Best off-leash dog parks in Colorado

May 20th, 2019
a little dog faces a big dog as they stand in water at an off-leash dog park
Chatfield State Park’s off-leash dog area in Littleton is a perfect place for dogs of all sizes, and their humans too. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Tails are wagging. Humans are smiling. Strangers are bonding. And heart rates are climbing. Welcome to the wonderful world of off-leash dog parks.

A stunning 420 acres of open space awaits both dogs and humans eager to get out for a walk, hike or run at Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park northwest of Denver. Climb the hills and you’ll find a small swimming hole for your pooch as you gaze at the snow-studded Rockies to the west.

Jaylyn Begay and Aaron Armstrong bring 7-month-old Copper, a terrier mix, as often as possible.

“This gives him so much freedom,” said Begay, 22, as Copper’s fur dripped from one of the puppy’s first swims. “It’s absolutely the best.”

two dogs play along a trail at a dog park
Copper, right, frolics with Daisy, left at Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

The young couple loves getting a workout too. Recently, they filled their large backpacks with gear and headed to the park to boost their workout.

“We can get exercise too and do some weight training,” said Armstrong, 24. “It has such an immense amount of open space and a variety of trails.”

a trio of dogs plays while two women walk up a hill at an off-leash dog park
Tails are wagging as humans enjoy hiking at Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

At Westminster Hills, you can pick your own path and find some solitude if you wish.

Simple dog park rules to remember:

  • Protect your property. Leave valuables at home. Don’t leave them in the car.
  • Always pick up after your pooch.
  • Leave aggressive dogs at home. People go to dog parks for peace and enjoyment, not to referee dog fights.

If you’re more in the mood for dog and human interaction, head to a place like Chatfield State Park’s Dog Off-Leash Area in Littleton, southwest of Denver.

Here you’ll find 69 acres of space with two large ponds and both paved and gravel paths. Dogs that love water can swim and fetch tennis balls, while humans can walk the paths and log some steps.

Jordan Parker, 28, credits his dog, Bucky, with helping him lose 110 pounds. Yes, 110! Parker used to live in Florida and said he reached a peak of 296 pounds about 5 years ago. Then, he got Bucky, a black mouth cur pit. He started walking Bucky and moving much more himself. He got hooked on exercise, began dropping pounds and came to Colorado to get certified as a personal trainer. Parker fell in love with the state’s healthy, outdoor lifestyle and started a personal training company called Back to Basics.

Jordan Parker credits his dog, Bucky, with helping him lose 110 pounds. Now, he’s a personal trainer who regularly gets extra exercise for his dogs and himself at Chatfield State Park in Littleton. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

He’s also been climbing Colorado’s famous 14,000-foot peaks, known as 14-ers. So far, Parker has summited 15 of them and can’t wait for the snow to melt this summer so he and the dogs can climb more peaks.

Parker sees clients at Blunt Force, a gym near downtown Denver. He typically helps clients get fit early in the morning or in the evenings. In the middle of day, three to five times a week, Parker brings Bucky, now 7, and little bro, Leo, a nearly 2-year-old Catahoula leopard, to Chatfield where both the dogs and Parker get their hearts pounding.

“I love being able to let them swim,” Parker said.

a labradoodle swims at Chatfield State Park off-leash dog area
Swimmers love Chatfield State Park. Locals say the water is clean and the owners are great about picking up after pets to keep the park nice. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

And if he needs a boost in energy, a walk does the trick.

“If I’m tired, I come here. These guys swim. I walk a mile and a half and get some extra activity.”

Everybody’s happy.

At Chatfield, regulars — both human and canine — recognize each other. Just like the fictional TV bar from Cheers, it’s the kind of place where “everybody knows your name.”

“I love this park. We come three or four times a week. The water is nice and clean and people pick up after themselves,” said Jeff Walker, who brings his big, beautiful, white Great Pyrenees. Maxwell is a 120-pound, 10 month-old, gentle giant. Hiver, named for winter in French, weighs about 100 pounds, is nearly 2 and is a social butterfly. Both dogs love to swim and greet humans and dogs alike.

“They love it here. It’s their place,” said Walker.

a Great Pyrenees mix dog relaxes on the beach at Chatfield State Park.
Hiver, a Great Pyrenees mix, dries off on the beach after a swim at Chatfield State Park. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

There’s some romance among the pooches too.

