There’s nothing like hiking in the fall — with our dogs, of course. It’s such a visceral experience. The brilliant hues in the trees fill us with wonder for nature and crown our dogs with golden halos. The crunch of pine needles and leaves underfoot, the scent of wood smoke from campgrounds below, the bugling of mating elk, and the crisp air that puts extra pep in our step can provide an escape from daily stress and remind us how awesome it is to be alive. To celebrate the season, members of the Zuke’s Pack share their favorite fall hikes to encourage you to “live life off leash” with your dogs!
Elbert Creek Trail near “Zuke’s World Headquarters,” Durango, Colorado
Patrick Meiering, Founder
In October of 1995, Patrick Meiering was hiking Elbert Creek Trail with his chocolate Lab, Zuke.
“It was a beautiful fall day — the leaves on the aspens were popping,” he recalls.
It was also unseasonably warm, and during the steep ascent, Patrick stopped to rest and saw Zuke was worn out. He realized his dog needed an energy bar as badly as he did, and the idea for Zuke’s was born.
“That was a lot of the inspiration for Power Bones: what energizes your dog so they’re out there having a good time?”
Elbert Creek Trail is still one of Patrick’s favorite hikes; he’s hiked it with his dogs Trek, Ellie and Charlie. It starts in lowland aspen forest and offers shade for most of the hike, which culminates at the top of a cliff with panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and a picture-perfect lake.
“You get this amazing workout and then you get this gift once you get to the top,” he says.
Word to the wise: he likes to leash his dogs when he nears the summit so they don’t accidentally chase a chipmunk over the side. Though there is sometimes water in the creek, he advises bringing plenty of water and food for yourself and your dog, as well as a first-aid kit if your dog hasn’t been on a trail recently (their paws can get torn up if they aren’t conditioned).
“The biggest tip of all is: listen to your dog. Because they want to go, and they’ll get you out,” he says. “They look at you like, ‘OK already — let’s go have some fun!’”
Fatmans Loop Trail near Flagstaff, Arizona
Tammy, Trade Marketing Coordinator
When Tammy lived in Flagstaff 20 years ago, she loved hiking Fatmans Loop with her Dalmatian, Ollie. The trail is peppered with interesting volcanic rock formations, and one section requires a “squeeze” through two boulders.
“It sounds worse than it is, but that’s how Fatmans Loop got its name,” she says.
Now she hikes Fatmans Loop with Sawyer, her Rottweiler-Lab mix. He’s 11 years old and has an athletic injury, so they take their time on the 1 ½-hour loop, enjoying the unusual bark of the alligator junipers and scent of one of the largest ponderosa pine forests in America.
“It’s a very playful place — we play hide and seek. There are just these amazing formations. You feel like a kid traipsing through this wonderland.” she says. “There’s something about fall hiking that’s very rejuvenating.”
And it brings back fond memories of hikes with her late dog, Ollie, whose ashes are scattered on the trail.
“There’s just this nostalgic ‘coming back home’ feeling in my heart where I can return there,” Tammy says. “He still lives on there.”
FALL HIKING TIP: Dress your dog in “blaze orange” if there are hunters in the area — that bright orange bandana or jacket will help keep them safe!
Middlesex Fells Reservation Area near Boston, Massachusetts
Sarah, Midwest Regional Sales Manager
When Sarah moved to Boston for a job, one of the first things she did was try to find a place to hike with Rocky, her Great Pyrenees mix. She was delighted to find the Middlesex Fells Reservation Area just 20 minutes outside of the city — it’s a trail system anchored by an off-leash dog park called Sheepfold.
Two of their favorite fall hikes there include the Skyline Trail, which leads to incredible views of downtown Boston, and the Reservoir Trail, which as the name suggests, circles a scenic reservoir.
“There are just blankets of yellow and orangish leaves on the trail, and at the lookouts, it’s cool to see the trees that are reds, oranges and yellows starting to peek through patches of green trees,” she says. “There are just so many options, and you kind of forget that you’re so close to the city.”
Sometimes Sarah’s twin sister joins them on hikes; other times, she and Rocky seek solitude and find a big rock jutting into the water where they can sit and have lunch (and Zuke’s treats, naturally!).
“When there’s a sandy area, Rocky will get really excited and run back and forth,” she says with a laugh. “He’s chill at home, but once we get outside, he loves other dogs — and squirrels. He gets really excited.”
Turkey Run State Park near Rockville, Indiana
Beth, Marketing Director
Growing up on a farm in Indiana, Beth loved family trips to explore the trail system at Turkey Run State Park because the terrain was so unusual. One trail has a pothole that was scoured out by glacial backwash; others have giant boulders carried there — from Canada! — by glaciers.
“You have to cross a suspension bridge to get to the trails — it’s a really beautiful bridge over Sugar Creek,” she recalls. “One trail features ‘The Icebox,’ where you climb a series of stairs to get there and then climb down a ladder into a deep ravine. It created a whole different experience pretty close to home.”
Mountain bikes aren’t allowed on the trails, but thankfully, dogs are. Beth looks forward to returning to Turkey Run with her daughter and their Maltipoo, Bella.
“It’s very family friendly,” she shares. “It can be anywhere from a half-mile easy trail to a three-mile rugged trail, so you can find something that works for you and your family.”
FALL HIKING TIP: Always pack layers — it can get cold unexpectedly — and water for you and your pup.
Silver Dollar Lake Trail near Denver, Colorado
Jeff, Social Media and Community Manager
Jeff likes to say that his rescued border collie mix, Zia, doesn’t have a “medium setting — she’s either on or off.” So when they lived in Denver, they frequently drove about an hour north to hike roughly 1½ miles to Silver Dollar Lake near Georgetown.
“It’s a beautiful fall drive up Guanella Pass to get there,” he says. “Then the hike itself has some good colors.”
Parking can depend on whether snow has begun accumulating in the high country. The trail first passes by Naylor Lake, which is private, then culminates at Silver Dollar Lake and other lovely alpine lakes.
“There are a ton of bighorn sheep in the area and I’ve seen mountain goats pretty much every time I’ve been up there,” Jeff says. “It’s a great little hidden gem.”
Of course, he loves sharing it with Zia.
“I did a ton of hiking before I adopted her and she’s definitely added another element of enjoyment — just seeing how happy it makes her and how much fun she’s having when we’re out there,” he says. “Hiking with her is one of my favorite things.”