Nothing spells magic like frolicking in the fluffy white snow with your four-legged friend. These dog-friendly hikes located within two hours of Denver provide endless winter fun.
Safety and Courtesy when Traveling in Winter with a Dog
Always be prepared when traveling in winter. Bring plenty of food, water, extra layers, and a bivvy shelter for you and your furry pal. If you plan to be out all day, investing in a doggy coat that covers the underbelly is something to consider. Always obey all leash laws and give way to skiers along the trail. When tackling steep hills, be sure to understand current avalanche conditions as well as avalanche terrain. Consider attending an avalanched awareness course, or getting your AIARE 1 certification.
1. Short and Sweet: Mayflower Gulch Near Breckenridge
Mayflower Gulch meanders gently up to the Boston Mine offering expansive views of Pacific Peak, Atlantic Peak, and Fletcher Mountain. Enjoy the drama of snow-capped 13ers with minimal effort on this enchanting trail. Although the trail generally follows a Jeep road, there are several different snowy trails that emerge throughout the winter. Generally, you want to head up the valley towards the Boston Mine. You can gain Mayflower Hill to hiker’s left at the base of Atlantic Peak for an added challenge. Dogs love this trail because it’s open and relatively easy.
Mayflower Gultch Trailhead’s winter access is directly off of Highway 9, making it a simple drive with no high clearance or 4WD required. The trail is approximately 6.1 miles out-and-back, to get to the mine is around four miles out-and-back. Overall, this is an easier trail that can be made harder with the addition of Atlantic Peak or Mayflower Hill. The total elevation gain is around 1,591 feet.
2. Fun in the Foothills: Buck Gulch Loop in Pine Valley Ranch
If you’re looking to avoid I-70 this winter, consider exploring Pine Valley Ranch. The Buck Gulch Trail Loop is an 11.7-mile loop that meanders through a pine forest and old burn area. Overall, the trail gains 1,824 feet of elevation with moderate difficulty. Since the vegetation is still re-growing, you gain a unique perspective on a landscape that is typically covered in trees. Enjoy the views while Fido basks in the smells. This trail can be done in part or in whole, depending on how many miles you’d like to take on.
To get there, take highway 285 to Pine Valley Road. Turn Right on Crystal Lake Road and follow the road to the Narrow Gauge Trailhead.
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3. Tough and Rewarding: Chicago Lakes Trail near Idaho Springs
Chicago Lakes combines gentle valley walking with steep pitches. Chicago Lakes starts out with a steep descent of seemingly endless switchbacks that you will need to save energy for on the return. The stunning high-alpine scenery at the end of this 8.7-mile out-and-back trail make the switchbacks well worth the effort.
If you and your dog love scrambling, the end of the trail requires navigating a few boulders before ending at Chicago Lake. The total elevation gain is 1,971 vertical feet, however most of this gain happens at the beginning and end of the trail. To get there, head towards Mount Evans down Squaw Pass Road. You will arrive at a rather large parking area near a lake. Continue through the lot down a small dirt road where you will find the trailhead.
4. The Enchanted Valley: Herman Gulch near Idaho Springs
Located just off of I-70, Herman Gulch offers easy access to some moderate valley walking. The trail culminates at the base of Pettingell Peak where you can admire the dramatic ridgeline between Pettingell and The Citadel. Dogs love romping in the snow once you reach the open valley. Be sure to take a map, as there are a couple of hidden streams, that often get buried in snow.
Coming from Denver, take the last exit before the Eisenhower Tunnel and turn right. The trailhead is right by the highway. Overall, this is a 6.4-mile out-and-back trail that gains just 1,814 feet of elevation. It’s straightforward, and well used, so there is almost always a path in the snow.
Enjoy a winter wonderland with your adventure pup this season and see the beauty of Colorado’s mountains in a while new light. These trails offer something for everyone, from the beginner winter enthusiast, to the seasoned snow freak.
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