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20 of the Best Dog-Friendly Hikes in Colorado


It’s no secret that Colorado hikers love their dogs. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of trails in Colorado that are open to dogs, but with so many options to choose from it can be hard to narrow it down and choose a hike. This list includes 20 of the best dog-friendly hikes in Colorado that I’ve personally hiked with my dog, Becket.

Since moving to Colorado in 2016, I’ve spent most weekends hiking in the mountains during the summer and fall, so I have ample experience navigating Colorado’s hiking trails. This is by no means an exhaustive list of dog-friendly hikes in Colorado, but I did my best to include a good cross-section of some of the best trails from around the state with different levels of difficulty.

Table of Contents: Best Dog-Friendly Hikes in Colorado

Recreating Responsibly With Your Dog in Colorado

With so many hikers and dogs on Colorado’s trails, it’s important that everyone does what they can to minimize their impact on the environment. Here are some important tips to keep in mind when out hiking with your dog in Colorado.

Leave No Trace

The seven Leave No Trace principles are a set of guidelines to help people make responsible choices outdoors.

  1. Plan ahead & prepare.
  2. Travel & camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of others.

The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.

Obey Leash Laws

All of the dog-friendly hikes in Colorado on this list are located on public land. However, different jurisdictions have different laws around leashes. Some national forests and wilderness areas explicitly require dogs to be leashed, while others require dogs to be “under control” (this means either leashed or under strict vocal control). Some places, like Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, have unique programs in place where dogs can have a voice & sight tag to hike off-leash. Please obey leash laws where you hike so trails remain open to dogs.

If your dog doesn’t have strong recall they should always be kept on-leash. You should always keep a leash handy while hiking with your dog off-leash or letting them off-leash to swim in case you encounter other dogs on leash or small children. Remember, keeping your dog leashed while hiking helps to prevent negative wildlife encounters and keeps your dog safe. 

Ultimately, it is your job as a dog-owner to know and follow leash laws. Trailheads are typically well-signed and will notify you when leashes are required, but rules and regulations can change at any time. When in doubt, use a leash!

Man hiking with a black dog on a leash in a forest of golden aspen trees.
Hiking in Crested Butte in the fall.

HIKING GEAR RECOMMENDATION: Ruffwear Roamer Leash $39.95 | Read my review.

Always Pack Out Pet Waste! 

When hiking with your dog in Colorado remember to ALWAYS pick up and pack out pet waste. Pet waste is considered a biohazard, which is why it is often required by law to be packed out.

Please do not leave poop bags on the side of the trail. Even if you have every intention of coming back for it, it’s technically littering and encourages other people who may not have the same intentions to do the same. Carry pet waste with you back to the trailhead and dispose of it properly!

HIKING TIP: Use an empty peanut butter jar to pack out poop bags without the smell!

A man with a black dog tied to his waist hikes on a red trail in the mountains outside of Aspen, Colorado.
Backpacking from Aspen-Crested Butte above Crater Lake.

Download the Checklist: Best Dog-Friendly Hikes in Colorado

The best dog-friendly hikes in Colorado.

20 of the Best Dog-Friendly Trails in Colorado

This list includes 20 of the best dog-friendly trails in Colorado. I’ve hiked all of the trails on this list with my dog, Becket, so they have his seal of approval. I intentionally included trails from around the state, along with a mix of easy, moderate, and difficult hikes. Keep your dog’s hiking abilities and experience in mind when selecting a trail.

1. St. Mary’s Glacier

For a quick and easy dog-friendly hike in the mountains, it’s hard to beat St. Mary’s Glacier. The trailhead is less than an hour away from Denver, so it’s a great option if you want to get into the mountains but don’t have time to drive far. From the trailhead, hikers follow a short and wide trail up to a lake at the base of the “glacier” (actually a semi-permanent snowfield). 

St. Mary’s Glacier is a VERY popular hike, so don’t be surprised if the trail is crowded. With that said, it’s a great hike for people of all hiking abilities, including families with young kids. It’s also a great hike for dogs because of the ample access to water, especially during the heat of the summer.

A husky and black dog stand on a rock next to an alpine lake with a snowfield in the background while hiking in Colorado.
Prepare to encounter other dogs at St. Mary’s Glacier!

