Dog-Friendly Denver

Further South
Just the Facts

*   Location: Pine Valley Ranch

*  Getting there: Head south on U.S. Hwy. 285, going through Morrison, Aspen Park, and Conifer. In Pine Junction, make a left at the traffic light onto Pine Valley Rd. Head southeast on Pine Valley Rd. for about six miles, until you come to a hairpin turn. Go right on Crystal Lake Rd. and follow the signs to Pine Valley Ranch.

*  Leash laws: Dogs must be leashed, except in Pike National Forest.

Just the Facts

*   Location: Franktown, south of Denver and east of Castle Rock

*  Getting there: Take either Hwy. 83 (S. Parker Rd.) south or I-25 south to Castle Rock, then Hwy. 86 east six miles to the intersection with Hwy. 83. The main park entrance (and visitor center) is five miles south of this intersection, on the right. There's also a west entrance, reached via Castlewood Canyon Rd. off Hwy. 86 from Castle Rock.

*  Leash laws: Dogs must be leashed.


Foothills to Mount Evans: West-of-Denver Trail Guide, by Linda McComb Rathbun and Linda Wells Ringrose.

Your Guide to Colorado Trails: Denver Metro Area, a free brochure put out by Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Lottery; available at visitor centers and Forest Service offices.


Excerpted from Canine Colorado by Cindy Hirschfeld

Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Valley Ranch Park, on 820 acres, has a beautiful, wide-open feel. And though somewhat removed from the madding crowd, it's still a Jefferson County Open Space property. In the middle lies small, scenic Pine Lake, and the North Fork of the South Platte River runs across the park. As a bonus, the park's southern boundary abuts Pike National Forest, where your dog can run leash-free.

To hike along the rushing waters of the South Platte, take the two-mile Narrow Gauge Trail in either direction from the parking area; the trail follows the route used by the Colorado and Southern Railroad in the early part of the century. A very short trail loops around Pine Lake. To head into the national forest, follow the Buck Gulch Trail for one mile to the park boundary; the trail then continues for another 2.2 miles as a Forest Service trail. It's possible to do a long loop (5.3 miles) by combining the Buck Gulch, Skipper, and Strawberry Jack Trails; note that these are also popular mountain-biking trails.

Castlewood Canyon State Park

Castlewood Canyon seems something of an anomaly — a small canyon set near the edge of the eastern plains. The park provides a nice alternative to a mountain hike; you and your dog will be surrounded by farmland yet can still view the peaks of the Front Range in the distance, including Pikes Peak. A pleasant, short hike (about two miles) combines the Lake Gulch and Inner Canyon Trails.

From the parking area, the Lake Gulch Trail (there is no lake) begins as a paved path before changing to gravel surface. You'll hike among ponderosa pine and jumper before descending to Cherry Creek and its riparian habitat. After crossing the creek, go right to pick up the Inner Canyon Trail. You may want to make a short detour to the left, however, to view the ruins of the dam, which collapsed in 1933. The Inner Canyon Trail follows the course of the creek before crossing it and switchbacking up to the parking area. If your dog is interested in a much longer hike, you can add on a loop of the Creek Bottom and Rim Rock Trails (about 3.6 miles), which cover the park's western section. Castlewood Canyon is also popular with rock climbers, so your dog shouldn't be alarmed if he spots a gear-laden human spider.

Rules and Regulations

Within the city and county of Denver, as well as in surrounding towns in the Denver metro area, dogs must be leashed when not on private property. Resident dogs must be vaccinated annually against rabies once they reach six months, and dogs are required to wear a city license tag within 30 days of moving to the city.

© Article copyright Fulcrum Books. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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