Best Dog Friendly Hikes Near Denver

by Kris Phillips

Hiking Season is upon us! And if you live in Colorado you just HAVE to take advantage of our amazing trail system. But sometimes a good trail is hard to find. Especially if you hike with your dog. Here are some of my favorite places to venture  that wont take half a day of driving.

Lair ‘o the Bear Park

If you or your dog are new to hiking, Lair o The Bear is a great place to start. It offers wide, flat, easy trails that can be trekked comfortably at almost any fitness level. And there a few different trail options that head out from the main parking area offering a little variety. It’s a great all-season place to hike. And my go-to when I have family visit from out of town.

Pros:

  • Bear Creek runs along most of the trails for a relaxing soundtrack to your afternoon journey.
  • In places the creek is gentle enough for pups to splash around and cool off.
  • Easy accessibility. Wide, flat trails will accommodate beginners, elderly pets & family, and rugged strollers and wheel-chairs.
  • Also, just 10 minutes past Morrison makes it a short, easy drive.

Lair O The Bear Hiking TrailCons:

  • Easy accessibility also means lots and lots of people. On nice weekends and holidays you may not find a parking space.
  • If you hike to get away from the hustle of our populated city, you’ll likely be disappointed by the crowd.
  • Also, if your an avid hiker you probably wont find much challenge on these gentle trails.

When to go: this is pretty much an all season trail.

Getting there? From C-470 take the Morrison Rd exit and head through Morrison (slowly). About 5 miles past Morrison you’ll see a large archway on the left, it’s hard to miss.

Panorama Point Trail head

If you fancy a bit more of a challenge keep driving up to Corwina Park-Panorama Point Trail head. This trail is not for the un-conditioned. You’ll cross over Bear Creek on a scary-looking bridge to a tiny parking lot. The trail itself almost feels like entering a fairy tail. Within minutes you’ll find the steep ascent takes you into a towering forest. A small feeder stream gurgles along the trail almost year round. Even when the ground is frozen it’ll still peak through from time to time. Though only a couple miles to Panorama Point you’ll feel the burn in your quads as you climb the steep switchbacks. Once you get to the top of the trail you’ll be treated to an amazing view!

Pros:

  • Short but challengingly steep trail.
  • The view from the top is worth every huff n puff it takes to get there.
  • Bear Creek offers a fantastic cool-off once you make it back to the trail head.
  • It connects to Bear Creek Trail so if you wanted to hike longer it’s easy to do.

Cons:

  • Unless you hike really slowly you’ll probably make it out and back in 1 1/2 – 2 hours (or less).
  • The trail is steep and narrow, so if you have knee problems or a canine hiking partner who’s a little outta control you run a high risk of falling.
  • The parking lot is TINY, so if you go on the weekend have a plan B.

When to go: This is a great Spring, Summer, Fall trail. Even with Yak-Traks I have found it’s a little nerve-wracking to hit this trail in the winter when it’s frozen. And I would make sure to carry those Yak-Traks in early Spring and late Fall just in case.

Getting there? From C-470 take Morrison Rd exit and head into the mountains, just over 7 miles past Morrison you’ll find it off to the left. There are two other trail heads (one on the left and one on the right) just before you reach Panorama Point.

O’Fallon Park

Just a little further up 74 right before you get to Kittredge you’ll find O’Fallon Park. O’Fallon hosts a few trail heads which vary in intensity. If you can find a parking spot you’ll be treated to a large grassy picnic area along the creek. You have a choice of moderately challenging trails to pick from. Make sure you have a good map/gps though because they connect to other tails which go on for miles. If you’re an avid hiker O’Fallon is a great launching point for your excursion. When you get back kick off your hiking boots & dip your tired toes in Bear Creek- also good way to cool off those barkin’ dogs.

Pros:

  • Choice of trail heads to start from.
  • Trails connect to larger network of trails so you can hike as long as you like.
  • Moderate incline makes for a reasonably challenging hike.
  • At least the first couple miles of trail are wide enough to make hiking with dogs easy.
  • Lots of room to cool off in Bear Creek when you get back.
  • Well-managed with outhouses near the parking area.

Cons:

  • Parks dept recently closed a large part of the parking area so it fills quickly on nice days. (hopefully this is temporary)
  • Trails cross over and connect with a larger trail system, if your not good with maps it could be easy to take a wrong turn and get lost.

When to go? This is pretty much an all-season group of trails. Though I would recommend Yak-Traks during the colder months. And I’ve only explored the first 3-5 miles in any directions.

Getting there? From C-470 take the Morrison Rd Exit and head through Morrison. Just before Kittredge you’ll find O’Fallon Park on your left. The sign is just around a blind corner so it can be hard to spot.

Dog Friendly Hiking Trail- Mt. FalconMt Falcon  (West Parking Lot)

On your way to Conifer you’ll find a turnoff to Indian Hills where a tiny winding road will take you up to Mt. Falcon’s West parking lot. The drive alone is lovely as it winds through the mountainside, but take those hair-pin turns slowly as there are often deer and elk lounging along the road. The parking area is large an well-maintained with lots of picnic tables and bbq’s. Mt. Falcon offers some great diversity in trail selection. If you’re just out for a Sunday stroll Meadow Trail loop offers up some nice scenery and fresh air. While Parmalee Trail loop with take you around the mountain and back- about 3 miles with moderate elevation changes. Don’t forget to check out the Castle and lookout tower for stellar views. And enjoy a cookout when you get back.

Pros:

  • Beautiful views!
  • Lots of easy to moderate trail options.
  • Well maintained: Clean outhouses & trail maps.
  • Even on very busy days the longer trails are relatively quiet.
  • BBQ pits for a yummy lunch after you’ve worked up your appetite hiking.

Cons:

  • This is a popular destination for mountain bikes, trail runners, horses, and dogs- so if you’re looking for solitude you’ll have to venture way out.
  • No water to play in

When to go? As long as you have the right equipment(Yak-Traks) any time of year is fine. And even if you don’t the Meadow Loop is gentle enough that you’ll probably do ok. I don’t like this trail during the summer though because of the lack of creek to cool the dogs off.

Getting there: Take Hwy 285 West toward Conifer. Turn Right on Parmalee Gulch Rd toward Indian Hills. Follow the signs for Mt. Falcon about 4.5 miles.

These are just a few of my favorite go-to dog-friendly hiking trails near Denver.

Some tips to keep yourself & your pup safe no matter where you wander:

  • Be sure to take MORE water than you think you’ll need for you and your dog.
  • Unless your dog’s recall is 110% keep them on a leash. There are wild animals out there (including snakes) and you don’t want to lose you pup chasing a deer..or mountain lion …or bear. Oh MY!
  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Don’t expect cell service in the event of an emergency.

Hiking with dogs

Happy Trails – Happy Tails!

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