Trail Stats for St. Mary’s Glacier

Trail Location: Arapaho National Forest (near Idaho Springs, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate-difficult. The parking lot is located on private land and requires a $20 fee. There are ample parking spaces available, but since this is such a popular hike, the lot can fill up when it’s busy.

Distance: 1.9 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 800 ft.

Difficulty: Easy (3-4/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 60-90 minutes

Fee: $20 parking fee

Best Seasons to Hike: Year-round. Be prepared for snow on the trail through spring. I recommend carrying microspikes if hiking during the winter for traction.

Leash Required?: Yes, St. Mary’s Glacier provides access to the James Peak Wilderness where leashes are required.

AllTrails Link

St. Mary’s Glacier Trail Map

2. Garden of the Gods

Okay, Garden of the Gods is an entire park, not a specific trail. But it’s one of my favorite dog-friendly places to hike in Colorado Springs, and you can’t really go wrong with any of the trails in the park. Truthfully, your trail selection will likely be impacted by where you’re able to find a parking spot!

One of my favorite hikes at Garden of the Gods is the Siamese Twins Loop Trail. This is an extremely short hike that takes hikers to a unique rock formation with two towers and a window that perfectly frames Pikes Peak. You can easily tack on other trails to your hike to make it as long or short as you want. 

A black dog on a leash standing on red rocks while hiking in Garden of the Gods.

Trail Stats for Hiking in Garden of the Gods

Trail Location: Garden of the Gods (in Colorado Springs, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps (Siamese Twins Loop Trailhead)

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. Garden of the Gods is an extremely popular destination in Colorado Springs. There are multiple parking lots located throughout the park, but since it can get crowded, you may have trouble finding an open spot. I recommend arriving early in the morning to beat the crowds.

Distance: As long or short as you’d like.

Elevation Gain: Varies

Difficulty: Easy-moderate depending on how far you hike.

Estimated Hike Time: Varies

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Year-round

Leash Required?: Yes, leashes are required in Garden of the Gods.

AllTrails Link (Siamese Twins Loop Trail)

Siamese Twins Loop Trail Map

3. Chicago Lakes

Chicago Lakes is the perfect option for a long alpine lake hike close to Denver. You’ll log over 11 miles with about 2,400 ft. of elevation gain, so it’s definitely a challenge, but it’s a good training hike if you’re looking to do difficult hikes with your dog. Park at Echo Lake and make your way up the well-marked trail to Chicago Lakes, where you’ll find a pair of alpine lakes in a scenic mountain basin.

From Chicago Lakes you can continue climbing up to Summit Lake at the base of Mount Blue Sky. You’ll find a parking lot and pit toilets here. From there you can continue hiking to the summit of Mount Blue Sky, a Colorado 14’er, for an extra epic day of hiking (although I would not recommend doing that big of a hike with a dog).

Trail Stats for Chicago Lakes

Trail Location: Mount Evans Wilderness (near Idaho Springs, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. Parking is fairly limited and you’re competing for a spot with people looking to fish or hang out at Echo Lake. I recommend arriving early to snag a spot.

Distance: 11.3 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 2,400 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult (8-9/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 5-6 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Late spring, summer and fall.

Leash Required?: Yes, pets must be leashed in the Mount Evans Wilderness.

AllTrails Link

Chicago Lakes Trail Map

4. Herman Gulch

Herman Gulch is one of the best hikes near Denver if you’re looking for a dog-friendly trail with sweeping mountain views. Parking for the trail is right off of I-70, so it’s easily accessible with any vehicle. However, with that accessibility comes the crowds. Herman Gulch is an extremely popular hike, especially during peak wildflower season during the summer.

The trail begins climbing right out of the parking lot as you make your way through forest and above treeline. The main attraction of the hike is Herman Lake, which you’ll reach after a little over 3 miles of hiking. This is a great spot for pups to explore and splash around in.

A black dog sits on a grassy island near the shore of an alpine lake while hiking in Colorado.

Trail Stats for Herman Gulch

Trail Location: Arapahoe National Forest (near Silver Plume & Georgetown, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy. There is a very large parking lot at the trailhead that is easily accessible right off of I-70.

Distance: 6.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 1,750 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate (6.5-7.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 3-4 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer & fall. Accessible in the winter with snowshoes or cross-country skis.

