Social dogs. Safe people. Off-leash dog parks you can explore during the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 27th, 2020
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.

So, you’re going a little crazy. Walking the dog is your great getaway from home each day. But, you’ve been doing the same walk over and over. Or, if you’re in a house full of people, you’re fighting over who gets to take the dog for the next walk. Shake up your routine a bit.

Colorado has some great, large off-leash dog parks. You and your pooch can feel a bit of freedom and escape your neighborhood for a new adventure where your dog can be social while you keep a safe distance from other humans.

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.
  • Keep your distance from other people (unless you came with people living in your home). Be courteous and respectful.

Just be thoughtful about your choices. Please respect Colorado’s “Safer at Home Order.” Don’t drive too far from your neck of the woods to get to a dog park. Wear a mask. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Do not bring a dog that is aggressive or doesn’t follow your commands. Always pick up after your dog. And, if the parking lot is full or staff members at a dog park say there’s not room for you that day, just be mellow and plan to come back another day during off-peak hours.

Trails and parks are packed these days as people struggle to stay fit and sane during the pandemic.

Remember, COVID-19 has shaken up the world for everyone. Be patient and you’ll get a big reward. When you see your dog’s tail wagging, just like the pre-pandemic days, you’ll feel a sense of normalcy. That, plus the chance to get your heart rate pumping is worth a great deal as we all try to navigate this strange, new coronavirus world.

Here are some off-leash dog parks that are open during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park

If you can find a place to park, you won’t have any trouble practicing social distancing at Westminster Hills. That’s because the park is much bigger than most dog parks. It provides 420 acres of open space where both dogs and humans can walk or run. 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.

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 best thing about Westminster Hills, along with its sheer size, is that it’s got various wide paths. You shouldn’t have any trouble staying well over 6 feet away from other humans. Pick your own path and you should be able to find some solitude.

The most challenging part of a visit here will be finding a parking spot during peak hours on a nice day. So, be patient and do not park in the adjacent neighborhoods.

Westminster Hills is one of the dog parks that is open during the COVID-19 pandemic
Koda, a 4-month old mixed breed puppy, was practicing sitting on a recent outing to Westminster Hills Dog Park. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Details for Westminster Hills:

  • Open sunrise to sunset every day.
  • Two parking lots, located at 10499 Simms St. and 11610 W. 100th Ave.
  • Groups of 4 or fewer allowed.
  • Partially fenced, so don’t let your dog off leash unless you are certain that he or she will come back to you.
  • Dog drinking fountain.
  • Benches and shade shelters. Please assume that noe of the park equipment has been disinfected. There’s no way for park staff to ensure that equipment is sanitized all the time.
  • Porta Potties – please bring your own hand sanitizer.
  • No fee.

Chatfield State Park’s Dog Off-Leash Area in Littleton, southwest of Denver

At Chatfield, 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. Please be aware that the water in the ponds is low now due to a recently completed construction project by Xcel Energy. Check the park’s website for updates on the water levels.

Details for Chatfield Park:

  • Open from 5 am to 10 pm. All fees apply. 
  • Come early or late, as the park is busy and rangers are limiting the number of people who can be there at the same time. 
  • Bring hand sanitizer & practice social distancing. 
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.

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.” These days, the dogs can get up close and personal with each other, but the people are staying further apart. Fortunately, the park is large enough to make social distancing possible.

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.

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.

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.

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. There is a fee to visit this park. Colorado’s 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:

Rocky Mountain National Park remains closed because of the pandemic and tourist communities like Estes Park are discouraging visitors. Please do not make the trip to Estes Park yet. But, if you live in town and are looking for a nice place to take your dog, this is a great option. It’s especially popular with dogs that love to run and swim since it’s located along Lake Estes. The park, which also features an obstacle course for the pooches, is located at the corner of Community Drive and U.S. Highway 36 in Stanley Park. No fee.

Rita Valentine Dog Park, Steamboat Springs

Steamboat is another community that, uncharacteristically, is not welcoming visitors yet. But, if you live in town and want a place to let your dogs run free, check out Rita Valentine Dog Park. 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.

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.

Kati Blocker and Lindsey Reznicek contributed to this report.

 

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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.