While it’s not a challenging hike, the 107-acre off-leash area, complete with a romp in Cherry Creek, will set you and your pooch up for a summer of excellent off-leash hiking wherever pups are allowed to roam free.
The off-leash area at Cherry Creek – along with a similarly managed plot of land at Chatfield State Park, to the west in Littleton — was originally created as an area to train hunting dogs. The Chatfield Board approved the plan to create these areas in 1983, and in 2006 the Parks and Wildlife Commission placed a moratorium on adding any new dog off-leash areas in the Colorado State Parks. There’s no plan to remove these areas or eliminate off-leash privileges, but it’s crucial that dog owners stick to the regulations to keep this resource available.
GETTING THERE From Denver, take I-25 south to exit 200 for I-225. Head north on I-225 toward Limon for 3 miles, then take exit 4 onto CO 83 S/S Parker Road. Keep an eye out for signs indicating Cherry Creek State Park; stop and pay the entrance fee plus the day-use fee. You can also get into the park with an annual Colorado State Parks Pass, but you’ll still need to pay the day-use fee to access the off-leash area. Continue onto East Lehigh Avenue, then take a left onto East Lakeview Road, followed by another immediate left to stay on Lakeview. Take one last left-hand turn onto 12 Mile North, where you’ll find the parking area for the off-leash area.
Keep your pup on leash until you get to the proper start of the off-leash area, which has a typical dog park-like entrance station with two gates. Here, you can let your pooch off, but you must carry a leash and at least one waste removal bag per dog (handlers are allowed to have no more than three dogs with them at any time. These rules are enforced, so be sure you don’t set your leash or bag down and forget it at the entrance station.
From the entrance the world is your oyster. A big loop trail will net you nearly three miles, but there are several other trails crisscrossing through the area, along with more than one opportunity to take your pup for a dip in Cherry Creek. On a warm day, you’ll see tons of other dogs splashing through the water, playing fetch, and swimming in the cool current. If you’re walking the loop in a counterclockwise direction, stop in at the first turnoff for the creek for the shallowest spot, where even poor swimmers can get their paws wet and romp around. might If your dog is great fetcher, the deeper spots farther along the trail presents a fun challenge.
There’s little shade along the way, except down by the creek. You should bring plenty of water for yourself, and it’s up to you to decide whether to bring additional water for your dog, or just to let them drink from the creek. Just know, the creek is only accessible for the first mile or so, after which you’ll be farther from water.
As you loop back around toward the entrance station where you started, you’ll pass several pastures full of horses for a commercial stable operation. This is a great opportunity to expose your dog to horses that are unlikely to be spooked. Certainly you shouldn’t let your dog charge the fence, barking, but allow them to watch the big creatures, since it’s important to desensitize them to other critters they might see out on other trails.
A note on leashes: If you visit the off-leash area, don’t leave your dog on a leash. It’s stressful for dogs to be confined, especially if other dogs around them are approaching or running to sniff and say hello. It’s very possible that you’re setting yourself up for a doggie conflict if you keep even an otherwise non aggressive dog on a leash at an off-leash area. If you’re still nervous about having your dog off leash in such a big area, consider a few more backyard sessions or visits to your local dog park before you head to the Cherry Creek State Dog Off-Leash Area.
Also note, rangers check regularly to make sure dog handlers are carrying permits (and that the requisite bag and leash per dog are being carried), so keep it on your person, or expect that you’ll be cited. If you plan to visit more than 10 times, save a little money by purchasing an annual pass.
MORE INFORMATION Approximate hiking time: one hour; difficulty: easy; elevation gain: 45 feet
Cherry Creek State Dog Off-Leash Area
4201 S Parker Road, Aurora | Website
Watch this video from 9 News featuring Cherry Creek State Dog Off-Leash Area.
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about the author
Brandie Ahlgren is founder and editor of CityDog Magazine. She, and her team of dog-loving editors, dig up the best places for you to sit, stay and play with your four-legged friends. Brandie, 12-year-old boxer Thya and Mexican foster failure Pancho, reside in West Seattle and can often be found hanging out at Westcrest Dog Park.