Colorado is a desert state in the west of the U.S. The Centennial State is known worldwide for its spectacular scenery, arid deserts, ancient river canyons, and rugged mountain ranges.
If you’re planning on taking a vacation in Colorado, you must include a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park to take in glorious views of the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies. And prepare to be blown away by the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings of the Mesa Verde National Park. For sheer contrast, check out downtown Denver with its bright lights and vibrant social scene.
Colorado residents are massive dog lovers, which is great news for you if you intend to bring your pooch with you on vacation or you’re thinking of relocating here. According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador retriever is the Coloradan’s favorite breed of canine companion. Although the state doesn’t have an official state dog, in 2013 Colorado listed rescue cats and dogs as its designated state pet, and so, as a dog lover, you’ll be in good company!
In this guide, we tell you what you need to know to keep on the right side of the law if you bring your faithful four-legged friend with you to Colorado. Also, you’ll need to know where you can walk Fido so that you can both enjoy the wonders that this diverse state has to offer.
- 1 Licenses
- 2 Leash Laws
- 3 General Dog Park Rules
- 4 Our Favorites
- 4.1 Rita Valentine Dog Park, Steamboat Springs
- 4.2 Chatfield State Park, Littleton
- 4.3 Lowry Dog Park, Denver
- 4.4 Bear Creek Dog Park, Colorado Springs
- 4.5 Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora
- 4.6 Durango Dog Park, Durango
- 4.7 Elk Meadow Park, Evergreen
- 4.8 Bighorn Park Off-leash Dog Park, Vail
- 4.9 Foothills Community Dog Park, Boulder
- 4.10 Glendale Farm Dog Park, Castle Rock
- 4.11 Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park, Westminster
- 5 Final Thoughts
All dogs (and cats) over the age of six months must have a license issued by the county in which you reside. Licenses are valid for one year and then require renewal.
You must have your dog vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Once vaccinated, your dog must wear a collar with a tag bearing the vaccination information. You’ll be given a tag by the vet who treats your pet.
You can find more information on vaccination and dog licensing in Colorado at this link.
Except for in designated off-leash areas, you must keep your dog leashed at all times when you’re out and about. If your pet escapes and is found running loose, he may be taken to the local animal shelter, and you could face a fine.
If you’re planning on relocating to Colorado, you should know that continuous barking by dogs is considered to be a public nuisance. So, if Fido expresses his displeasure at being left alone by barking all day while you’re out at work, you could receive a citation, and your pet may even be impounded!
General Dog Park Rules
The rules governing individual dog parks are displayed at the entrance to the park. Here’s a summary of the rules that typically apply to off-leash dog parks in Colorado.
- All dogs must be with a handler of at least 16 years of age.
- Dogs must remain leashed until safely inside the off-leash zone.
- Only three dogs are permitted per handler.
- Aggressive dogs must wear a muzzle.
- You must pick up after your dog.
- Dogs must be vaccinated, licensed, and not in breeding condition, i.e., in heat, to use the dog park.
- Spiked and pinch collars must be taken off before a dog enters the off-leash area.
Always carefully read the rules of each park you visit before allowing your dog to play. While there are always rules and legal guidelines, there’s always basic dog park etiquette which are more of unspoken guidelines that you should follow.
Now, let’s take a tour around eleven of the most popular and well-equipped dog parks in Colorado. We’ve also included some of the best on-leash parks and trails for days when a quieter walk is your preference.
Rita Valentine Dog Park, Steamboat Springs
Rita Valentine dog park is in Steamboat Springs Colorado. You can find the dog park located right here, and Rita Valentine Dog Park is a must stop for any pup owners in the area.
It’s a scenic off leash dog park, that’s accessible from Highway 40 off Lincoln avenue. There’s some extremely majestic mountain views that you can take in while your pup runs around off leash with other dogs.
The only major downside is the lack of fencing, so if your dog is a runner, you’ll likely want to go to another park in the area instead. There are wide expanses of space for your dogs to run though, so you’ll have plenty of room to let your dog loose if you choose to make the trip.
Chatfield State Park, Littleton
Chatfield State Park must be on your list of dog parks to visit when you come to Colorado with your furry friend. You have to pay a modest entry fee to get into the park, and that buys you a pass for the day. You can also use a valid pass to visit other state parks.
Chatfield State Park is located (here) in the town of Littleton and provides 70 acres of off-leash area for you and your dog to enjoy. Dogs are permitted throughout the park, although some areas are on-leash only.
Here, you’ll find lots of trails and ponds, natural grass, and sandy areas that are crisscrossed by asphalt and gravel paths. There are plenty of dog waste stations with poop bags supplied, so do make use of them.
Two large parking lots at the park’s gated entrances cope easily with the volume of visitors, and there are two restrooms for owners that are open year round. Water fountains are available for dogs and people.
Lowry Dog Park, Denver
Lowry Dog Park is located in Denver, close to the Lowry Air Force base (here). Note that there is a short walk from the parking lot to the dog park, so you’ll need to bring poop bags with you in case your pup makes a deposit en route to the off-leash area.
The park is split into two zones, one for active, high-energy dogs, and the other for those who are older or prefer to chill-out. There’s plenty of space for dogs to play and socialize, and there are small hills, rocks, a couple of trees, and some fire hydrants too where your pup can play hide-and-seek with his new pals.
Unfortunately, there’s no water provided here and not much shade, so be sure to bring a drink for your dog, especially on hot days.
Bear Creek Dog Park, Colorado Springs
This excellent off-leash dog park covers 25 acres and includes open prairie, woods, hills, and a long stretch of Bear Creek. The park has a small, segregated area that’s for the use of small or senior dogs.
