Vacationing in Rocky Mountain National Park with your Dog
Five Little Known Dog Hikes near Estes Park Recommended by Locals
When you bring your dog along on your Rocky Mountain National Park vacation trip, he won’t be allowed to hike with you on any National Park trails. The good news is there are some fun hikes near Estes Park that are outside the Park boundaries for you and your dog!
There are the easy, flat trails around Lake Estes in town; places south of the National Park near the town of Allenspark; and Lily Mountain Trail next to the Park to take your dog on a mountain trail.
Here’s a list of five great hikes south of Estes Park that you and your four legged friend can enjoy together.
Allenspark area south of Wild Basin in RMNP
––> to get there from Estes Park drive south on Hwy 7:
1) Coming into Allenspark at the main entrance (near the 15 mile marker of Hwy 7), follow the curving road to SKI Rd. Go right about 2.7 miles and you will enter forest service lands. At a Y in the road go right and about 2/10 mile is a trailhead parking lot to the St. Vrain trailhead. Dogs are allowed on leash. This hike is very pretty and goes up Meadow Mountain. It’s also a great place to snowshoe in winter.
2) If you go left at the Y in the road mentioned in hike #1, you’ll follow a 4 wheel drive road that goes down to rugged camping by a stream (Labradors love this!), and an area to hike along the stream.
3) Past Allenspark about 5 miles, turn right on Hwy 72. Go about 3 miles down 72 to the road to the Camp Dick/Peaceful Valley (entrance on the right side of the road). You will see two roads on the left for the Peaceful Valley Ranch, and the entrance to the hiking/cross-country ski/camping area is just past the second road. Drive through two campgrounds to a parking area and trailhead. Snowmobiles and 4 wheel drive vehicles can continue up the 4 wheel drive area. To hike, go up the road and take the trail to the right about a hundred yards up the road. This is a very pretty area including several stream crossings with bridges. You can hike about 5 miles before you hit the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary where dogs are not allowed.
4) Start with the directions in hike #3 but go further down Hwy 72 and look for the sign on the right that will indicate a left turn onto Jamestown Road. Drive a few miles to the Ceran St. Vrain trailhead sign pointing to a left turn. Go about 1/10 mile. This trail goes through mature trees along a great fishing river and is wonderful for kids that love the water and people who like to fish.
5) Go even further along Hwy 72 (8.7 miles from Hwy 7) to a right hand turn past the Mill Site Inn (a fun place to stop for pizza, sandwiches, and a cold beer!) and go up to Brainard Lake State Rec area. Dogs allowed on leash on trails. (Costs about $9 to get in; good for 5 days).
Lily Mountain Trail
Dogs are not allowed on the trails within Rocky Mountain National Park, however the Lily Mountain Trail is just outside the park in the Roosevelt National Forest. This makes it an ideal hike for a family to take together with a dog. Pictures are from a very sunny day in mid-March with a lot of wind.
There aren’t many parking spots at the Lily Mountain Trailhead – it can only accommodate 10 or so cars. If there isn’t any parking available at the trailhead, you can drive about 400 yards up the road and park in the Lily Mountain Lake parking lot and then walk down the road to the trailhead.
The path is mostly out of the wind with a majority winding among the pine trees, leaving glimpses of the Twin Sisters peaks.
There were several parts of the path that don’t have snow, especially towards the beginning of the trail, however the further up we got the more snow there was on the ground. If you go in early spring, it’s definitely helpful to have poles and good shoes.
At the top of the trail, the last few feet, you have to scramble up a bunch of boulders.
The 360° view from the top is definitely worth the hike. It took about 4.5 hours round-trip, with lots of stops along the way for the kids to play and catch their breath. Below are pictures taken from the top of the Twin Sisters, Estes Cone & Long’s Peak, and Lake Estes.
Estes Park Dog Park
Located along the edge of Hwy 36 and Lake Estes as you leave town, the fenced Estes Park Dog Park is a convenient place to exercise your dog off leash. It has a place for dogs to swim as well as benches for the owners.
Definition of “Pet Friendly Lodging” in Estes Park
If you are staying with your dog in Estes Park, it’s important to know the lodging owners definition of “Pet Friendly”.
Most pet policies allow your dog to sleep overnight in your room, but you can’t leave him alone there when you go out. A pet deposit is often required.
When you come to Estes Park to explore RMNP, you’re going to need a safe place to leave your animal while you hike, shop, and dine. In the summer, it’s not advisable to leave your furry friend in the car because of extreme heat buildup. If your pet can’t be left in your room, that leaves you only two choices: find a “doggy day care” or limit your activity.
When you book your room, ask your lodging choice if they can meet your expectations.
You know your pet better than anyone else. Can he be left unattended, or should you crate him when you leave? Can you assure your lodging that your dog will not damage their property?
One Estes property, Braeside Cabin, advertises a unique policy – “Well behaved pets can be left unattended. No charge for pets unless they redecorate.”, but this is the exception.
Pet Services in Estes Park
Businesses in Estes Park offer services for animals, as well as offer suggestions of where you can bring your dog while in town.