Leash Required?: Dogs must be under control at all times. The trail is not within a designated wilderness area or developed recreation area, which are where leashes are explicitly required within Arapahoe National Forest.

AllTrails Link

Herman Gulch Trail Map

5. Royal Arch Trail

You don’t have to drive all the way to Arches National Park for a scenic arch hike. You can see a unique rock arch on one of the best dog-friendly hikes in Colorado. Royal Arch in Boulder is the perfect dog-friendly trail if you’re looking for a good workout and fun hiking destination. There are a couple of trailheads that you can start from to hike to Royal Arch, but most hikers begin at Chautauqua Park. There’s a wide network of trails here, so if you’re unfamiliar with the area make sure that you download and carry a map. 

The beginning of the trail is easy hiking, but the trail becomes steeper and rockier as you approach Royal Arch, so come prepared to get your blood pumping. Once you arrive at Royal Arch you’re treated to beautiful views of Boulder. You can scramble onto the rocks behind the arch to enjoy a snack and take a break before hiking down.

Black dog wearing a harness with his tongue out in front of Royal Arch in Boulder while on a dog-friendly hike in Colorado.

Trail Stats for Royal Arch Trail

Trail Location: Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Extremely difficult. Parking fills up early at Chautauqua Park, especially on weekends. Be prepared to park nearby and walk to the trailhead. The city of Boulder provides a shuttle service to the trailhead during the summer. You can learn more about how the program ran in 2023 HERE

Distance: 3.3 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 1,400 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult (6.5-7.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 2-3 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Year-round. Be prepared for snow and ice during the winter.  I recommend carrying microspikes for traction.

Leash Required?: Yes, unless your dog has a Boulder County voice and sight tag.

AllTrails Link

Royal Arch Trail Map

6. Mt. Sanitas

Mt. Sanitas is easily my favorite hike in Boulder, especially after work during the summer. It has everything you could want on a hike. A well-maintained trail, sweeping views of Boulder and the foothills, and just enough elevation gain to make you feel accomplished without being too difficult. 

There are two trails that take you to the summit of Mt. Sanitas- the East Ridge Trail and the Sanitas Valley Trail. I recommend hiking both trails as a loop, going up the East Ridge Trail and coming down the Sanitas Valley Trail. Keep an eye out for elk when hiking through Sanitas Valley and make sure to keep your dog leashed if they don’t have a Boulder County voice & sight tag.

Woman in a pink tank top holding a leash with a black dog standing on a rock in front of mountains in Boulder, Colorado.

Trail Stats for Mt. Sanitas

Trail Location: Boulder Open Space & Mountain Park

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. The parking lot is small and serves a number of different trails, so like most trailheads in Boulder, spaces fill up early, especially on weekends. Be prepared to park nearby and walk to the trailhead.

Distance: 3.2 mile loop

Elevation Gain: 1,250 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult (6.5-7.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 2-2 1/2 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Spring, summer, and fall.

Leash Required?: Yes, unless your dog has a Boulder County voice and sight tag.

AllTrails Link

7. Blue Lake (Nederland)

Located in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area near Nederland, Blue Lake is a fantastic dog-friendly alpine lake hike on the Front Range. Hikers pass Mitchell Lake and other series of smaller lakes before reaching the star of the hike, Blue Lake. From there, you can continue hiking up to Little Blue Lake.

Blue Lake is a classic Colorado hike that dogs are sure to love. Many high alpine lake hikes in Colorado have long approaches with lots of elevation gain, so Blue Lake is a great option for beginner hikers or tourists who have already spent a couple of days in Colorado acclimating to the elevation and are looking to get into the mountains.

Blue lake surrounded by mountains in Colorado.

Trail Stats for Blue Lake (Nederland)

Trail Location: Brainard Lake Recreation Area (near Nederland, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are pit toilets at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate. Brainard Lake Recreation Area is a popular hiking destination during the summer and reservations are currently required to access the area. There are a lot of spaces at the Mitchell Lake trailhead, but it’s a popular hike, so you may need to park in another parking lot and walk a little further.

Distance: 6.6 miles out-and-back (if you go all the way to Little Blue Lake)

Elevation Gain: 1,450 ft. (if you go all the way to Little Blue Lake)

Difficulty: Moderate (5.5-6.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 3-4 hours

Fee: $12/vehicle, or use your America the Beautiful or other federal recreation pass

Best Seasons to Hike: Late spring, summer, and fall.

