, and trade sipping frosty lemonade on hot afternoons for savoring hot cocoa on chilly mornings. Best of all, it's that time when Mother Nature dresses her very best.
If your fall spirit is kicking in and you're anxious to take in some glorious autumn foliage before it's gone, consider bringing along your favorite four-legged friend. He'll enjoy seeing the sites, but most of all he'll love getting some fresh air and exercise with his favorite human! From Alabama to Maine to Oregon, we've rounded up some of the best places to experience fall with your pet.
The south is a surprisingly great place to peep at some leaves, and Alabama's Oak Mountain State Park is a great spot to enjoy the onset of fall. From Oct. 19 through the first few days of November, you and your (leashed) dog can surround yourself in this huge, uncrowded park's lush and brilliant vegetation, which makes a lovely contrast with its dark pine peaks and green valleys.
Famous for its spectacular fall leaf show, the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia draws thousands of tourists each year. One of only a few national parks that allow dogs on its trails, Shenandoah National Park offers some of the nation's most stunning views in any season. However, it's especially beautiful in mid- to late-October, when the foliage blankets the mountains in a tapestry of red, gold and orange. Dogs are allowed on almost every trail in the park, but they must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times.
Just a hair farther northeast, the U.S. Arboretum in Washington, D.C., welcomes visitors with the opportunity to experience fall in a far-off land, without setting foot out of the city. The arboretum is home to the Asian Collection, which features gardens abundant with plants and trees native to Japan, China and Korea. Dogs are allowed in the arboretum, but they must be well-controlled on a leash at all times, and must be kept out of garden beds.
When we think of fall, we often think of those iconic images from New England. One of the best places to see the northeast in all its autumn glory is Acadia National Park in Maine. There are a full 100 miles of pet-friendly trails in this park, traverse diverse landscapes, including tranquil sea islands, craggy mountains and lush forests. The park lights up with color beginning in about mid-October. To make sure you don't miss it, plan to come between Oct. 5 and Oct. 21.
If you're headed west this fall, make the Kootenai National Forest in Montana a stop on your trip's itinerary. You and your pooch will enjoy the beautiful and rugged wilderness setting, which is replete with vibrant fall colors from around late September through early October. A variety of dog-friendly trails will take you across gorges, valleys, meadows and tranquil forests.
The towering trees and grandiose landscapes of the Pacific Northwest make its fall foliage particularly dramatic. One incredible (and incredibly dog-friendly) place to leaf peep here is the Columbia River Gorge. The gorge sits about 25 miles from Portland and features spectacular views of the Columbia River, which are highlighted in mid- to late-October by brilliantly colored foliage. Along with the river, you'll be treated to views of cascading waterfalls, historic bridges and cliffside railways. Hiking trails in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area allow you to leaf-peep at your own pace, and your leashed pet is welcome to tag along.
Rules and Regulations
It's important to note that even the most dog-friendly parks and hiking trails have strict pet rules. Dogs can frighten wildlife, disrupt nesting birds or feeding animals, and disturb other hikers. For this reason, parks typically ask that dogs be kept on leashes 6 feet or shorter, and don't allow them to roam in wilderness areas. To prevent damage and mess, most parks prohibit pets from entering buildings.
As in every other public area, you must clean up after your dog, keep him reasonably quiet, and prevent him from doing any damage. Remember that your dog will be in an unfamiliar setting and may not behave as he usually does. It's important to keep him under your control at all times.
With a little planning, you and your pet can find the sweetest spots to welcome fall together. To find out when leaf-peeping season begins near you, consult this year's Farmer's Almanac. Happy fall, and happy trails from TripswithPets.com!
TripsWithPets.com is an online resource for pet travel. Named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports, TripsWithPets.com's mission is to offer resources that ensure pets are welcome, happy and safe while traveling. The website features a directory of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as airline and car rental pet policies; pet-friendly restaurants, beaches and events; a user-friendly route search option; pet travel tips; pet travel supplies; and other pet travel resources.
Author Kim Salerno is the president and founder of TripsWithPets.com. She founded the pet travel site in 2003 and is an expert in the field of pet travel. Her mission is to ensure that pets are welcome, happy and safe in their travels.