Mount Falcon Park: Morrison
This popular trail provides enough of a workout to justify a long afternoon nap for your pooch and a cool pint for you. Mount Falcon Park offers more than 12 miles of trails with views of Denver, Red Rocks, and the Front Range.
On the east end of the park, the Turkey Trot/Castle Trail Loop is a 3-mile trail that includes a 900 ft. elevation gain and winds along the backside of the mountain through a pine forest. The 1.7-mile Turkey Trot portion is open to hikers (both the two- and four-legged variety), while the multi-use Castle Trail is popular with mountain bikers. For a slightly easier hike with access to the ruins of an early twentieth-century home, start on the west end of the Castle Trail.
Tip: Parking lots for both trailheads fill up fast, so plan for an early morning or later afternoon hike for a quieter experience.
Gateway Mesa Open Space: Castle Rock
Just a few miles east of downtown Castle Rock, the trail through Gateway Mesa Open Space offers unexpectedly sweeping views of the Front Range and the Cherry Creek Valley. The easy, level 1.8-mile loop is closed to mountain bikers and horses, making it a great choice for young pups just getting used to trail walking or more mature dogs who enjoy an easier trek. It’s also an ideal trail for families with young hikers or visitors getting used to Denver’s altitude.
The trailhead is just minutes from Denver and easily accessible from both I-25 and Parker Road, meaning that you and your pet can easily squeeze in an after-work ramble.
Tip: Extend your hike by adding on the more rigorous Mitchell Creek Canyon Trail.
Meyer Ranch Park: Conifer
The trailhead for Meyer Ranch Park is located just off of U.S. 285 (no need to fight I-70!) and is a mere 35-minute drive from downtown Denver. With interconnected trails, you and your pooch can do everything from the quick, 1.7-mile Owl’s Perch/Lodgepole Loop to a 4-mile trek that will take you through dense forest and an aspen grove to the top ridge for great Rocky Mountain views.
Don’t let the shorter distances fool you—expect a solid workout for you and your pet with over a 1,000 feet of elevation gain possible. Meyer Ranch Park also makes for a great leg-stretch during your drive to view fall colors. Enjoy a hike before or after visiting Kenosha Pass further south on 285.
Tip: In late spring and early summer, mushrooms abound along the shady Lodgepole Loop. Keep a close eye on Fido to prevent any snacking on fungi that could make him sick.
Want the ultimate Colorado hiking experience with your best furry friend? Dogs are welcome on 27 of the 28 segments of the 500-mile Colorado Trail. Considered one of the most beautiful trails in the country, the Colorado Trail begins southwest of Denver and stretches to Durango, with numerous entry points along the way.
One of the best access points close to the metro area is the trailhead along the South Platte River, east of Sedalia. You and your pooch can head east or west from the trailhead—both offer some rigorous elevation gains through pine forests, with a reward of great mountain views.
Tip: While many sections of the trail require dogs to be on a leash, some allow dogs to be off-leash under voice control. Check with the National Forest Office for the segment you are hiking for specific rules.
Healthy Hiking With Your Pet
- Pack extra water (and a bowl!). You wouldn’t dream of hitting the trail without water, and your pooch needs hydration as much as you do.
- Watch for signs of heat stress. Overheated dogs will pant excessively, appear listless, and may have trouble breathing.
- Leash required! Unless otherwise noted, most trails require canine visitors to be on a leash. While it is tempting to let your pet roam free, keeping Fido connected to you is safe hiking for you, your pet, and others on the trail.
- Pack out pet waste. No one wants to look at, smell, or step in your pooch’s poop. More importantly, pet waste can carry disease and disrupt the ecosystem you went to enjoy.