Top Five Dog-Friendly Colorado Adventures
Do you love hikes to high summits with endless views, to tranquil alpine lakes nestled far into the wilderness with majestic mountains towering over them, through forests filled with pine trees or aspen groves, or perhaps even hikes on sand dunes? You can find all of these in the magnificent mountains of Colorado! I’m going to share some of my favorite dog-friendly hiking spots that I’ve taken Koda on recently. However, there are countless amazing places to explore with your furry companion for all levels of hiking ability!
Hike 1: Buckskin Pass from Maroon Lake
I thought I would start with a hike that begins at one of, if not the most, photographed places in Colorado: Maroon Lake. Towering over Maroon Lake are the Maroon Bells, two of Colorado’s many fourteeners (mountains with an elevation of greater than 14,000 feet). This location certainly sees many people and pups throughout the day because it is so beautiful and accessible. You can park just a few hundred feet away from the lake or take a shuttle during hours when cars aren’t allowed to drive the road to Maroon Lake. One thing to be sure of is to plan accordingly!
From Maroon Lake you can take the trail to Crater Lake, which is a fairly moderate hike of about 1.4 miles to the lake. Here you can get an even better sense of how large the Maroon Bells really are!
From Crater Lake, you can decide if you want a more challenging hike with more distance and elevation gain. If this sounds like something you and your dog are up for, continue back along the trail towards Buckskin Pass! As you climb higher and higher towards the treeline, amazing views begin to emerge behind you. But nothing beats the view seen from the other side of the pass once you make it to the top!
From the top of the pass you can see many peaks and Snowmass Lake off in the distance. When I hiked the trail to Buckskin Pass the first time and saw Snowmass Lake off in the distance, I knew I must hike to it someday. Naturally, we recently decided to take Koda on this adventure and boy did he have the time of his life! If you’re feeling extra adventurous, be prepared for a very long day hike (~16 miles roundtrip) or stay a night and backpack to this jaw dropping lake!
Hiking through the Maroon Bells Wilderness is certainly an unforgettable experience with 360° views all around you wherever you step foot!
Hike 2: Great Sand Dunes National Park
Next, let’s journey to a place you might not even think could exist in a place like Colorado. Giant dunes of sand nestled in the mountains offer a truly unique hiking opportunity at Great Sand Dunes National Park! Since there aren’t any marked trails on the sand, you can choose your own path to gain stunning views of the dune field and the surrounding mountains! This is one of few National Parks that allow dogs, so it is important to follow all rules and regulations!
A must while you are out in the dunes is to try sand boarding or sledding! You can rent from a little shop just outside the park! This attraction might be more geared towards the humans, but if you go early enough in the summer season, the pups can enjoy splashing around in Medano Creek after romping around in the sand! Keep in mind that the sand can get very hot, so I recommend hiking in the early and later hours of the day and some booties to protect your pup’s paws!
Hike 3: Ice Lakes and Island Lake
There is nothing like hiking with your dog in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado! The jagged peaks and pristine blue lakes make this location an absolute favorite of mine! I constantly want to go back and explore all that these mountains have to offer!
An approximately 7.5 mile round trip hike with 2,900 ft of elevation gain will bring you to some of the most amazing lakes you have ever seen. First, Ice Lake with water so blue you hardly believe it’s real, and then to Island Lake, which is named for its beautiful little island in the middle of the lake!
The hike in this area can also be extended by exploring the other lakes that are part of Ice Lakes Basin. This area is a great spot for backpacking as well!
Hike 4: Mount Sniktau
I couldn’t make a list of best hikes with your dog without including a high elevation summit! It is important to know you and your dog’s abilities when choosing a mountain like this! Mount Sniktau is a 13er, or 13,000 ft elevation mountain. While it is a fairly short hike because it starts at Loveland Pass which is already at almost 12,000 ft, it certainly gets your heart racing and your lungs working hard!
Views from summits like Mount Sniktau are some of my favorites because you get to see so many of Colorado’s mountains. Mount Sniktau not only gives you views of some of Colorado’s 14ers, but also views of ski resorts including Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin. You really feel like you are on top of the world when standing on this mountain! Some happy critters like pika and marmots may also greet you on this hike, but be aware that your dog may try to chase them like mine does!
Hike 5: Garden of the Gods
Finally, I’ll end the list with one of our favorite “backyard” hiking locations. We love living so close to Garden of the Gods. There are many trails throughout the park that give views of incredible rock formations as well as views of Pikes Peak. This is a great location for a shorter hike, with plenty of options to extend into a longer one. There are even a few paved trails in the park, making it a great spot for a nice walk at sunset!
Start your Colorado Adventure!
When hiking in Colorado with your dog, it is always very important to research the location to understand the level of difficulty and distance. In addition, pay attention to rules required in that particular area. For instance, many of these hikes require that dogs be kept on leash. Once you have planned a great adventure, get out there and have a great time hiking with your pup in the beautiful Rocky Mountains! We love every single adventure we have been on in Colorado!
In the area? Check out our dog-friendly guide to Denver and Utah!