Although it's difficult to officially poll them, we're pretty sure Colorado's dogs are some of the happiest pups around: There's no shortage of dog-friendly hikes to tackle in the Centennial State with your four-legged hiking buddy. With so many options to choose from, we turned to Hiking Project, REI’s digital trail guide and online hiking […]
Although it's difficult to officially poll them, we're pretty sure Colorado's dogs are some of the happiest pups around: There's no shortage of dog-friendly hikes to tackle in the Centennial State with your four-legged hiking buddy. With so many options to choose from, we turned to Hiking Project, REI’s digital trail guide and online hiking community, to find some of the best dog-friendly hikes in Colorado to get you started.
Minutes from the shops and restaurants of Evergreen, this wide gravel path skirts the edge of the town’s namesake lake. Though dogs must be leashed, the well-packed trail is a great place for less athletically inclined pups to stretch their legs on easy terrain. Plus, the route is never far from the water, meaning you and your dog will enjoy the cooler temps along this peaceful, conifer-lined loop. Keep in mind, dogs are not allowed to swim in the lake. You won't find much solitude—the trail is also popular with families and anglers—but you may spot elk or deer strolling by.
Dogs love the wide paths and rolling terrain of Boulder Valley Ranch, an open space just north of Boulder off Highway 36. The trail meanders under cottonwoods, along a pond and past a small farm with horses and other livestock. Pups can roam off-leash as long as they are under voice and sight control, and there's plenty to satisfy a curious dog's nose in the grassy meadows. Although your pup may be tempted to go for a swim, restrain their enthusiasm for watersports until after the hike, as dogs aren't allowed in the Boulder Valley Ranch pond. Instead, make the short drive to nearby Coot Lake, where your four-legged friend can swim at their leisure on the east and south shores.
Tucked on the sloping foothills below 14,115-foot Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods is one of the state’s most renowned parks and a Natural National Landmark. The (mostly) gentle grades and well-packed paths make for easy hiking among the trail's towering sandstone formations, and while you can mix and match routes to create your own adventure, this 4-mile loop takes in many of the best sights. Dogs are allowed on leash on the trails, and there’s an off-leash area just east of the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, where you can snap a photo or two of the magnificent backdrop while your pup explores on their own. The park is almost always busy, so visit during the week or in the morning or evening on weekends for you best chance to escape the crowds.
Situated on the west side of the hogback, the ridgeline that marks the eastern edge of the Front Range, Mount Falcon Park is a good alternative to popular Red Rocks Park, the home of Red Rocks Amphitheatre just a few miles north. The loop overlooks the plains to the east and the Rocky Mountains to the west, and with just over 600 feet of elevation gain and a summit of 7,841-foot Mount Falcon, it’s a great place to wear out energetic dogs. There's some slightly rocky footing you'll want to take into consideration, but moderately fit pups should be able to handle the elevation and terrain.
With plenty of open space to explore, your pup can enjoy an off-leash romp while you get in a good hike on this 8-plus-mile lollipop loop. The area is still recovering from the 2012 Hewlett Gulch Fire, and while there are some burned trees that mildly mar the view, the resulting meadows makes it easy to keep your dog in sight while letting them run wild. Plus, on hot days, your pup will enjoy splashing through the many stream crossings along the route.
Denver locals can spare themselves and their pups a long drive while still snagging remote mountain views by heading to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The green space is home to over 35 miles of trail, and this hike is a pleasant combination of easy trekking in alpine meadows and rocky climbs through well-shaded aspen and pine forests, giving your four-legged friends a variety of terrain to explore. Much of the park is above 8,000 feet in elevation, and the higher altitude ensures cooler temps, making the park a pleasant escape for dogs (and owners) who want a break from the Front Range summer heat.
This loop takes you on a tour of almost everything Staunton State Park has to offer, from tawny meadows to rolling singletrack through aspen groves and conifer forests, all on well-maintained, soft-dirt paths that are easy on your pup's paws when hammering out long mileage. There are options for shorter treks, but if you hike the full loop, be sure to take the small spur trail to Staunton Rocks Overlook, where your pup can take a well-earned break while you soak in the scenery from the 9,410-foot outcrop.
If you and your pup are looking for an alpine adventure, check out the hike to Grizzly Lake in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. There are several water crossings and open meadows for your dog to investigate as you climb nearly 2,000 feet up the Grizzly Creek drainage. The trail tops out at over 12,000 feet, so be sure all members of your hiking party are acclimated to the altitude before you start (dogs can get altitude sickness too). Plan to spend some time at the lake—this hike will definitely wear out energetic dogs, so you’ll want time to give their legs (and yours) a break before heading back.
If you are looking for a less-crowded trail, this hike up Bighorn Creek, near Vail, fits the bill. Heading into Eagles Nest Wilderness, the trail is not as busy as some of the resort town’s other well-known destinations. You and your pup can enjoy a scenic climb through a wide valley with aspen groves and fields of seasonal wildflowers. The views of the Gore Range from the base of Bighorn Pass are mesmerizing, and keep an eye out for mountain goats on the rocky slopes above. Though you can climb to the top of the pass, it requires some Class 3+ scrambling and should only be attempted by more experienced hikers and fit, sure-footed dogs.
This 10-plus-mile loop in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness is an ideal first backpacking trip for dogs and people alike for many reasons. With its shorter length, this is a great loop to help get your dog accustomed to their new hiking pack or booties. The trails are a pleasant mix of shady pine and conifer forests and sunny high-alpine meadows, giving your dog a variety of terrain to explore. During most of the year, you should have access to water at Gilpin Lake, Gold Creek Lake and several streams along the route. Plus, with no permits required for dispersed camping in the area, logistics are a breeze. Just be sure to review all wilderness regulations prior to your visit.
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