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  • Maddie LaBerge

The Best Dog-Friendly Fall Hike in Arizona

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

October in Arizona is here – finally.

Fingers crossed that the triple digit days have subsided and we sink into cooler, moderate temperatures allowing us to leave our homes during sunlight hours. With that being said, this weekend I insisted on heading north to catch a glimpse of the changing leaves that exemplify what I love so much about this season.

Best Dog-Friendly Fall Hike in Arizona, Aspen Loop Trail.
Best Dog-Friendly Fall Hike in Arizona, Aspen Loop Trail.

In what has become a bit of an annual tradition, we began the 2.5 hour long drive to Flagstaff, Arizona for the best dog-friendly fall hike in Arizona. Traffic was light for a Sunday afternoon and about two hours into the drive, the trees began to show signs of change. Scarlet and amber leaves screamed against the slur of all-encompassing green forest promising a beautiful show for our hike.

The trailhead is located at the top of Snow Bowl, where you can see the lifts from the large parking lot. Unlike some of the other trails we passed on our way up, there were tons of spaces! There is a trashcan at the trailhead for any doggy bags (be sure to pick up after your pets, it proves that you’re a great dog owner and that you care about the trails and the other wildlife who call those woods home). Also at the trailhead? Four porta potties that are.... exactly like you would expect. I'd bring your own toilet paper if you plan to use them.

From the trailhead, there are two trails available, the Arizona Trail and the Aspen Loop Trail. The two trails intersect at parts but the best fall leaf colors can be seen on the Aspen Loop Trail.

After a short flat walk under the lifts and a small descent led by my trusty pup, Steve, a large aspen grove welcomed us into the forest. Last year, we hiked it during the last weekend of October, where most of the leaves had already fallen. This year, we hiked it the first weekend of October where most of the leaves were still a healthy green, peppered with golden leaves. Luckily for all of us Arizonans, Flagstaff has a "Leaf-o-meter" that indicates the color of the leaves in different places in the city. Their prediction was spot on.

This is an easy hike without any steep inclines; full of forest, mountain and vista views. All in all, it was two and a half miles and took just about an hour and fifteen minutes. Steve had plenty of room to roam on the leash (keep your dogs on a leash, people) and loved to climb on the rocks and through the grassy weeds to the side of the trail.

The only slightly challenging part to this hike is the final ascent back to the flat walk under the lifts. It will raise your heartbeat but not enough to break a sweat. As soon as you are aware of the incline, it's mostly over.

Best Dog-Friendly Fall Hike in Arizona, Aspen Loop Trail.

After you get back to the car, downtown Flagstaff is the best place to grab a post-hike beer and a slice of pizza. I went to Dark Sky Brewery and tried their Aloha ale, while Max opted for the Orange Creamsicle. The latter was definitely the winner. We also split a huge soft pretzel with house-made beer cheese and mustard which warmed the crisp windy air that surrounded us on the dog-friendly patio.

Dog-Friendly Fall Hike

Downtown Flagstaff is a super cute town to walk around in, we ended up walking three more miles while peering into local shops and window shopping from the curb. We crossed the train tracks after a train chugged through, blocking traffic for five or so minutes, to get to my favorite Flagstaff eatery, Pizzicleta.

We split a Margherita pizza on house-made dough, bright tomato sauce and basil so fresh, I wouldn't be shocked to find out it was freshly picked before it went into the pizza oven. I tried their gelato for the first time, which was even better than Frost Gelato here in Phoenix. We got half chocolate sea-salt and half coffee, which truly was a winning combination. On the menu, they also had an olive oil gelato which I was curious about, but not enough to commit to a cup.

Pizzicleta has a dog-friendly patio, where a water bowl is put out almost immediately and, if you're lucky, your pup will get a pup cup of prosciutto trimmings from the kitchen! Steve absolutely loved the food and all the attention he got from the servers. This was our final stop before we headed back home to Phoenix.

If you are looking for an enchanting fall hike, wanting to watch the turning colors of the autumn leaves or just want some kick-ass photos for Instagram, the Aspen Loop Trail is the best hike for it all! Be sure to add it and a day trip to Flagstaff to your autumn activity list!


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