In the People’s Republic of Boulder, it goes without saying that we love our trails and we love our dogs. It’s only natural that we’d want to combine the two! There’s no greater joy than hitting the trail with your canine companion after a long week. But with this joy comes responsibility – to keep your dog safe, to keep our wildlife safe, and to protect our open space.
Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks receives 5.3 million visits a year and many of those visits include dogs. That’s a lot of dogs traipsing on our trails! Because visitation is so high (higher than any national park), practicing the tenets of Leave No Trace is critical. In addition, the City of Boulder has implemented several rules and guidelines regarding dogs in open space.
The good news is that dogs are allowed on almost 90% of Boulder’s trails. That’s over 100 miles of frolicking fun for you and your pooch right in our own backyard. But where to go (and where not to go)? On-leash or off-leash? What about dog poop? What about wildlife? It all sounds a bit complicated, but there’s no need to bark about it. Curl up on the couch with your furry friend and read on for everything you need to know about hiking in Boulder with dogs.
Keep Your Dog Safe
Choose hikes at an appropriate fitness level. Dogs (and people) need time to build up to strenuous hikes if they’re not accustomed to them. If your dog is new to hiking, begin with easier hikes and work your way up from there.
Always bring plenty of water, especially on warm days. Pay attention to any signs of heat stroke or exhaustion.
Remain at a safe distance from wildlife. This includes large predators as well as smaller critters like prairie dogs. A romp through a prairie dog colony may seem like the best thing ever to your pooch, but it will put him or her at risk for contracting the plague. Chasing wildlife is unsafe for your dog and it can endanger wildlife, too.
Check for ticks and pay attention to poison ivy. Even though your dog is unlikely to have a strong reaction to it, any remnants of oil on their fur can give you a rash later on.
Protect Open Space
With millions of canine visits each year, our open space would get really disgusting really fast if everyone left their dog poop alongside the trails. Domestic dog poop is not a natural part of the environment. Our dogs are not wild animals and many of them do not eat a diet 100% compatible with nature. Please remove your dog’s poop to keep our open space and its inhabitants healthy.
Dog waste composting is now available at several trailheads within open space. Go to OSMP.org for a list of participating locations.
The Voice and Sight Program
For everyone’s safety, you are required to have your dog on a leash at all trailheads and trailhead parking areas. Once out on the trails, however, your dog may go off-leash if they are under voice and sight control. You can obtain a Voice and Sight Tag by attending a one-hour class through OSMP and registering your dog. Please note that if your dog is off-leash in open space without a Voice and Sight Tag (or if your dog has a tag but is not compliant), you may be fined.
Leash Restrictions and “No Dogs Allowed” Trails
While most of Boulder’s trail system is very dog friendly, there are some trails that have restrictions. This is usually due to wildlife activity (year-round or seasonal) or proximity to habitat that is particularly sensitive and being restored. OSMP’s dog regulations map lays it all out for you.
Top Dog Friendly Trails
Any trail that does not have dog restrictions (and that’s most of them) is ready and waiting for you and your furry friend. But local dog owners clearly have their favorites and here are a few of them. All of these hikes are suitable for dogs on leash or under voice and sight control with tag.
The Sanitas Trails (except Lion’s Lair): There’s a reason this network of trails is so popular among humans and dogs alike. This little mountain is close to town and offers a variety of loops, all less than 3.2 miles, ranging from easy to strenuous. This area is very busy at peak times and would be best for a social dog. Any dog that loves to make new friends will be wagging nonstop here.
The Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop: These two trails are much quieter than Sanitas, and they offer a variety of terrain and views. The loop is 2.5 miles long with approximately 500 feet of elevation gain. Head north on Chapman, turn right at Tenderfoot, and then take Tenderfoot back up to the trailhead. Chapman is a wide, gently sloping fire road that switchbacks through a mixed evergreen forest. (Bikes are allowed, so keep your eyes open.) Tenderfoot features a short but steep incline and then levels out to a rolling stroll through meadow and ponderosa pine. This hike is perfect for the dog that likes open spaces and less company.
The Shanahan Ridge Loop: This 4-mile hike has about 800 feet of elevation gain and offers beautiful views of Bear Peak and the city. Begin on the North Fork of Shanahan; turn left on Mesa, and then take the South Fork back toward the trailhead. These trails receive a moderate amount of foot and paw traffic. Your dog will be able to visit with other pooches but still have plenty of room to romp on his or her own. There are several options for extending the hike, too.
Woof woof, arf! (Happy trails, Boulderites!)
Photo Credit: Alli Fronzaglia for YourBoulder – all rights reserved