Sunday, January 25, 2015

Doggy Guide to Estes Park

Estes Park, Colorado is a gorgeous tourist destination adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park. I remember the year when my family first visited the town and had a delightful vacation. But we missed our dogs. Could we possibly bring them the following year and still have a great time? The answer was and is a resounding yes. The following is my doggy guide to Estes Park.
First concern, naturally, is where you can stay with your dog. There are quite a few lodging establishments that allow dogs, easily found on dog friendly sites on the internet. They range from the luxurious Stanley Hotel to more modest inns. Most important is to read their individual rules as to how many dogs and what size dog is allowed. Until we bought our property in Estes Park, the Discovery Lodge was our preferred place. Besides having renovated rooms in the main lodge, they rent a cabin with a nice yard which we strove to reserve early in advance. The hotel sits on five acres with a trout pond, making necessary dog walks even in the middle of the night easy to accomplish. I distinctly remember watching my dogs' expressions as they heard coyotes howling the first time or watched the elk mating rituals behind the hotel.
Next issue is where to take them. The easiest place is the Estes Valley dog park located conveniently downtown across from Lake Estes. The enclosed areas, which include a pond for swimming, are off-leash, but the owner must carry a leash and tags at all times. No more than three dogs per owner are allowed and puppies must be at least three months old. There is an ever changing group of dogs due to the number of tourists who bring their dogs here so you need not worry if one day a bullying dog is present. Chances are he will not be there the next day. Somewhat surprising is the number of stores downtown that will allow you to bring your dog inside while shopping. My daughter was recently amused watching a golden retriever with her owner in a popular women's clothing store.
Here is the bad news. Rocky Mountain National Park only allows dogs inside your car or at very specific areas of established roads, parking areas, campgrounds or picnic areas. In other words, not while you hike trails or meadows. Dogs must be on leashes no longer than six feet and cannot be tied to trees. Leaving your dog unattended inside your car is strongly discouraged. Still a visit with the pooches barking riotously in the back of the car at herds of deer can be entertaining at times.
For nice long walks, I head to Roosevelt National Forest, which is adjacent to Estes Park. Pets are allowed in U.S. National Forests, but must be leashed while in developed recreational areas such as picnic areas or interpretive trails. Most other areas do not require your dog to be on a leash, but Fido should be under control at all times. Though there are numerous access areas one of the easiest to reach is by taking Highway 36 three miles out of town and turning onto Pole Hill Road. After passing through neighborhood homes, the road ends about a mile later in a very limited parking area. Parts of the trail are rocky and hilly, but nice views of Estes Valley and the Mummy range can be seen. Perhaps better, is to take Highway 36 further east to around mile marker seven near Homestead Meadows. The trail is approximately three miles long, has some steep climbs, but also winds near a creek.
There are numerous other areas in and around town that you can take your dog. Just ask one of the friendly locals who are hanging out with their dogs and you will be sure to hear about their favorite doggy stores and walking areas.