Cherry Creek State Park
Though known primarily for its reservoir, Cherry Creek State Park rates high among the canine set because of the 60-acre off-leash dog area at the southern end of the park. To reach this area, drive south on the main park road from the east entrance station and park in the lower parking lot for the 12 Mile House group picnic site. You'll need to keep your dog leashed for about the first 500 yards, until you pass the dog-area boundary sign.
You can also access the off-leash area by heading west on Orchard Avenue, off Parker Road, for about a half block to a small parking area (there's a self-service fee station). The dog area consists mainly of open grassland traversed by a wide gravel trail; water-loving hounds will seek out the small creek. There's plenty of room for your dog to get a good workout, play with a friend, or chase down a ball.
If he tires of the scenery, put your dog back on his leash and bring him to explore the rest of the park, which has about 12 miles of trails. The paved Cherry Creek Trail runs through the park from north to south; north of the dam and outside the park boundary, a portion connects to the Highline Canal Trail. A network of trails lies west of the Shop Creek trailhead, which is off the main park road south of the east entrance stationnote that these trails can get very muddy in late winter and spring.
Chatfield State Park
Like Cherry Creek State Park, Chatfield is best known for its reservoir and the water recreation it provides, but dogs will be much more interested in the off-leash area set aside for them. Located in the northeast corner of the park, the dog training and exercise area (as it's officially known) encompasses 160 acres. There's even a pondwhere several dogs were practicing their stick-in-the-water retrieval skills when we visited. To reach the site, turn left (north) at the intersection after going through the park entrance station. Follow the road up and around the top of the dam to the Stevens Grove picnic area, where parking is available. From there, a trail leads around the pond.
You and your dog can also head east on the trail (away from the pond), but Fido will have to leash up when crossing the marked dog-area boundary; you'll connect with the paved Centennial Trail, which runs along C-470. The dog training area also extends on the other side of the road from Stevens Grove, as well as from the picnic area, Cottonwood Grove; your dog can either follow some small social trails here or explore among the treesjust keep an eye out for the boundary markers. For the best meet-and-greet opportunities, however, the pond's the place.
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