For all the trails and green spaces in this picturesque mountain town, it can take a little digging to find a spot to hike with your furry friend. The fact that pets aren’t allowed on trails in national parks, like Rocky, is mainly for your buddies’ own good. There’s the risk of pups running into freezing cold or scalding hot waters, chasing wild animals into dangerous terrain, or worse being chased down by a wild predator. Still, we understand you want to have your four-legged pal partake in the same adventures you enjoy. Not only are things just more fun when the whole brood is involved, we’re also sensitive to how unforgiving fur-babies can be when they’re left out of the fun—side-eye for days! For all these reasons and more, we tracked down five locales around town where you and your pup can hike to your heart’s delight.
This 1,362-acre campground has several dog-friendly hikes leading to rocky outcrops with incredible panoramas. One of our favorites is the two-mile, moderate trek up Kruger Rock. The trail opened in 2008, leading visitors through a scenic path up to the 9,335 summit. After scrambling past a few boulders you’ll be met with views of Mount Meeker, the Continental Divide, Mummy Range and the glittering Dollar Lake to the west. Although there is a minimal fee to get in ($6-to-$7), all the money goes toward upkeep of the park.
Enter Little Valley Rd off Fish Creek Rd and climb the switchbacks until you reach Forest Service Road 119. Be sure to be cognizant of where you park and do not block any forest service gates no matter what time of year. Emergency vehicles need access at all times. Hike past the gate (which allows you to drive further after opening in Spring). After a steep but short hike you will reach the 119 loop. Stay the course or take one of the several off-shots into peaceful meadows, trail-side streams and even a tranquil pond. This secluded trail is a great option to get away from it all and spend some quality time with your dog.
Parachute Hill Rd.
Just 15 miles from Estes Park down Hwy 7, this is a convenient hike with an extra reward. Check out St. Malo, most commonly known as Chapel on the Rock, built in the 1930's. It is a designated historic site and it's just one mile past your turn-off at Big Owl Rd. Heading south on CO Hwy 7, pass Eagle Plumes on your left and take an immediate left onto Big Owl Rd. Follow Big Owl for 4 miles and you'll find ample parking. Trails include both jeep and single track with many breathtaking overlooks to enjoy while you stop for a snack with your pup.
Buchanan Pass Trail
This path sneaks along Middle Saint Vrain Creek, initially offers minimal elevation gain and miles for dogs to explore. Pets should always be on leash here because of moose activity. The Buchanan Pass Trail enters into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area five miles beyond the trailhead located west of Camp Dick Parkground. Once you see this boundary sign, your dog must be leashed. The trail gives you beautiful wildflower-peeping potential in July and August, along with some sleek rocky paths, so make sure your pup can handle it and that you’re wearing the right shoes. Along the way, you’ll also have access to other pet-friendly trails within the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area such as Saint Vrain Glacier and Coney Lake Trails.
This trail, about 10 miles down Highway 7, is recommended by everyone for good reason. Depending on how high you climb it can be easy enough for pups just starting out in that #hikelife, or tough enough to challenge seasoned human and animal trekkers. The wooded path is beautiful year-round, and the vistas of Longs Peak and Estes Valley are spectacular. Pack a camera and snacks to enjoy on one of the rocky cliffs.