Leash Required?: Yes, leashes are required in Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

AllTrails Link

Blue Lake Trail Map

8. Kruger Rock

If you’re looking for a dog-friendly trail near Estes Park, then head to the Kruger Rock Trail in Hermit Park Open Space. The trail takes you up to a unique rock formation that adventurous dogs will love scrambling on and provides sweeping views of Estes Park along the way.

Other trails in Hermit Park are also open to mountain bikers and horses, but Kruger Rock Trail is only open to hikers, which is why it’s such a great hike to do with your dog. 

Black dog posing on a rock with his tongue out overlooking Estes Park, Colorado.

Trail Stats for Kruger Rock

Trail Location: Hermit Park Open Space (near Estes Park)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are pit toilets at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate. There are a decent number of parking spaces available, but this can be a popular trail due to its proximity to Estes Park. There’s a campground next to the trailhead you can consider staying at for easy access.

Distance: 3.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 985 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate (6-7/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 1 ½-2 hours 

Fee: $10/vehicle

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer, fall, & late spring (early spring can be snowy/muddy).

Leash Required?: Yes, dogs must be leashed in Hermit Park Open Space.

AllTrails Link

Kruger Rock Trail Map

9. Willow Creek Falls

Willow Creek Falls is a scenic waterfall hike not far from I-70 in Silverthorne. The trail is steep and rocky in areas, but it’s a good introduction to more mountainous terrain if you’re helping your dog work towards more challenging hikes. There are a couple of trails you can take to hike to Willow Creek Falls, but I’ve linked to the most direct route (which is also the steeper route).

The highlight of the hike is Willow Creek Falls, where there’s plenty of space to spread out and enjoy a snack. Be aware, there are often mountain goats in the vicinity of Willow Creek Falls, so keep dogs leashed for their safety. There are also a couple of water crossings along the trail, which is why it’s such a great dog-friendly hike in Colorado.

Black dog on a leash on a hiking trail in front of mountains in Colorado.

Trail Stats for Willow Creek Falls

Trail Location: Eagles Nest Wilderness (near Silverthorne, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. There aren’t many parking spots available and the trailhead serves multiple trails, so you’re competing for spots. 

Distance: 4.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 1,125 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate (6-7/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 2-3 hours 

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer and fall.

Leash Required?: Yes, leashes are required in the Eagles Nest Wilderness.

AllTrails Link

waterfall in the forest with rocky mountains in the background

Willow Creek Falls Trail Map

10. Pitkin Lake

Vail is one of the most popular mountain towns to visit in Colorado, thanks in part to its location right on I-70. The charming town is home to a variety of scenic and dog-friendly hiking trails. While you really can’t go wrong when it comes to choosing a hike near Vail, I’m personally a big fan of the hike to Pitkin Lake.

The hike to Pitkin Lake is definitely challenging and not for beginner hikers or dogs that lack experience hiking at high elevations. You’ll clock almost 3,000 ft. of elevation gain as you make your way through the forest and above treeline. Because it’s so difficult you’ll likely see fewer people than you would on other popular hiking trails near Vail. It’s also great for younger dogs with lots of energy!

Black dog hiking in Colorado through wildflowers in the mountains.

Trail Stats for Pitkin Lake

Trail Location: Eagles Nest Wilderness (near Vail, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Extremely difficult. The parking lot is in a neighborhood and there are only a few spaces, so you may need to park in town and take a shuttle to the trailhead.

Distance: 9.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 2,975 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult (8.5-9.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 5-6 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer & fall.

Leash Required?: Yes, leashes are required in the Eagles Nest Wilderness.

AllTrails Link

Pitkin Lake Trail Map

11. Crater Lake (Aspen)

The iconic Maroon Bells attract visitors from all over the world looking for breathtaking mountain views. While the view of the Bells from Maroon Lake is stunning, hike up to Crater Lake to get an even closer view of the mountains. While the hike is short, it’s rocky and steep, so it may feel challenging if you’re not used to hiking in Colorado. Dogs are not allowed to swim at Maroon Lake (there’s a fence along the shore of the lake you need to stay behind), but they can splash around at Crater Lake.

