From easy, ponderosa-pine shaded strolls to challenging strikes above treeline, we have the dog-friendly hike for you
Perhaps the #1 reason you’ve come to Estes Park is to hike deep in the Rocky Mountains. Go ahead and scratch “perhaps”; it’s a sure thing. To top-out on a craggy summit or visit a remote lake or scamper along an Instagram-worthy ridgeline is on every visitor’s lifelist. But, given no dogs are allowed on-trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, it can be tougher to find somewhere to hike with your furry, four-legged friends. Problem solved: These five trails are our go-to hikes for adventuring with your dog.
Kruger Rock Trail, Hermit Park
A short, woodsy hike to big mountain views
Hermit Park is a local gem. This 1,362-acre campground has excellent tent and RV sites, cabins, and trails for horseback riding, mountain biking—and hiking with your dog. One of our favorites is the two-mile, moderate trek up to Kruger Rock. The trail opened in 2008 and winds through ponderosa pines to a 360° view from the craggy 9,335-foot summit. After scrambling past a few boulders you’ll be met with views of Mt. Meeker, the Continental Divide and Mummy Range, and glittering Dollar Lake to the west. There is a $6 entrance fee at Hermit Park
The 119 Loop, Pierson Park
Hike double-track through ponderosa pine stands and meadows
Take Fish Creek Road to Little Valley Road and climb the switchbacks until you reach Forest Service Road 119. Drive as far as your vehicle will allow (note that the road is gated part of the year—don’t park in front of it). After a steep but short hike you will reach the 119 Loop. Stay the course or take one of the several off-shoots into quiet 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.
Crosier Mountain, Glen Haven
Bag a summit with an Estes Valley view
Three different trailhead options all lead you to a peak just under 10,000 feet, granting sweeping views overlooking the Estes Valley, and the Front Range to the plains on a clear day. The lower peak elevation and a steady elevation make for a great hike to give you and your pup a decent workout—and a shake-down, if you’re working up to bigger summits. Along the way you’ll get great wildflower views peaking in late spring and early summer and meadows frequented by the local fauna like mule deer or elk. Depending on your chosen trailhead, routes vary from less than seven miles to more than nine all ending with a summit of Crosier Mountain.
Buchanan Pass Trail, Roosevelt National Forest
Go big on this 15-mile hike above treeline
This path sneaks along Middle Saint Vrain Creek, initially offers minimal elevation gain and miles for dogs to explore. The Buchanan Pass Trail enters into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area five miles beyond the trailhead located west of Camp Dick. 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.
Hike a short, steep trail to neck-craning views of Long’s Peak
This trail, located past mile-marker 5, just before mile-marker 6 when traveling from Estes Park, is a local fave for good reason. The wooded path is beautiful year-round, and the vistas of Longs Peak and Estes Valley are spectacular. You’ll gain more than 1,000 feet over two miles of quad-burning stairsteps, and cap off the summit with a fun (and easy) little scramble. Lily Mountain is located in the National Forest, but very nearby to Lily Lake, which is National Park and does not allow pets.
And, while it’s not a backcountry experience, you can always hit the dog park to give your pooch a quick fix. We admit to being totally biased, but this has to be one of the coolest dog parks, worldwide. There’s even lake access. Speaking of the lake, you can also walk just under four miles around Lake Estes on a paved bike path.
8 Tips to Leave No Trace with your Dog
- Appreciate the natural and cultural resources of the park. Keep your pet from digging in any area of the park or historic site, and out of any buildings.
- Enjoy your pet's company but remember that not everyone is comfortable around them. Keep your pet leashed and under control.
- Enjoy water recreation but remember, the water isn’t a bathtub for your pet. Keep them away from swimming areas and beaches.
- Keep your pet with you. Leaving it unattended is no fun for the pet or nearby visitors.
- Make sure your pet has plenty of water and food.
- Leave no waste behind for the next visitor to find. Bring your own bags to pick up your pet's waste. Ask about waste bag dispensers and the location of trash dumpsters.
- Respect the natural habitat of wildlife by keeping your pet at a safe distance.
- Enjoy all the benefits of the outdoors and keep pet noise to a minimum for the benefit of other visitors.