DRIFTLESS PAWS AND TAILS: April Showers Bring May Flowers

April Showers Bring May Flowers: A Dog-Friendly Guide to the Driftless Area

As the adage goes, “April showers bring May flowers,” this couldn’t be more true in the Driftless Area—a unique region untouched by glaciers, covering parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. This spring, embrace the season of renewal with your four-legged friend by your side. The Driftless Area, with its rolling hills, lush valleys, and vibrant communities, offers many dog-friendly activities and destinations. From picturesque hikes to welcoming cafes, there’s something for every dog and dog owner. This feature explores training advice for outdoor adventures with your pup and highlights 10 dog-friendly places to eat, visit, or drink in the Driftless Area.

Training Tips for Outdoor Adventures

Before embarking on your spring excursions, a few training tips can ensure both you and your pup enjoy a safe and pleasant experience:

Recall Command: Mastering the recall command is crucial, especially in open areas. Practice in a controlled environment before venturing into the wilderness.

Leash Etiquette: While many areas welcome off-leash dogs, understanding and practicing good leash behavior is essential for everyone’s safety.

Socialization: Expose your dog to different environments, sounds, and people to build its confidence and ensure its well-behaved behavior in social settings.

Dog-Friendly Activities in the Driftless Area

Embrace the beauty of the Driftless Area with these dog-friendly activities:

  • Hiking and Walking Trails: Explore the many trails that showcase the region’s natural beauty. From the serene paths of Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa to the breathtaking views of Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin, there’s a trail for every fitness level and interest.
  • Water Adventures: Many rivers and lakes in the area offer dog-friendly canoeing and kayaking opportunities. Enjoy a day on the water with your furry companion.
  • Community Events: Look out for dog-centric events in local communities, such as dog parades, meetups, and outdoor festivals celebrating spring.

Each of these destinations offers something to satisfy every type of traveler and their four-legged friend. Remember to check each location’s latest guidelines and restrictions to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

Viroqua Public Market (Viroqua, WI)

The Viroqua Public Market is a vibrant testament to the community’s spirit, offering a rich tapestry of local produce, artisan crafts, and warm, welcoming vibes.  Dogs become enthralled as friendly exchanges between vendors and visitors surround them. Cafes nearby extend their hospitality outdoors, inviting you to savor locally roasted coffees and fresh, farm-to-table fare alongside your four-legged pal, making every visit a delightful blend of culinary and social pleasures.

Pearl Street Brewery (La Crosse, WI)

Pearl Street Brewery is not just a place to enjoy exquisite craft beers; it’s a celebration of community and canine camaraderie. The outdoor patio is a sanctuary where laughter and bark blend harmoniously, set against the backdrop of live music and seasonal festivities that welcome all family members, including furry ones. Every sip and wag tells a story of shared joy and relaxation.

Yellow River State Forest (Harpers Ferry, IA)

Venture into the vast expanses of Yellow River State Forest, where nature’s untouched beauty offers a serene escape. Trails meander through dense woods and open to breathtaking vistas, inviting leashed dogs and their owners to uncover the wonders of Iowa’s wilderness together. The bond between man and beast deepens with every step, set to the soundtrack of rustling leaves and distant bird calls.

Lake Pepin (Lake City, MN)

Lake Pepin’s serene waters and picturesque shores provide a perfect setting for days filled with exploration and relaxation. Here, we celebrate the bond between you and your pet amidst the beauty of nature. Restaurants and cafes along the marina welcome dogs in their outdoor spaces, allowing you to enjoy delicious meals and stunning views together, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Garden (Dubuque, IA)

As you wander through the diverse landscapes of the Dubuque Arboretum, each garden unfolds like a chapter in a book, inviting you and your leashed companion to experience the beauty and tranquility of nature. The gardens become a canvas, depicting serene walks and peaceful moments shared between you and your pet, surrounded by the splendor of blooming flowers and meticulously maintained paths.

Galena River Trail (Galena, IL)

The Galena River Trail offers an idyllic backdrop for adventurers and their canine friends, with its tranquil path winding along the river and through the heart of historic Galena. This trail is not just a journey through nature but a passage through time, where every step brings you closer to the town’s rich history and welcoming shops, ready to greet you and your dog with open arms.

Decorah Fish Hatchery (Decorah, IA)

At the Decorah Fish Hatchery, the cycle of life and the wonders of nature are on full display. While the incubator’s indoor wonders remain for human eyes only, the surrounding grounds offer a lush setting for exploration with your leashed dog. Nearby Siewers Spring and the Trout Run Trail beckon with their beauty, offering serene spots for picnics and leisurely walks, where the harmony of nature accompanies every step.

Driftless Glen Distillery (Baraboo, WI)

Driftless Glen Distillery marries the art of distillation with the beauty of the Driftless Area’s landscapes. After delving into the distillery’s grain-to-glass process, unwind on the pet-friendly patio with spirits that encapsulate the region’s essence. The open space invites a moment of relaxation, where the only thing smoother than the spirits is the gentle breeze accompanying your outdoor dining experience.

The Root Note (La Crosse, WI)

The Root Note stands as a beacon of cultural and culinary delight in La Crosse. Its blend of organic coffees, mouth-watering crepes, and guitar strumming creates an ambiance like no other. The outdoor seating welcomes dogs, making it a haven for pet owners seeking a taste of local flavor and live entertainment. Here, every bite and note plays a part in the communal and canine harmonic symphony.

Effigy Mounds National Monument (Harpers Ferry, IA)

Effigy Mounds National Monument is a gateway to the ancient past, where the earth tells stories of cultures long gone. With its mysterious mounds shaped like animals and birds, this sacred landscape offers select trails where leashed dogs are welcome to join in the exploration. As you navigate the pathways, with panoramic views of the Mississippi River stretching out before you, there’s a sense of connection to the natural world around you and to the millennia of history that the land holds. It’s a place where every step is a journey through time. Every glance at your side, where your faithful companion walks, reminds you of the enduring bond between humans and their dogs—a bond that, much like the mounds themselves, stands as a testament to the depth of our connections to the world around us.

Making the Most of Your Visit

When visiting these spots with your dog, remember to always bring essentials such as water, waste bags, and your dog’s favorite treats. Respecting the local rules and etiquette ensures these places remain welcoming and safe for all furry friends.

Spring in the Driftless Area is a magical time for exploration and bonding with your dog. Whether you’re a local or just passing through, these training tips and dog-friendly destinations promise a memorable experience for you and your canine companion. Here’s to a season filled with adventure, discovery, and plenty of tail wags!


Writing and photography by: Rick Pedersen