If you want to see more of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness you can continue hiking beyond Crater Lake over West Maroon Pass and down to Crested Butte. You can read more about this 10-mile point-to-point hike HERE. If you want to backpack in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, overnight permits are required to be obtained in advance for certain zones, including the entire Four Pass Loop and Aspen-Crested Butte

A family and dog stand on the shore of a lake in front of the Maroon Bell mountains in Colorado.

Trail Stats for Crater Lake

Trail Location: Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness (near Aspen, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are bathrooms and trash cans at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Extremely difficult. Parking at Maroon Lake requires a permit obtained in advance. You have to drive up to the trailhead before 8am, otherwise you have to take a shuttle from Aspen Highlands. You can read more about the Maroon Bells Recreation Area parking permit and shuttle system HERE.

Distance: 3.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 690 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate (5-6/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 1 ½-2 hours 

Fee: $10/vehicle if parking at the trailhead. $16/adult & $10/child (<12) or senior (65+) if taking the shuttle. Day-of shuttle tickets are $20/adult & $14/child (<12) or senior (65+).

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer & fall.

Leash Required?: Yes, leashes are required in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

AllTrails Link

Crater Lake Trail Map

12. Cathedral Lake

If you’re looking for a challenging, dog-friendly hike to an alpine lake near Aspen, then check out Cathedral Lake. The trail climbs through an aspen forest before opening up and climbing to an alpine lake nestled in a scenic mountain basin. 

If you’re up for the challenge, I recommend hiking to Cathedral Lake during the fall when the aspens in the valley are peaking. While the lake itself is above treeline, you’ll have breathtaking views on your hike up. Cathedral Lake sits at 11,900 ft., and since this is a challenging hike, I don’t recommend it unless you’ve acclimated to hiking at higher elevations. Portions of the trail are also rocky, which might be challenging for dogs who aren’t used to hiking in the mountains.

A black dog stands on a dog-friendly trail in Colorado while hiking in Aspen during the fall.
This is why I recommend hiking during the fall!

Trail Stats for Cathedral Lake

Trail Location: Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness (near Aspen, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

No toilets at the trailhead, but there is a pit toilet nearby at Ashcroft Ghost Town.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate-difficult. Castle Creek Road (one of the most scenic fall drives in Colorado) can be driven with any vehicle, but Cathedral Lake Road up to the trailhead parking lot can be rough for low-clearance vehicles. Spaces are also somewhat limited. 

Distance: 5.6 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 2,070 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult (7.5-8.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 3-4 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer & fall.

Leashes Required?: Yes, leashes are required in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

AllTrails Link

Woman standing on the shore of an alpine lake in front of mountains.

Cathedral Lake Trail Map

13. Scarp Ridge Trail

Located outside of Crested Butte, Colorado, the Scarp Ridge Trail is a scenic ridge hike with breathtaking views of the Elk Mountains. The trail begins above Lake Irwin, which is a great drive-up destination near Crested Butte if you’re looking to go paddleboarding or fishing.

Many hikers opt to connect Scarp Ridge Trail with the 421 Trail to complete a loop hike. You have 360° mountain views throughout the hike. Be aware, there aren’t any water sources along the trail unless there’s snow, so make sure to pack enough for your pup. This is a popular hike during the summer when wildflowers around Crested Butte are peaking, which typically occurs from late-June through July (exact dates vary year to year).

Black dog laying in snow in the mountains in Crested Butte.

Trail Stats for Scarp Ridge Trail

Trail Location: Gunnison National Forest (near Crested Butte, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate-difficult. It’s a bumpy road up to the trail, which starts at the Lake Irwin Lodge. Parking spaces are fairly limited. There’s more room to park further down the road, but it will add some distance and elevation gain to the hike.

Distance: 4 mile loop

Elevation Gain: 1,430 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult (7-8/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 2-3 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer & fall.

Leashes Required?: Dogs must be under control in Gunnison National Forest.

AllTrails Link

Scarp Ridge Trail Map

14. Green Lake

There’s no shortage of alpine and subalpine lakes around Crested Butte, but none are quite as colorful as Green Lake. The trail to Green Lake starts by going through a neighborhood and along a road before you get on a single-track trail that switchbacks up to the lake. The trail is fairly steep in certain areas, so this is definitely a hike to do with an active and experienced hiking dog. While there isn’t a water source along the trail, Green Lake is prime for swimming.

