Hiking with Dogs in Colorado: Exploring Pawsome Peaks!


As a Colorado resident, I’ve discovered there’s no better adventure buddy than a loyal dog. My Labrador Retriever, Scout, has been by my side through every 14er summit, river soak, and mesa top sunrise during our weekend warrior escapes.

Colorado’s diverse hiking trails offer endless excitement, but I’ve learned certain tips and tricks are essential to safely explore the Centennial State’s peaks and valleys with a pup. From choosing the right training regimen to packing the ten essentials, this guide details everything you need to know before hitting the trails with your four-legged friend.

Get ready to bond while discovering stunning alpine vistas, shimmering lakes, and wildflower meadows perfectly suited for dogs of all activity levels. Forget diamonds, your fur-baby’s unconditional love and exuberant off-leash celebration upon summiting that 14er are a hiker’s true best friend!

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Choosing The Right dog friendly Trails in Colorado

Choosing The Right dog friendly Trails in Colorado

The most critical decision before a successful dog hike…is picking the right trail! Consider your pup’s unique needs and condition level when selecting hiking destinations in Colorado’s 54 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet and over 23,000 miles of total trails. 

I’ve assembled dog-friendly trail recommendations across beginner, moderate, and advanced categories spanning Colorado’s diverse ecosystems.

Use the comparisons below of distance, difficulty rating, elevation gain, and highlights to identify options matching your dog’s ideal adventure based on breed, age, and fitness level:

Easier Trails for Beginner Dogs

Trail NameLocationDistanceDifficultyElevation GainHighlights
Bear Creek TrailMorrison, CO2.5 miles round tripEasy300 feetCreekside strolls with duck sightings
Genesee ParkGolden, CO2 miles round tripEasy600 feetMountain views without the climb
Conundrum Creek TrailAspen, CO4 miles round tripEasy to moderate500 feetLush wildflowers & historic mining sites

These easier hiking trails for dogs have relatively flat terrain at lower elevations—perfect for puppies, seniors, or dogs new to hiking to slowly build stamina while avoiding altitude issues.

Moderate Trails for Intermediate Dogs

Trail NameLocationDistanceDifficultyElevation GainHighlights
Herman GulchGeorgetown, CO6 miles round tripModerate1,300 feetAlpine lakes with stellar wildflowers
Mt. FalconIndian Hills, CO3.75 miles round tripModerate1,280 feetPanoramic Denver city views
Mayflower GulchFrisco, CO4 miles round tripModerate900 feetGold mining relic sites

For healthy adult dogs with some hiking experience, moderate trails allow going farther distances or gaining more elevation at a moderate pace. These build even more stamina while offering stunning scenery.

Advanced Trails for Expert Dogs

Trail NameLocationDistanceDifficultyElevation GainHighlights
Quandary PeakBreckenridge, CO14 miles round tripDifficult3,500 feetIconic 14er summit!
Sky PondEstes Park, CO9 miles round tripDifficult1,900 feetJaw-dropping alpine lake
Crater LakesAspen, CO10 miles round tripDifficult2,300 feetTwo stunning high alpine lakes

Well-conditioned dogs that regularly hike or backpack long miles can tackle these advanced Colorado trails, reaching higher elevations over 10,000+ feet. Prepare to be wowed by dramatic overlooks!

Use these trail comparisons as a planning reference based on your dog’s stamina, health needs, and experience level. Whether winding through wildflower meadows or conquering that first 14er summit, pick routes that set your pup up for success.

Gear And Safety Essentials for dog friendly hikes

Choosing The Right dog friendly Trails in Colorado

Hitting the trail prepared prevents emergencies and rescues. This means packing correctly for both human AND canine needs.
Use the checklist below as a starting point for essential gear to bring based on your hike’s length, difficulty, weather, and terrain.

Human Essentials

🥾 Hiking shoes 🧭 Map & compass
🚑 First aid kit ☂️ Rain gear
🍽 Food & snacks 💧 2+ liters of water per person
🪵 Trekking poles 😎 Sun protection (hat, glasses, lotion)
📱 Satellite communicator and/or whistle 💡 Headlamp + extra batteries
🔦 Flashlight ⛺ Emergency blanket & shelter

Dog Hiking Essentials

🐕‍🦺 Collar or harness + leash 🩹 Pet first aid items
🏷 Custom ID tag 🚰 Portable water bowl
🍖 High-energy dog treats & food 😎 Canine cooling items
🧦 Dog boots for rough terrain 🧥 Dog jacket for warmth
💩 Waste bags for Leave No Trace 🐾 Musher’s Secret Paw Protection
🩺 Bandana sling/ stretcher 👃🏻 Tracking device

Additional Considerations

Use gear like collapsible dog bowls, paw wax/balm, cooling vests, trail-running harnesses, dog backpacks, or protective booties to suit extreme weather, temperatures, and terrain. Familiarize yourself with dog-friendly emergency evacuation routes wherever you adventure.

