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Dog-Friendly Hikes: Colorado

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Just about every trail in Colorado is dog-friendly outside of Rocky National Park. Luckily, there is no shortage of great hikes in this western state known for its golden aspen trees, wildflowers, and multitude of accessible 14-foot peaks.

Easy

St. Mary’s Glacier (Idaho Springs) — This 1.5-mile hike, located just an hour from Denver packs a lot into its short distance. Ascend through a beautiful forest before the view opens to St. Mary’s Lake. Be sure to hike up the glacier to take in the stunning views of the Rocky Mountains.

Lake Agnes (State Forest Park) — Lake Agnes is one of those short easy hikes with a whole lot of reward. Start off at historic Agnes Cabin, built in 1925 and hike through the large meadow that eventually leads to a set of craggy spires. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the lake before heading back for the day. The access road is rocky and difficult, so four-wheel drive is recommended.

Lily Pad Lake (Silverthorne) — A great hike for all levels, come early or during the weekday to find some solitude on this popular trail. Head there in late June when the lily pads are in bloom. Continue on the trail along the lake to the small shoreline for a view of Buffalo Mountain.

Moderate

Hessie to Lost Lake (Nederland) — This alpine lake trail is super popular, so arrive early, otherwise you’ll be adding some distance onto this 3.4-mile hike, as the parking lot has limited space. Not only does this rocky trail lead to a beautiful alpine lake, but there’s also a waterfall located just off the trail. It’s cold, but on a scorching day, a swim just might be in order.

Mt. Bierstadt (Idaho Springs) — Known for its relative ease and proximity to Denver, Mt. Bierstadt is a great starter hike for those looking to get into 14ers. The best time to hike this trail is in July when the wildflowers are in bloom. Just be sure to get there early to avoid the crowds and afternoon thunderstorms.

Cascade Creek Trail (San Juan Mountains) — Less popular than other nearby hikes, Cascade Creek Falls doesn’t draw the same crowds searching for alpine lakes. In exchange, this quiet 8.5-mile hike features a waterfall and the opportunity for a glacial swim.

Blaine Basin (Mt. Sneffels Wilderness) — Hike among 13ers and 14ers and fields of wildflower in the largely ignored Blaine Basin. Don’t let the overflowing parking lot turn you off, most of those cars are headed on a different trail. In addition to stream crossings and waterfalls, this hike offers one of the best views of the north face of Mt. Sneffels. If you’re seeking a challenge and solitude, climb the steep social path to the Bench between Mt. Sneffels and Blain Peak for in-your-face views.

Difficult

Willow Lake Trail at Maroon Bells (Aspen) — This rocky trail to one of Colorado’s most iconic hiking destinations can be done as a longer day trip or an overnight. Tramp through aspen and spruce forests in Minnehaha Gorge after the descent to Crater Lake. A couple series of steep switchbacks guide you over Buckskin and Willow Passes before reaching Willow Lake 1.5 miles beyond.

Brown's Pass Hartenstein Lake (Buena Vista) — A challenging hike with rocky footing along the Continental Divide, Brown’s Pass offers spectacular views of the surrounding 14ers. There are plenty of camping spots along the lake if you wish to make this an overnighter. Consider extending the trek to Lake Kroenke, making the round trip total seven miles.

Jud Wiebe Trail (Telluride) — With a 1,200-foot elevation gain in just over a mile, this short hike makes for a great strenuous workout accessible right from town. Due to its year-round accessibility, the trail gets heavy use, but packs a ton into three miles — wildlife, creeks, waterfalls, open meadows, aspen groves, and more.

Jen Sotolongo is a writer and photographer and runs Long Haul Trekkers, a blog about independent, responsible travel with a pet. Over the past 1.5 years, she and her partner have taken their dog, Sora on a cycle tour spanning across Europe and South America, proving that adventures can include your dog, no matter where in the world they may be.

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