Written by Shelby Robicheaux MS, CEP, RYT
Colorado is such a fun place for dogs to live—we’ve got mountains, wildflowers, running rivers, alpine lakes, and so much more. Nothing beats frolicking around a trail on a Colorado bluebird day with your pup. Below are some dog-friendly hikes in Northern Colorado. Some include leash-free trails, and all have some shade, water accessibility, and are easy on your dog’s paws.
- Hewlett Gulch Trail in Fort Collins Poudre River Canyon: This trail is great because dogs are allowed to be off leash. It is an easy trail that can be 3 miles or lengthened to 5 miles. It is open all year long with little elevation gain, so it is great in the snow. It follows Gordon Creek, and the majority of the trail runs along the water. It is always fun to watch the dog run around in the fields off leash! Just make sure they are always within eyesight.
- Devil’s Backbone Open Space in Loveland: Exploring the 2,198-acre Devil’s Backbone Open Space is even more fun with your pup. Be sure to find the “keyhole,” a unique arch within the backbone, to access epic views. Plus, the rocks behind the keyhole provide some nice shade and a great resting spot for water, snacks and ‘atta boys. Keep your dogs on their leashes for this hike per Larimer County Parks & Recreation regulations
- American Lakes Trail near Walden: For a more challenging hike in the Fort Collins area, try American Lakes Trail. It is a 7 mile, 1,430 ft. elevation gain hike with views of alpine tundra, wildflowers, an alpine lake and the continental divide. It is open year-round, so you can try it out on snowshoes! This is a great alternative to a Rocky Mountain National Park trail (similar views), since dogs aren’t allowed in RMNP.
- Green Mountain in Boulder: Dogs must be on a leash here, but they will have a blast with all the butterflies this trail is known for. There are a few options for the 5-mile hike and you can make it fairly challenging if you want. Regardless of what route you take, there are stunning views of the Flatirons, the Front Range, and Green Mountain. Go early, because this trail tends to get busy.
- Disappointment Falls in Red Feather Lakes: For an easy, beginner hike for you and your dog, check out Disappointment Falls. It is a 2-mile round-trip trail with 102 ft. elevation gain. Don’t let the name fool you-you will not be disappointed here. The hike includes interesting rock formations, a waterfall,and links to other trails to explore, including Elkhorn Creek Trail.
- Emmaline Lake in Fort Collins Poudre River Canyon: Emmaline is another great alpine lake hike in the Front Range. This one is 13 miles with 2,135 ft. elevation gain. The destination (Emmaline Lake) is well worth the hike. This is a full-day hike for someone that wants to escape crowds. The trail is soft for your dog’s paws and if they love water, this lake is for them!
- Montgomery Pass Trail in Cameron Pass: We had to add on a bonus hike—there are just too many out here! This trail is mostly used during the winter for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. It is much less crowded during the summer and your dog is allowed off leash. The 4.8-mile trail has an 1194 ft. elevation gain. You wind through the trees for most of it, but watch out for that wind when you come to tree line!
Northern Colorado Hiking Safety Tips: When hiking in the summer, it’s important to watch for rattlesnakes, and keep your dog close and on trail. Also, bring extra water for your dog, a snack and waste removal bags to keep our trails clean. Watch for signs of heat stress in your dog (tired, panting excessively and trouble breathing). When hiking in the winter, be careful of your dog’s paws. Dog booties are a great idea, but a barrier wax applied to the bottoms of your dog’s feet works awesome as well (try Musher’s Secret). Happy hiking!
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