Prepare for the unexpected! Research nearby animal hospitals and 24-hour vet ERs. Carry phone numbers and policy details for rescues like Pet Airlift Volunteers which transports pets of hikers requiring medical evacuation. Consider dog GPS tracker collars or apps like Whistle, Tractive, or Fi for additional security if separated.

Best Practices for the Trail

Best Practices for the Trail

Exercise proper trail etiquette and safety precautions whenever adventuring with your pup in Colorado’s wilderness.

Master Voice Control

Practice solid recall, focus, and obedience commands daily. Dogs should halt immediately and make eye contact when called if wildlife or other trail users approach. Always leash in scenarios where your dog’s recall reliability is untested.

Respect On-Leash Laws

Leash rules vary across different cities, states, national forests, wilderness areas, and national park trails. Always carry a spare foldable leash even if otherwise permitted off-leash in case another trail user requests you to leash your dog.

Prioritize Leave No Trace

Pack out ALL pet waste in designated WAG bags far from water sources. Stray poop can contaminate watersheds and spread disease. Disturb vegetation and wildlife as minimally as possible.

Prevent Trail Damage

Stick to established trails whenever possible. Dogs barreling up steep shortcuts causes damaging erosion and trail widening.

Apply these tips to avoid conflicts, damage, and emergencies while exploring Colorado’s epic mountains and canyons with dogs. Let your pup lead the charge to new adventures while being paws-itively responsible!

Top 10 Dog-Friendly Hikes in Colorado

Ready to explore? Here are my picks for the top 10 best Colorado hiking trails to tackle with your dog:

1. St. Mary's Glacier

St. Mary's Glacier

Location: Near Idaho Springs

Distance: 1.6 miles out and back

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Features: Alpine lake, glacier views

What to Know:

  • Very crowded on weekends
  • Parking fills up early
  • Prepare for windy conditions

Recommended For:

  • Beginner dogs start conditioning
  • Families with younger children
  • Those seeking an easy, scenic hike

2. Mills Lake

Mills Lake

Location: In Rocky Mountain National Park Near Estes Park

Distance: 5 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 750 feet

Features: Alpine lake, Longs Peak views

What to Know:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park entry fee required
  • Bear country – exercise caution

Recommended For:

  • Intermediate dogs able to do 5 miles consistently
  • Visitors wanting to immerse in alpine wilderness
  • Photographers seeking iconic mountain views

3. Sky Pond

Sky Pond

Location: In Rocky Mountain National Park Near Estes Park

Distance: 9 miles out and back

Difficulty: Difficult

Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet

Features: Iconic alpine lake, waterfall views

What to Know:

  • Shuttle required due to parking limits
  • Early start recommended – limited permits

Recommended For:

  • Advanced dogs ready for longer mileage
  • Experienced hikers up for a challenge
  • Peak-baggers addition to their 14er quest

4. Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Location: In Rocky Mountain National Park Near Estes Park

Distance: 3.6 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 605 feet

Features: Stunning alpine lake, less crowded

What to Know:

  • Bear country – exercise caution
  • Park entrance fee required

Recommended For:

  • Visitors seeking a less crowded RMNP alternative
  • Photographers looking for iconic lake photos
  • Families wanting a shorter hike

5. Bear Lake

Bear Lake

Location: In Rocky Mountain National Park Near Estes Park

Distance: Easy .5 mile loop or connect multiple trails

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: Minimal

Features: Glacier-carved alpine lake, scenic trail epicenter

What to Know:

  • Extremely popular area – arrive early
  • Park entrance fee required
  • Great sunrise spot

Recommended For:

  • Beginner or elderly dogs wanting a flat, scenic stroll
  • Photographers looking to catch the golden hour
  • Trail runners seeking hub network

6. Gem Lake

Gem Lake

Location: Outside Estes Park Near Pinewood Springs

Distance: 3.9 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet

Features: High alpine lake below Lumpy Ridge rock formations

What to Know:

  • Some narrow, rocky, steep sections
  • Less dogs than Rocky Mountain National Park

Recommended For:

  • Visitors with off-leash capable dogs
  • Hikers seeking less crowded trails
  • Geology buffs want unique rock formations

7. Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle

Location: Outside Nederland

Distance: 4.2 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,368 feet

Features: Sweeping valley overlooks with Indian Peaks views

What to Know:

  • Consistent snow at higher elevation
  • Prime wildflower spot July/August
  • Relatively less crowded

Recommended For:

  • Wildflower lovers visiting during peak bloom
  • Visitors seeking solitude surrounded by epic views
  • Dogs experienced hiking up to 5+ miles

