Hiking during Wisconsin’s colorful fall season is unparalleled--and it’s best sharing the experience with your dog! Red, orange, and yellow leaves will crunch under happy paws as your family climbs, scampers, and swims around Wisconsin’s diverse trail system.
Most state parks allow well-behaved, leashed dogs. But there are five parks that stand out for catering to dogs and the families who love them.
Does your dog live to swim? The Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit has two pet swimming areas for your pup to enjoy: at Ottawa Lake, on the left side of the boat launch, and at Whitewater Lake in the designated Oak Hollow area.
After a cool swim, your dog can dry off with a hike. The hilly Scuppernong Trail System is close to the Ottawa Lake swim area and offers gorgeous lake views. Near the Whitewater Lake area, you can explore the hardwood forests of the John Muir Trail System or head to the more challenging and hilly Emma Carlin trails. A large segment of the famed Ice Age National Scenic Trail also runs by both pet swim areas.
Six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline await you and your dog at Point Beach State Forest. The entire area south of the red Rawley Point Lighthouse is friendly to canines, giving your dog a little freedom to play and chase in the crisp autumn air.
Beginning hikers and expert explorers alike love the trail variety at Point Beach State Forest. You and your dog can hike miles through pine forests and marshy swales, or stick to the sand for shorter distances and lake access.
For a full fall day that includes lunch, hiking, running around and relaxing with your dog, you can’t beat the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Designated pet picnic areas at the Mauthe Lake and Long Lake Recreational Areas make it easier to balance hungry kids and energetic dogs.
Plus, the park has two dog training areas where you can play fetch with your dog on land or in the water. A large segment of Ice Age Trail connects these pet friendly areas, providing an option for a long hike in between them.
Including your dog in all your family activities is also easy at Governor Dodge State Park. The massive park offers off-leash pet swim areas at each lake, designated pet picnic areas, and 40 miles of trails. You can even bring your dog on rented canoes and kayaks.
Hiking through the park’s oak and hickory trees is delightful in the fall, and the quick-access Pine Cliff and Lakeview trails cut through these forests and wrap around the dog-friendly Cox Hollow Lake.
For shorter, but endlessly beautiful hiking trails, travel to Kohler-Andrae State Park. You’ll find a designated dog beach north of Sanderling Nature Center, majestic sand dunes, and a white pine forest. Some nature trails are off-limits to dogs, but the main cordwalk meandering through the rare interdunal wetlands is fair game for leashed pups.
You’ll see unique bird life, views of Lake Michigan, and thick forests as you explore. The Black River Hiking Trail is a more secluded inland trail also worth exploring with your dog after playtime at the beach.