The Front Range is famous for having hundreds of miles of trails for avid hikers, mountain bikers, and people who enjoy a long walk through the beautiful wilderness. However, many folks enjoy taking their beloved dogs along with them to ensure they get some exercise and time to relax in the sun!
It’s a little trickier to find places where you can bring your dog, particularly if you’re specifically speaking of off-leash hikes. We’ve done the work for you and compiled a helpful guide that should help you navigate the most popular off-leash dog hikes in the area and give you some background on the local leash regulations to ensure you’re staying on the right side of the law.
BEFORE YOU HIKE
One important thing to remember about the leash laws in the Boulder and Front Range counties is that even when an area allows dogs to be off-leash, they must still have a voice and sight tag. The requirements for a voice and sight tag indicate that you attended a one-hour class and paid a fee, the cost of which varies depending on whether you’re a resident of Boulder County or not.
The tag indicates that your dog is trained to respond to your voice and will remain within your sight. Even with the tag, you will still need to have a leash with you, even if it’s not in use. As an added warning, off-leash areas are subject to change, contingent upon environmental and ecosystem factors. If you see a sign asking you to keep your dog leashed, it’s best to follow it even if a previous rule said otherwise, to prevent you from being fined.
Out of all of the off-leash locations in Boulder, Twin Lakes is considered the best place within the West Twin Lakes Trail lake area available for dogs to roam freely. Dogs are free to run along the shoreline, which stretches about 0.7 miles, and the entire area is surrounded by fencing. What makes the Twin Lakes even better is that it’s surrounded by breathtaking mountain views.
The 1.5-mile loop trail is suitable for hikers of all skill levels. Because of its location in the Gunbarrel area, there is lots of wetland wildlife, and anglers are welcome to spend the afternoon fishing. Keep in mind that while dogs can be off-leash on the West Twin Lakes Trail, they must remain on a leash for the East Twin Lakes Trail. During the winter months, the roads through Twin Lakes are kept plowed and make for excellent spots to go snowshoeing or Nordic skiing.
FLATIRONS VISTA AND DOUDY DRAW TRAIL
Flatirons Vista is a 3.3-mile loop trail that emerges through ponderosa pine before the junction of Doudy Draw Trail. Dogs are allowed on Fowler Trail and Spring Brook North on handheld leashes or off-leash if they meet the voice and sight control requirements. They aren’t allowed on Spring Brook South or Goshawk Ridge. As is always required, owners are expected to pick up after their dogs.
Also, keep in mind that, due to black bear activity, dogs might be required to be on a leash during certain seasons near the south of Community Ditch Trail and along the upper section of Doudy Draw Trail. Overall, the Flatirons Vista is a great place to visit, especially if you enjoy bird-watching, as birds of prey, songbirds, bald, and even golden eagles are known to be spotted soaring through the sky depending on the season.
ENCHANTED MESA TRAIL
The Enchanted Mesa Trail is an easy to moderate in-and-out trail that stretches across approximately 2.5 miles. Open year-round, dusk till dawn, the trail provides breathtaking views of the Flatirons. You’re also likely to see the occasional bear and lots of colorful wildflowers. It’s a nice spot for bird-watching too, as the forested area is where you can often see woodland and meadow birds together.
Surprisingly, the Enchanted Mesa Trail is one of the lesser-known trails in Boulder. You’ll find the entrance near the south side of the Chautauqua Auditorium. Follow the gravel fire road through a metal gate and across a stone bridge. The trail will lead you to an overlook point showing scenic views of Boulder and then continuing through a forest of ponderosa pines. There is lots of shade along the route, which makes it a nice trek during the hot summer months. Surprisingly, cell phone reception is usually quite good in this area as well.
GREGORY CANYON TRAIL
The Gregory Canyon Trail is a 2.4-mile route with a moderate level of difficulty. It’s open year-round and known for having numerous fascinating rock formations, wildflowers, and outcrops. You might also spot various wildlife like mountain lions, white-tailed and mule deer, coyotes, birds of prey, and black bears, so make sure you stick to the trail and follow the signs.
To get to the trail, you’ll need to go west past the junction of Saddle Rock Trail. Picnic facilities and restrooms are available, but bikes are not allowed. Since wildlife is so common in this area, the Gregory Canyon Trail is particularly popular with bird-watchers and nature lovers. The best time to use it is from May to October. Also, if you do bring your dog, there is a section of the trail you won’t be able to reach due to trail erosion; a ladder has been placed there for use.
SUNSHINE CANYON TRAIL
The Sunshine Canyon Trail is an easy route best known for its glorious wildflowers, which typically appear as early as May, and multiple bird species. It’s open all year, but it’s probably best to use from April to September to avoid snow or mudslides. There are some conflicting reports regarding the on-leash and off-leash requirements.
It’s believed to have off-leash areas, but ensure you have a leash with you at all times just in case and make sure you’re reading the signs. At 2.4-miles total, it’s not a very long hike, so it’s nice if you want to do something relatively easy alongside your pup!
Featuring vibrant wildflowers, birding, and the occasional bear, the Bluebell-Baird Trail is an ideal summer hike thanks to the shade it offers. At only about 1.3-miles long, it’s a short and easy hike to make with your dog by your side. Most people recommend using this trail primarily from March to October. If you’re with family or kids, this is a good option, as it’s an easy, short hike for people of all skill levels.
THE BONEYARD, ERIE
The Boneyard at Reliance Park is popular for multiple reasons. One, it’s within walking distance to the Industrial Revolution Brewing Company, which is a dog-friendly hangout. You can take your dog to the park for a while and then stop by the brewery for a refreshing craft beer to let your dog relax after burning off tons of energy at the Boneyard.
Another big reason people love the Boneyard, even though it’s not technically a hike, is that it’s located next to a children’s playground, allowing families a chance to bond and get the best of both worlds all at once. The park is also separated by three sections to keep big dogs and little dogs separate, along with one area made for agility training for dogs who have an exceptional amount of training or energy.
For starters, if you’re planning a trip to Chautauqua Park, you’ll need to do a little planning beforehand. It is recommended you carpool, walk, or bike to the area as parking is very limited. That said, it’s one of the most renowned hikes in the region for a reason.
Areas of interest include stunning views of the sandstone Flatirons formation and a passage along the lovely flora and tall grass of the Chautauqua Meadows. It’s only a 1.2-mile long in-and-out trail and is open all year from dawn until dusk. This trail ends at a junction with the Bluebird-Baird Trail. It’s good for both children and dogs.
In Longmont, the Union Reservoir Nature Area is easily the most popular place for dog owners to visit. It costs $10 for a day ticket, but the money is well worth it. If you visit the south side of the lake, the beach is off-leash, allowing your dogs to run up and down the shoreline and even go for a swim if they like. Aside from being a great place to bring your beloved four-legged friend, there are a lot of other activities to do in the reservoir, including wakeless boating, swimming, and fishing.
Plus, there is a law banning motorized engines, so your dogs won’t get randomly spooked! You’ll probably see your fair share of friendly sailors and paddleboarders around. The Union Reservoir also features lots of amenities like boat storage space for rent, picnic areas, shelters, volleyball courts, playgrounds, and restrooms.
Whether you’re looking for a home in Longmont, Boulder, Louisville, or one of the many other surrounding communities, Burgess group can help you find Boulder homes for sale, Denver real estate, and more. As Boulder Co real estate agents, we’re experienced and qualified to help you find the best places to live in the county. Contact us today!
*Header Image: Photo of: Allie, agent David Trow’s dog!