8. Blue Lakes Trail

Blue Lakes Trail

Location: Outside Silverthorne

Distance: 4.2 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 850 feet

Features: Series of brilliant blue alpine lakes

What to Know:

  • Mosquitos can be bad through July
  • High alpine environment

Recommended For:

  • Visitors willing to repel mosquitos!
  • Dogs able to hike 4+ miles consistently
  • Photographers seeking brilliant blue waters

9. Herman Gulch Trail

Herman Gulch Trail

Location: Near Georgetown

Distance: 6 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet

Features: Alpine lakes, wildflower meadows

What to Know:

  • Early start recommended – limited parking
  • Can be muddy/snowy through June
  • Stunning fall colors

Recommended For:

  • Late summer/fall hikers to allow snow melt
  • Wildflower lovers visiting July through September
  • Visitors looking for stunning autumn colors

10. Mt. Falcon

Mt. Falcon

Location: Near Morrison

Distance: 3.75 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,280 feet

Features: Panoramic Denver views, historic tower ruin

What to Know:

  • Extremely popular – limited parking
  • Multiple connecting loop options
  • Trail system renovation 2022

Recommended For:

  • Locals seeking quick escape to foothills
  • History buffs wanting to see original 1933 tower
  • Trail runners taking advantage of loop options

Encouraging Your Dog's Happiest Hikes

Keep your pup healthy and happy on the trail with proper conditioning tailored to their age, breed, and capability.

Fitness: Base training cycles around your dog’s needs. Brachycephalic breeds like French Bulldogs or Pugs fare better with short distances under moderate temperatures and elevation. Endurance athletes like Border Collies and Vizslas thrive charging uphill for miles. Start conservatively to allow building cardiovascular fitness while avoiding lameness or exhaustion.

Distance: Limit total mileage during initial seasons training. Increase distance gradually as your dog’s conditioning improves each year. Signs of fatigue like lagging, limping, or labored breathing means it’s time to turn around.

Resting: Frequent breaks prevent soreness and injury while allowing dogs to cool down, rehydrate, and energize on longer hikes. Stops also provide opportunities for training reinforcement, photo capturing, gear adjusting, and admiring the scenery!

Mileage Maximums: Being realistic about distance limits based on breed and build prevents painful or lasting damage. For example, my Lab hikes up to 15 miles comfortably but likely shouldn’t exceed ultra-marathon spans. Pay attention to your dog’s needs above all else.

Use treats, toys, and encouragement to keep your dog motivated on the move! Stop often to let them set the pace while bonding over Colorado’s breathtaking landscapes. By responsibly conditioning your dog and packing properly for both of your needs, you’ll be rewarded with many happy trails ahead, traversing mountains, canyons, mesas and monuments together!

What are some top tips for hiking with dogs in Colorado?

  • Start slowly on an easy loop trail to familiarize your dog with new sights and sounds.
  • Ensure your dog has mastered strong obedience skills like reliable recall before hiking off-leash.
  • Pack plenty of dog food, treats, water, booties, jackets and first aid supplies.
  • Respect wildlife from a distance and follow posted pet regulations.
  • Take frequent rest breaks to prevent overheating and fatigue.
  • Pick beginner trails below 8,000 feet until conditioned for elevation.
  • Always clean up after your dog and walk through streams instead of letting them wade to avoid contamination.
  • Let your leashed dog lead the way, setting their own meandering pace up the trail!

Follow these tips to safely enjoy dog-friendly hiking across Colorado’s national forests, state parks, open space preserves, and public lands where pets are welcome. With preparation and responsibility, memorable adventures await exploring Colorado’s iconic trails, lakes, peaks, and landscapes with your loyal companion!

FAQs about hiking with dogs in colorado

Can you hike the Colorado Trail with a dog?

Yes, dogs are allowed on segments of the iconic 486-mile Colorado Trail, but there are portions crossing federal lands like national parks or wilderness areas where dogs must be left at home. Consider logistics like water availability, town access, and on-leash requirements when planning Colorado Trail sections to hike with your four-legged friend.

What national parks in Colorado are dog friendly?

Rocky Mountain National Park and Mesa Verde National Park do not permit dogs on trails, but Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve offer dog-friendly hiking options with stunning scenery along several trails near Colorado Springs.

Can I hike with my dog in Rocky Mountain National Park?

No, dogs are not allowed on hiking trails or in the backcountry in Rocky Mountain National Park. Nearby Roosevelt National Forest offers great dog-friendly hikes near Estes Park, like Gem Lake.

Why are dogs not allowed on hiking trails?

Reasons parks and open spaces may restrict dogs include protecting wildlife, preventing erosion, preserving native plants, and avoiding conflicts with horses or mountain bikers as well as enjoying single-track trails. Always respect posted regulations in natural areas.

