Traveling with Dogs in Colorado

Review by Ed Quillen

Tourism – January 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Canine Colorado – Where to Go and What to Do with Your Dog
by Cindy Hirschfeld
Published in 1998 by Fulcrum
ISBN 1-55591-375-X

GENERALLY I CONSIDER IT a blessing that our dog, a good-natured chow mix, gets worse than edgy on the rare occasions that we have to force her into a vehicle. She pants in staccato, drools like a waterfall, rolls her eyes maniacally, bobs and twists her head, and after a few minutes, she gets carsick.

Her hatred of travel means that I’m never tempted to take the beast along on a trip, and that greatly simplifies my life. But not all dogs feel that way, and many dog owners find that bringing Fido along greatly enhances an excursion in Colorado.

Dogs aren’t welcome everywhere in the Centennial State, though, and even if they’re admitted, they’re often restricted. Thus this book, designed to help the dog owner plan a trip to just about anywhere in Colorado.

It offers lists of dog-friendly lodging, suggests good summer hiking trails as well as ski and snowshoe routes for this time of year, delivers cycling guidance, and provides useful reminders, such as that dogs are not allowed in Salida’s parks.

Trails are rated on a scale of one to four tail-wags, and the ratings are based on scenic value, availability of canine drinking and swimming water, and whether a leash is required.

Hirschfeld explains that policies vary on public land. Dogs are generally not allowed on trails in national parks and monuments, but can be kept at campgrounds if they’re leashed. Great Sand Dunes is an exception — Fido is welcome to walk into the dunes with you, as long as he’s leashed.

Dogs must be leashed in wilderness areas, and in Forest Service campgrounds and on designated high-use trails. No leash is necessary in the rest of the National Forests, and that holds for all BLM land. Most state parks, like Arkansas Headwaters, require a leash.

The book is organized geographically, with Central Colorado split into “Vail, Leadville and Vicinity,” “Arkansas River Valley and Vicinity,” “Gunnison, Crested Butte and Lake City,” and “San Luis Valley and Vicinity.”

Here’s part of a three-wag listing for Waterdog Lakes, near Monarch: “Although we haven’t actually hiked this trail, the name itself may cause your dog’s ears to prick up with interest. The trail is a 3.4-mile round trip to a pair of lakes scenically situated at the base of the Continental Divide near the top of Monarch Pass. Take Highway 50 west to the Monarch Park turn-off past Garfield. Parking is at the side of the highway. Dogs can be off leash.”

Canine Colorado is thorough, well-written, and worth checking if you plan a trip with your dog. But guidebooks like this can quickly become inaccurate as motels get new owners and land-management policies change.

And it makes one wonder about the book industry in Colorado — our local publishers seem interested in little except guidebooks, to the exclusion of history, lore, fiction, speculation, exposition, analysis, etc.

Any day now, I fear I’ll see something like Asinine Colorado: Burro Trails to Timber Line by Hal Walter, Ken Chlouber, and Curtis Imrie, which also lists feed stores and their hours, garages that fix trailers, and burial cairns for the donkeys that didn’t make it to the top of the last pass.

— Ed Quillen