You’ll find several walking trails here that go right around the edge of the dog park area, which makes a pleasant walk, and there are several secondary trails too. Dogs are welcome to play and wade in the creek and dry-off by chasing a ball in one of the open areas. There’s an agility training zone too for pups and owners who enjoy a challenge.
Water is provided for dogs and people, and there’s a dog wash area too. Public restrooms are provided, and there are plenty of doggy waste stations. The park is open every day from dawn till dusk.
Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora
You’ll need to pay a small entry fee to use the park, but your dog will thank you for it! There are lots of trails to explore, including a 2.5-mile path that runs right around the outside of the park. The river is usually shallow and slow, so it’s safe for your pup to take a dip. And for dogs who enjoy a good romp, there’s plenty of open space with a small amount of shade. Unlike some parks in this area, there are no rattlesnakes here, so your pup can sniff and explore in safety.
There is a water fountain at the south entrance, but note that you will need to bring water for your pup on warm days if you park at the other end of the park. There are public restrooms for you to use, but you’ll need to bring a supply of poop bags for your dog.
Be aware that this park is not fully-fenced, and there is a chance your dog could escape by swimming across the river, so be sure to have your pup under strict voice control before you visit.
You can see a video of Cherry Creek Park at this link.
Durango Dog Park, Durango
The six-square-mile park sits at the base of Smelter Mountain in downtown Durango. Here, dogs can play in the Animas River and hike with you along the trails. Poop bags and waste stations are provided.
Although there’s a lack of fencing here, the river and hillside topography create natural barriers, but you do still need to have your dog under voice control, just in case he wanders. From the far side of the park, you’ll enjoy a great view of rafters and kayakers dropping into Smelter Rapid. And if you visit during the winter months, you’ll probably see snowshoers and cross-country skiers doing laps around the park with their dogs!
Bring water for your dog and yourself, especially on hot days. Also, heed the rattlesnake warning signs, and if you do come across one, make sure your dog doesn’t harass it!
Elk Meadow Park, Evergreen
Elk Meadow Park used to have an off-leash area, but sadly this was closed by the county in 2017. However, you are still permitted to bring your dog here to enjoy the wide open spaces and many trails, provided you keep your pet on a leash. Also, you’ll need to carry water for your pet and poop bags, although waste receptacles are provided throughout the park.
The park is open from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset. There are plenty of diverse trails for you to explore here, including a 4.7-mile challenging hike with a 2,100-foot elevation gain if you and your pet are fit enough to tackle it! Throughout the park, you have a good chance of seeing large herds of elk.
Bighorn Park Off-leash Dog Park, Vail
Bighorn Park is located in the town of Vail (here).
Bighorn Park has plenty of grassy spaces where your dog can run and play with other canine visitors, and there’s a pond for pups who enjoy a dip. There’s a path you can walk around the pond, but if you want a more challenging hike, cross the street and follow the trail up the hill.
Although this is a dog-friendly park where pups are allowed to play off-leash, the area isn’t fenced, and it is adjacent to a road. For that reason, you must have your dog under strict voice control at all times.
You’ll need to bring your dog’s own toys, water, and poop bags.
Foothills Community Dog Park, Boulder
Foothills Community Dog Park is located (here) in the city of Boulder.
Three separate areas in the park are segregated by fencing. One .5-acre area is for small dogs under 20 pounds, and the other 1.6-acre space is for larger dogs over 20 pounds. The remaining zone is for every dog to use, regardless of his size. The dog park offers plenty of space where dogs can enjoy chasing each other around and burning off their excess energy.
A small amount of seating and shade is provided for owners to sit and enjoy the views while their dogs play. You’ll need to bring poop bags with you, but water is provided for dogs in each of the fenced zones. When your dog has worn himself out, you may want to take a more sedate stroll around some of the on-leash trails that you’ll find adjacent to the park.
Glendale Farm Dog Park, Castle Rock
Glendale Farm Dog Park is a 17-acre, off-leash area that you’ll find (here), in the town of Castle Rock, adjacent to the Glendale Farm Trail.
You’ll find plenty of fun for your dog here! There’s lots of open space for running, playing chase, and fetching a ball. Also, there’s a mini agility course for pups who enjoy the challenge of running through, over, and around different obstacles. While your dog plays, you can sit on one of the benches provided and take in some awesome views of the Colorado Front Range and Pikes Peak.
You can also take a stroll around the 1.6-mile Glendale Farm Trail, although you will need to keep your dog leashed here.
Check out a video of Glendale Farm Open Space Dog Park at this link.
Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park, Westminster
The glorious open space of Westminster Hills Dog Park covers 420 acres where dogs can run off-leash. The dog park is situated within 15,000-acre Colorado Hills Open Space (here) in Westminster, Denver Metro.
This park is a fabulous canine-friendly space with a two-mile trail and swimming pond where your dog can have a great time with you and his new doggy pals. The park has a doggy drinking fountain, and there are benches and a shelter for owners. However, the park is only partially fenced, so be careful that your dog is entirely obedient to voice commands before you bring him here.
The park is open daily from sunrise till sunset, and admission is free. Be careful when walking, as there are warning signs that coyotes and snakes may be in the area.
If you decide to come to the beautiful Centennial State on vacation, be sure to bring your dog along too! With acres of open prairie, miles of mountain trails to explore, and an off-leash dog park in pretty much every town, you and your pup are sure to find lots to do and enjoy. Many towns and cities in the state have dog-friendly hotels and RV parks too.
Before you come to Colorado, make sure that your dog is vaccinated against rabies, and remember to fit him with a collar tag to that effect. It’s also a good idea to make a call to a vet or to the local government offices in the areas you intend to visit to check on the licensing and leash laws that apply.