When the mountains are calling, the foliage is peaking, and the need to hike is building, many New Englanders set their sights on New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The White Mountains aren’t just a great fall escape for humans hoping to stretch their legs and bask in the season’s stunning yellows, oranges, and reds, they’re also a favorite place to bring our four-legged friends, thanks to their dog-friendly policies.

If you’re looking for a good hike for you and your canine companion, check out these five hikes offering something for every type of mountain hound—from mellow mutts to wild dogs.

Rules for Hiking with Dogs in the White Mountains

The White Mountain National Forest and the four state parks located in the White Mountain region all permit dogs, so long as you follow a few simple rules and some good doggy etiquette.

National Forest: In the White Mountain National Forest, you must leash your dog in parking lots and around developed sites such as campgrounds. Verbal or physical restraint is mandatory everywhere else and it’s recommended that you use your leash as necessary when on the trail. Be sure to also pick up your dog’s poop and pack it out.

State Parks: The New Hampshire State Parks—which include Franconia Notch State Park, Crawford Notch State Park, and Mount Washington State Park—have slightly stricter rules for dogs. They require pups to be kept on a leash no greater than six feet long and restrict access to some areas like beaches and picnic areas between May 1 and September 30. Owners are also expected to pick up their pet’s waste and remove it appropriately.

Dog basking in fall colors at East Pond
Credit: Tim Peck

1. East Pond

At just under three miles roundtrip and gaining less than 1,000 feet of elevation, East Pond is a great destination for newer hikers (both human and dog) as well as for older canines who are no longer capable of logging big days but still begging to get into the mountains. While the relative ease of the hike and the crystal clear waters of East Pond are appealing year-round, in the fall it’s the multi-colored backdrop of Scar Ridge and the Osceolas towering above that make this a must-visit for leaf peepers and pooches alike.

East Pond is most easily accessed from East Pond Trailhead, which is located on a short spur road about five miles off the I-93 side of Tripoli Road. From here, follow the East Pond Trail—a wide, relatively gentle path that follows an old wagon road through birch and hardwoods—for roughly 1.5 miles to the rocky, open shores of the 6.5-acre, 27-foot-deep East Pond. Take advantage of the Insta-worthy foliage and have your pup pose before letting them dip their paws in the cool water.

If a trip to East Pond has your dog’s tail wagging but is a little too short to burn off all their energy, you can loop East Pond with its smaller, less-open neighbor, Little East Pond, for a trip that is roughly double the mileage and elevation gain. For those still with energy once you’re back at the trailhead, tack on some more miles with a visit to the ghost town of Thorton Gore, which you’ll pass on Tripoli Road on your way back to the highway.

Pup taking in New Hampshire foliage from Mount Stinson
Credit: Tim Peck

2. Stinson Mountain

Rumney, New Hampshire, is best known for rock climbing, but you don’t have to have graduated obedience school to know that climbers are barking up the wrong tree. Just up the road from Rumney Rocks is one of the best moderate hikes in the Whites: the roughly 7-mile out-and-back trip gaining just under 1,500 feet in elevation to the summit of Stinson Mountain.

The only trail to the summit of Stinson Mountain is the aptly named Stinson Mountain Trail, which leaves from the equally descriptive Stinson Mountain Trailhead. While the Stinson Mountain Trail is the only hiking trail on Stinson Mountain, there are a handful of snowmobile trails nearby, some of which intersect with the hiking trail. The trails are well marked and readily distinguished from one another, but it’s easy to get turned around if you’re paying more attention to trailside sniffs and fall foliage than signs.

The Stinson Mountain Trail begins as a wide path gradually ascending through a classic New England landscape, eventually giving way to a series of steep switchbacks, and mellowing once again just below the summit. On the peak, hikers and their hiking hounds will notice the footings of an old fire tower as they’re treated to a great view of the town of Plymouth surrounded by the vibrant fall colors of a New England forest with Mount Cardigan standing in the distance.

Even lazy dogs will want to take the short spur path from the summit to the viewpoint overlooking Stinson Lake.

Dog and person looking for foliage through the clouds
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Mount Israel

Looking to sniff out a great fall foliage hike suitable for everyone? Look no further than Mount Israel. The 4.5-mile out-and-back trip gains a little less than 2,000 feet in elevation—providing the low mileage that new hikers love but with an elevation gain that will bite the legs of even seasoned hikers.

The Wentworth Trail, which departs from behind Mead Base Conservation Center, leads hikers and their furry companions all the way to the summit of Mount Israel. The trail begins as a series of mellow switchbacks that tighten and steepen—likely leaving both you and your pooch panting as you progress up the mountain—before popping out above the foliage and treeline. Shepherd yourself and your dog across a series of rolling rocky ledges to the large cairn marking the summit.

If you’re a lucky dog and get good weather, the view from the summit of Mount Israel is as stunning as it is expansive—delivering excellent views of Sandwich Mountain, Whiteface, Passaconaway, the Tripyramids, and Mount Chocorua interspersed with a lower-lying forest splashed in fall color.

Dog hiking amongst the foliage on Mount Hedgehog
Credit: Tim Peck

4. Mount Hedgehog

Leaf peepers are to the Kancamagus Highway as dogs are to bones, which is why you have to be one sick puppy not to love this roughly 5-mile dog-friendly foliage loop gaining a little less than 1,500 feet of elevation.

A trip through the rich colors of fall in New England and across the exposed slab and ledges of Mount Hedgehog begins on the Downes Brook Trail—which departs from the Downes Brook,  UNH Trail and, Mt. Potash Parking area—and shortly thereafter connects with the UNH Trail. The UNH Trail is a loop trail that can be hiked in either direction, but most agree that going clockwise is the pick of the litter for taking in the views. If your pup is overly adventurous, a short leash is recommended, as there are precipitous drops from many of the open ledges on the upper sections of the route.

Unlike other hikes with singular summit views, a trip to Mount Hedgehog delivers consistently vibrant vistas of the stunning fall scenery along much of its mileage—including its exposed East Ledges, treeless summit cone, and Allen’s Ledge. In addition to taking in the changing colors, hikers and their pups are treated to great views of Mount Chocorua, Mount Passaconaway, and the Presidential Range.

Dog and their person taking in the foliage from Mount Chocorua
Credit: Tim Peck

5. Mount Chocorua

When you and your pup are ready to run with the big dogs, head to Mount Chocorua. Don’t let this old dog trick you into thinking this is an easy trip because of its relatively low elevation. Although it sits at just 3,490 feet, it’s longer, has more elevation gain, features more challenging terrain, and has better views than many of its 4,000-foot neighbors.

An 8.5-mile out-and-back trip on the Piper Trail gaining a little less than 3,000 feet in elevation (departing from the Piper Trailhead off of Route 16, just south of Conway) is a favored route for viewing foliage. The trail begins benignly enough, rolling through the electrifying yellows, oranges, and reds of the low-lying hardwood forest before stepping into a series of rocky slabs and ledges that eventually give way to a scramble to the summit.

Chocorua’s summit offers a spectacular 360-degree view of the surrounding area dressed in fall’s finest colors along with the White Mountains’ most notable peaks. Time your hike right and you might get lucky enough to have the white, hulking mass of Mount Washington already enveloped in winter weather as you enjoy an average fall day and the fall colors of the region’s lesser peaks below. (Speaking of timing, an ascent of Mount Chocorua is best capped off with a visit to the Moat, one of the best mountain town breweries in the Northeast.)


Every dog has its day and we want to hear about you and your pup’s in the mountains. Tell us about your hike or share a photo in the comments below!