Dog Lover’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park
Our dog Joni accompanies us on all of our van life travels. While we absolutely love having her with us, she does present some difficulties, namely when we visit National Parks. While it is not the most ideal situation, traveling with your dog to the National Parks is not impossible. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the less dog friendly parks. This is with good reason of course, there is a ton of wildlife and it is a very popular park. Your dog could become prey or disrupt the natural habitat. For these reasons, your dog is limited to the areas they can be.
WHERE DOGS ARE ALLOWED
According to the National Park Service, dogs are allowed in parking areas, along paved roads, campgrounds and in picnic areas. They must always be on a 6 foot leash. Dogs are absolutely not allowed on trails.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR DOG IN THE PARK
There are plenty of scenic drives in Rocky Mountain that your dog can accompany you on. The most popular drive is Trail Ridge Road which will take you to 12,000 ft elevation at it’s highest point. There are several scenic pull outs and many chances to see wildlife. We saw many herd of elk along this road! There is also a seasonal one way road called Old River Fall Road coming from the east side of the park. It is a dirt road and narrow and is not recommended for vehicles over 24 ft long. It is a gorgeous drive that will take you past a waterfall and many scenic outlooks. Dogs are allowed in picnic areas, these are a great option for walking your dog and hanging out with them on your way through the park. Our favorite place to take Joni was Tuxedo Park. It is near the river and has several shaded picnic tables. Never leave your dog unaccompanied for any length of time in a vehicle when it is warm out. Vehicles can heat up quickly and cause unsafe situations for your furry companion. Which leads us to our next point, what to do with your dog if you want to hike a long trail!
PLACES TO BOARD YOUR DOG
The area surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park has several options for boarding your dog. They have doggy day care and overnight boarding options. On the east side of the park there is Linda’s Pet Care Services and Estes Park Pet Lodge. On the west side of the park there is Mountain Mongrels Dog Boarding
DOG FRIENDLY TRAILS NEAR ROCKY MOUNTAIN
If you want to go on hikes with your dog, you will have to venture outside of the park. Luckily there are many options for nearby trails that are, in our opinion, as beautiful or more than Rocky Mountain. The National Park Service has tons of recommendations for trails in the nearby area. These are a few of our favorites.
Indian Peaks Wilderness
Indian Peaks Wilderness is a dog lover’s playground! There are several options for trails varying in level of difficulty. We have a senior pup so we took two of the “easier” routes. The first of which is Monarch Lake. This is a 3.9 mile loop around a gorgeous lake that is mostly flat. We saw a moose in the water and had a spectacularly calm day around the lake.
Long Lake and Lake Isabelle
Located 30 miles south of Estes Park, this section of Indian Peaks Wilderness is absolutely stunning. There are several options for trails in the area that will take you to Alpine Lakes, mountain tops, and even a glacier! We opted to hike to Long Lake and Lake Isabelle which was 6 miles out and back. There were several other dogs on the trail. You are required to keep your dog on a 6 foot leash here. Joni thought this hike was the coolest!
Though we did not take our pup on this hike, it is an incredibly popular one and is very close to the National Park. It offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The trail head is located near Lily Lake, this is part of National Park property where your dog is not allowed. It is 3.8 miles out and back with 1000 feet of elevation gain.
WHERE TO STAY WITH YOUR DOG
We prefer to stay in dispersed camping in National Forests so that our pup can hang out off leash. Established campgrounds generally have a 6 foot leash rule. Our dog is noticeably sad when she is confined to a leash when we’re hanging out so we try to find areas where we are allowed and comfortable leaving her off leash. There are plenty of National Forest dispersed camping sites both on the east and west side of the park. Check out our post on how we find pet friendly campsites for free.
As you can see, having your dog with you in Rocky Mountain National Park can present challenges, but it is not impossible. By utilizing driving routes, picnic areas, boarding options, and surrounding wilderness/ National Forest trails, you can still have an absolute ball with your best friend!