L iving in Boulder is the good life -- especially for dogs.
There are mountains to hike, rivers to swim and all kinds of doggie butts to sniff. There are even plenty of dog-friendly businesses, such as McGuckin's Hardware, where a biscuit and a pat on the head are common courtesy. And Boulder's green tag program allows your well-behaved pooch to romp off leash in designated areas, but dogs aren't allowed on every trail in Boulder. Know where to go. Check out our primer on the best dog-friendly terrain in Boulder:
Boulder's dog parks are a great way to socialize your pup and meet other people in the dog community -- though don't be surprised if you forget the owner but remember their dog. Getting off-leash is great exercise for your dog and a good way to get in a much needed play session. As always, please follow the regulations stated at each park. There are fenced in dog parks at East Boulder Community Center, Foothills Park and Valmont Dog Park (the Valmont Dog Park is currently under renovation and will reopen in November 2012).
One of the best "unofficial" dog parks is Dry Creek , located in southeast Boulder, not far from campus. While not technically a dedicated dog park, this fenced in area features a loop trail over a mile long with stunning views of the foothills. A creek runs through the property, and with the exception of a few days each year, has running water. A large, open meadow is great for fetch or flat-out doggie sprints.
For more information on Boulder's dog parks, go to bouldercolorado.gov and search "dog parks" .
If your dog loves swimming, then Coot Lake and Boulder Reservoir off 63rd Street in east Boulder offers miles of trails and two dog-friendly lakes. Coot Lake is right off the road, and a short walk toward the reservoir offers a modest shoreline for pups to take a dip. It's also a nice place to take your dog for a run.
Marshall Mesa/Doudy Draw in south Boulder are also dog-friendly hikes, though they can get a little crowded with hikers and mountain bikers. Crowds tend to disperse once you and your pooch are on the trails and you are left with stunning views -- maybe the best in Boulder -- and fun trails. In hotter weather, the Doudy Draw Trail near Eldorado Springs is a good choice. This trail crosses a creek and reaches a pine-forest plateau with welcome shade in warmer temps. You can also access this trail from the Flatirons Vista Trailhead .
To get away from the crowds, the Sage Trail/Boulder Valley Ranch network in north Boulder is a great place to romp. There are more than seven miles of trails that connect to several trailheads east of U.S. 36. A small pond is the only reliable source of water, but it gets the job done. Hiking up on the high plateau offers scenic vistas of rolling farmland studded with cows and horses that remind one of Boulder's agricultural roots.
The foothill trails at Chautauqua are also great for a quick hike or to access the more strenuous terrain of the local mountain trails.
If your dog likes to go vertical, Mount Sanitas is a classic doggy destination. The neighboring Anemone Trail starts from a common trailhead with Sanitas off Mapleton Avenue (which turns into Sunshine Canyon Drive west of Fourth Street) and sees fewer hikers, though the views are just as sweet.
Green Mountain has dog-friendly designated trails -- just follow the signs to stay on the well-marked paths and ascend by Gregory Canyon, Saddle Rock or the E.M. Greenman trails. South Boulder Peak is another classic, with great views, but the trail to the summit was still closed due to the Flagstaff Fire at press time -- double check closures here before you head out at bouldercolorado.gov/openspace. Be aware of the short sections of trail that require on-leash travel. South Boulder shares a saddle with Bear Peak, though the summit of Bear requires scrambling and is not ideal for dogs (and was also closed because of the fire). A trip just below the summit is just as good!
There are plenty of fantastic dog-friendly areas within an hour of Boulder as well. The Moffat Tunnel/East Portal area just beyond Nederland gets you into the high peaks with your pup, and the Fourth of July and Hessie trailheads are found in the small town of Eldora and access the southern Indian Peaks. You'll find rivers, alpine lakes and fields of wildflowers waiting there.
Meadow Mountain Trailhead out of Allenspark is a quiet, wooded path that borders the southern boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park. Ascend a wooded trail to an above-treeline saddle, where you can climb 11,632-foot Meadow Mountain or 12,162-foot St. Vrain Mountain.
-- James Dziezynski is a freelance writer living in Boulder with his border collie, Fremont, and his cat, Xanadu.