Richard Steinhour has a black lab named Boris who is nearly 8 months old. He started coming to Chatfield and running into Paul Boyd, whose dog, Kate, is a chocolate lab and nearly the same age.

The men never make plans, yet always seem to arrive at the dog park at the same time. Boris refused to swim until Kate lured him into the water. Now he happily frolics with her in and out of the water. Both the puppies and the people have a grand time.

Boyd thinks plenty of people visiting dog parks are looking for a human connection along with exercise for the dogs. Both men feel lucky that Kate and Boris found one another and helped forge a bond for their humans.

“We share the same breed and the same history,” Steinhour said. “Dog people are friendlier.”

Try these off-leash dog parks:

Bear Creek Dog Park, Colorado Springs

The aptly named Bear Creek Dog Park is located along a one-third mile stretch of Bear Creek. If your dog loves prancing in water, check out this 25-acre off-leash park. It’s located within Bear Creek Regional Park. Along with the creek, the park features open prairie, hills and woods. There are several walking and running trails, including a primary 3/4-mile loop. The park also features a separate area for small dogs and senior dogs that want a little less action. Bonus: the park has a dog washing area in case your pooch gets muddy in the stream. You’ll find the main parking lot at South 21st Street and West Rio Grande Street. No fee.

Chatfield State Park, Littleton:

Chatfield’s 69-acre dog area features two ponds and plenty of trails. The regulars rave about the clean water and nice visitors who clean up after their dogs. The state parks offer day passes or an annual pass. Dog owners must pay an additional fee. Click here for detailed information on fees.

Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora:

Cherry Creek boasts a 107-acre fenced area. Dogs that love water will enjoy a swimming hole and access to Cherry Creek. The park is located at 4201 S. Parker Road in Aurora. Enter the dog park at the south entrance at South Parker and East Orchard Roads. Fees. The state parks offer day passes or an annual pass. Dog owners must pay an additional fee. Click here for detailed information on fees.

Estes Valley Dog Park:

If you’re visiting Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, you should know that you can’t bring your dog on the hiking trails. But, you can still enjoy views of the peaks in Rocky while letting your dog run and swim. The Estes Valley dog park, located well outside of the national park, features an area where dogs can swim in Lake Estes, along with an obstacle course for the pooches. The park is located at the corner of Community Drive and U.S. Highway 36 in Stanley Park. No fee.

Rita Valentine Dog Park, Steamboat Springs

Want a view of the ski slopes while your dog runs free? Then check out Rita Valentine in Steamboat. It’s a 20-acre area near the slopes and the city is working with a foundation to add increased fencing and bathrooms. Parking is limited. No fee.

Spring Canyon Dog Park:

At the base of the foothills and Horsetooth Reservoir, this is a smaller park, but it’s full of big fun with special play features like tunnels. Along with enjoying the obstacle course, dogs can run and swim. There is a separate area for small or shy dogs and a gate between the water feature and the larger play area in case you don’t want a wet dog in your backseat. And if you need more exercise after a visit to the dog park, you can easily access miles of open space with on-leash walking trails. No fee.

a dog drinks out of a special dog drinking fountain and at off-leash dog park in Westminster
A special doggie drinking fountain caters to thirsty, furry friends at the Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Westminster Hills:

This 420-acre site is bliss for dogs and humans alike. It’s located at West Simms Street and North 105 Drive in Westminster. The park is partially fenced, so don’t let your dog off leash unless you’re certain he or she will come back to you. The park offers a small swimming hole, multiple trails, mountain views, some shade and a doggie drinking fountain. No fee.

Kati Blocker and Lindsey Reznicek contributed to this report.

About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Colorado native. She attended Colorado College, thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation, and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summer breaks from college. She is also a storyteller. She loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and was a finalist with a team of reporters for the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of a deadly wildfire in Glenwood Springs in 1994. Katie was the first reporter in the U.S. to track down and interview survivors of the tragic blaze, which left 14 firefighters dead.

She covered an array of beats over the years, including the environment, politics, education and criminal justice. She also loved covering stories in Congress and at the U.S. Supreme Court during a stint as the Rocky’s reporter in Washington, D.C.

Katie then worked as a reporter for an online health news site before joining the UCHealth team in 2017.

Katie and her husband Cyrus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, have three children. The family loves traveling together anywhere from Glacier National Park to Cuba.