Trail Stats for Green Lake

Trail Location: Gunnison National Forest (near Crested Butte)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead, but you can find one nearby.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy. Parking is at the Crested Butte Nordic Center. There are plenty of spaces available, and if they happen to be full you can easily park nearby and walk.

Distance: 8.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate (6.5-7.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 4-5 hours

Fee: None 

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer and fall.

Leashes Required?: Dogs should be leashed along the beginning of the trail. Dogs are required to be under control in Gunnison National Forest, but the trail is also open to horses and mountain bikes, so it’s a good idea to keep dogs leashed the whole time.

AllTrails Link

Green Lakes Trail Map

15. Lower, Middle, & Upper Blue Lakes (Ridgway)

The hike to Lower, Middle, & Upper Blue Lakes is easily one of the most scenic hiking trails in Colorado. Because of that, it’s an extremely popular hike, but it’s one of my favorites to do with my dog, Becket, so it had to make the list. The trail to Upper Blue Lake is strenuous, but you can stop at Lower Blue Lake for a more moderate hike that still provides epic views.

Be aware, the Forest Service is planning on implementing a strict permit system beginning in 2025. If the proposed plan is finalized, permits will be required for anyone day hiking or backpacking to Blue Lakes.

Trail Stats for Upper & Lower Blue Lakes

Trail Location: Mount Sneffels Wilderness (near Ridgway)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. The road up to the trailhead is rough in certain areas, so make sure you have a high-clearance vehicle. Parking spaces are also somewhat limited for how popular the hike is.

Distance: 8.8 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 2,500 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult (8-9/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 4 ½-5 ½ hours 

Fee: None as of 2024, but a new permit system is likely coming in 2025.

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer & fall.

Leashes Required?: Dogs must be under control in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness.

AllTrails Link

Lower, Middle, & Upper Blue Lakes Trail Map

16. Blue Lake (Telluride)

Not to be confused with Upper and Lower Blue Lakes outside of Ridgway (also in Uncompahgre National Forest), Blue Lake in Telluride is a picturesque alpine lake that you and your dog are sure to love. The hike to Blue Lake begins at the Bridal Veil Falls Power Station and steadily climbs into the mountains above Telluride.

This is a challenging, high-elevation hike so make sure you’re acclimated to hiking in Colorado before setting out. Telluride is a very dog-friendly town, so if you’re not up for a big hike there are plenty of other trails to choose from. I recommend visiting Telluride in the fall when the fall colors are peaking.

Black dog kissing a woman in front of an alpine lake in the mountains on a dog-friendly hike in Colorado.

Trail Stats for Blue Lake

Trail Location: Uncompahgre National Forest (near Telluride)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Very difficult. Parking is limited at the Bridal Veil Falls Power Station and the drive up requires a high-clearance vehicle. You may need to park at the bottom of the road and hike up, which adds significant elevation gain.

Distance: 6 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 1,870 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult (7-8/10) 

Estimated Hike Time: 3-4 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer.

Leashes Required?: Dogs must be under control.

AllTrails Link

Blue Lake Trail Map

17. Crater Lake (San Juans)

The San Juan mountains are home to a seemingly endless array of alpine lake hikes. While there are a lot of hikes in the area that are worthy of being considered one of the best dog-friendly hikes in Colorado, I opted to include Crater Lake because it doesn’t get as much love as many of the others. It’s also easily accessible off of 295 and has a large parking lot to accommodate heavy traffic, which many other trails lack.

Truthfully, the hike up to Crater Lake can feel like a bit of a slog, so if you enjoy the journey as much as the destination this is the perfect trail for you. You’ll gain and lose elevation going both directions. Crater Lake is a great hike for active dogs and provides a bit of an escape from the major crowds you’ll find on some other hikes in the San Juans.

Woman and black dog sitting on a rock in front of a lake with mountains in the background on one of the best dog-friendly hikes in Colorado.

Trail Stats for Crater Lake

Trail Location: San Juan National Forest (near Silverton & Durango, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are pit toilets at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy. There’s a very large parking lot with overflow parking.

Distance: 11 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 2,050 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult (8-9/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 5-6 hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Summer and fall.

Leashes Required?: Dogs must be under control. Leashes are recommended by the Forest Service.