Is it safe to take my dog hiking?

With proper conditioning, essential gear, and trail etiquette, hiking can be a safe and rewarding dog activity. However injuries, fatigue, heat stroke, or wildlife conflicts can occur without proper preparation. Ease your dog into hiking starting on beginner trails near Denver or Colorado Springs.

Can dogs hike Mt Elbert?

No, dogs are not allowed on the Mt Elbert trail to the Colorado 14er summit which sits in designated wilderness where pets are prohibited to protect native plants and wildlife. Many other 14er climbs do allow dogs on leash.

Which US national parks do not allow dogs?

Popular backcountry destinations like Yosemite, Sequoia, Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone National Parks restrict dogs from trails. Ask rangers for dog-friendly areas or viewpoints accessible by car if visiting these parks.

Are dogs allowed in Pike National Forest, Colorado?

Yes! Dogs are welcome in Pike National Forest, White River National Forest, Roosevelt National Forest, and other national forests across Colorado, offering hundreds of miles of trails to explore with your pup.

Are dogs allowed in national forests in Colorado?

Dogs are allowed in most areas of national forests in Colorado like Arapaho, San Isabel, Grand Mesa, Gunnison, and Rio Grande National Forests. Always carry a leash and clean up pet waste as required. National forests manage land less restrictively than national parks, opening more dog recreation opportunities.


Colorado’s diverse terrain offers endless adventures perfectly suited for exploring with your loyal four-legged companion. From breezy mesa tops to dramatic 14er ridgelines, the Centennial State has captivated this dog owner’s heart. I discovered my faithful trail partner, Scout the Labrador, by my side bounding through wildflower meadows, conquer 14er summits, and soak in alpine lakes.

This guide only highlights a fraction of the phenomenal hiking trails across Colorado welcoming dogs with proper precautions. Treat your pup to new sights, smells, and discoveries while wandering the iconic Rocky Mountain landscapes. Just don’t be surprised when your furry friend leads the charge up the trail while you struggle to catch your breath at 12,000 feet!

 Reward their effort with a hearty snack and plenty of praise once you meet at the summit. From one Colorado hiker to another, I highly recommend layering up, packing all essential gear, and hitting any of these ten trails to experience unforgettable adventures while hiking with dogs in Colorado.

Woof woof, let’s go Colorado! 🐕



Mark is an experienced backpacker who has completed several multi-day hikes, including the John Muir and Wonderland Trail. He is also a hobbyist photographer who delights in capturing the captivating essence of nature through his camera lens. Mark is passionate about environmental conservation and often volunteers for trail maintenance and clean-up projects.



Mark is an experienced backpacker who has completed several multi-day hikes, including the John Muir and Wonderland Trail. He is also a hobbyist photographer who delights in capturing the captivating essence of nature through his camera lens. Mark is passionate about environmental conservation and often volunteers for trail maintenance and clean-up projects.

6 thoughts on “Hiking with Dogs in Colorado: Exploring Pawsome Peaks!”

  1. William Jones

    Thank you. I have been searching for information on this topic for a long, and yours is the best I have found so far. But what about the bottom line?

  2. Allison Harris

    This post is a comprehensive guide to hiking with dogs in Colorado. It provides valuable information on choosing the right trails, tips for a successful hike, and highlights some of the best hikes in the state. The writer shares their personal experience of hiking with their loyal dog and emphasizes the joy and bond that comes with exploring the beautiful landscapes of Colorado with a furry friend. Overall, it’s an informative and engaging read for anyone planning to hike with their dogs in Colorado.

  3. Andrew Foster

    This article is a must-read for any dog owner who loves exploring the outdoors. It provides valuable information on choosing the right trails based on your dog’s fitness level and includes recommendations for easier, moderate, and advanced trails. The article also highlights the stunning scenery and natural beauty that Colorado has to offer. Overall, it’s a pawsome resource for dog lovers who enjoy hiking in the Centennial State!

  4. Charles Anderson

    Crisp mountain air, endless blue skies, and wooded trails were made for four-legged friends. No better place to bond with your loyal companion than Colorado’s majestic outdoors!

  5. William Brown

    From alpine peaks to winding trails through aspen groves, Colorado’s majestic landscapes beg to be explored with our furry friends. As this guide hints, the Centennial State offers endless adventures for our loyal pups, from relaxing walks around mountain towns to challenging scrambles up peaks over 14,000 feet!
    Watch your best friend splash in Glacier Creek or romp through wildflower meadows in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Their exuberant smiles lift our spirits as we take in the state’s natural splendor together. Now leash up your energetic companion and hit the trails for an unforgettable Colorado hike!

  6. David Harris

    I do not even know how I ended up here but I thought this post was great I dont know who you are but definitely youre going to a famous blogger if you arent already Cheers!!

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