AllTrails Link

Crater Lake Trail Map

18. Big Dominguez Canyon

For prime desert hiking in Western Colorado, head to Big Dominguez Canyon between Grand Junction and Delta. There’s plenty of water along the trail, which makes Big Dominguez Canyon a great dog-friendly hike in Colorado.

Big Dominguez Canyon is a 13-mile point-to-point hike, but most hikers begin at the lower trailhead at Bridgeport along the Gunnison River. You can hike as far as you want, but I would recommend planning for about 8 miles (4 miles out, 4 miles back) to access some of the best watering holes for dogs to splash around in.

A wet, black dog sits on a rock in a desert canyon while on a dog-friendly hike in Colorado.

Trail Stats for Big Dominguez Canyon

Trail Location: Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area (near Grand Junction & Delta, Colorado). If you enjoy recreating in Dominguez-Escalante NCA, consider donating to Colorado Canyons Association to support education and conservation efforts.

Trailhead Location: Google maps (lower trailhead)

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy-moderate. There are 2 parking areas for the lower trailhead, so there’s plenty of parking available, but it’s a very popular trailhead so it can get crowded.

Distance: Varies depending on preference.

Elevation Gain: Varies depending on distance. The first 2 miles of trail are relatively flat. Once you’re in Big Dominguez Canyon 

Difficulty: Easy-moderate depending on distance. Hiking the entire trail point-to-point would be difficult.

Estimated Hike Time: 2-3+ hours

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Spring, fall, and winter. Even though there is water along the trail, it’s very exposed and too hot for pups during the summer.

Leash Required?: Dogs need to be leashed in the “day use zone” along the beginning of the trail to protect bighorn sheep in the area. Consult the map at the trailhead for more information.

AllTrails Link

Big Dominguez Canyon Trail Map

19. Devil’s Canyon

Located on Colorado’s Western Slope, Devil’s Canyon is one of the best dog-friendly trails near Grand Junction. There are a variety of trails in this area of McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, but I recommend hiking the D3 trail for the best views. The trail takes you past an old homesteader cabin as you loop through a scenic canyon.

You may or may not find water along the trail depending on the time of year that you hike and recent weather conditions. There’s typically water in the canyon during early spring and after heavy rainfall. Devil’s Canyon has prime desert hiking conditions that are similar to nearby Colorado National Monument (where trails are NOT dog-friendly).

A red sandstone canyon with a bright blue sky.

Trail Stats for Devil’s Canyon

Trail Location: McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (near Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are pit toilets at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy. There’s a very large parking lot at the trailhead, and overflow parking in the area.

Distance: 6.8 mile lollipop loop

Elevation Gain: 780 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate (4.5-5.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 2 ½-3 ½ hours 

Fee: None

Best Seasons to Hike: Spring, fall, and winter.

Leashes Required?: Dogs must be under control.

AllTrails Link

20. Dillon Pinnacles Trail

Located near Gunnison, the Dillon Pinnacles Trail is the perfect pitstop between Montrose and Gunnison for scenic views of Blue Mesa Reservoir. The Dillon Pinnacles are a unique geologic formation in southern Colorado. There are interpretive signs along the trail with information about the area’s natural and cultural history.

The Dillon Pinnacles Trail is a great, short hike that is accessible throughout the year. Be aware, even though you’re hiking adjacent to Blue Mesa Reservoir, there aren’t any water sources along the trail, so be sure to pack some for your pup.

LEARN MORE: You can read a detailed trail guide for the Dillon Pinnacles Trail HERE.

Man hiking with a black dog on a leash in front of a reservoir.

Trail Stats for Dillon Pinnacles Trail

Trail Location: Curecanti National Recreation Area (near Gunnison, Colorado)

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There is a pit toilet and garbage cans at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy-moderate depending on time of year. The trailhead is right next to the highway and also serves a boat ramp, so it can get busy.

Distance: 3.9 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 490 ft.

Difficulty: Easy (2.5-3.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 1 ½-2 hours 

Fee: None

Leash Required?: Yes, leashes are required in Curecanti National Recreation Area.

Best Seasons to Hike: Year-round.

AllTrails Link 

Dillon Pinnacles Trail Map

Download the Checklist: Best Dog-Friendly Hikes in Colorado

The best dog-friendly hikes in Colorado.

Map of the Best Dog-Friendly Hikes in Colorado

Other Colorado Adventures You May Enjoy:

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