In this article author, Vikki Walton, explores her home town through the eyes of a house sitter looking for places to go dog walking in Colorado Springs, or to simply explore what’s on offer for those with a love of the outdoors.
Colorado Springs (elevation 6,035 ft) sits at the base of Pikes Peak (summit 14,110 ft), along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains known as the Front Range.
Home to a growing population of more than 600,000, Colorado Springs is bordered by Monument to the north, Fountain to the south, Manitou Springs to the west, and Falcon to the east. Each area’s population is diverse in nature. However, the one thing that ties the people together is their over-riding love of Colorado and the outdoors.
Some quick facts about Colorado Springs (2017):
- No. 1 – Outside Magazine, “Best Town”
- No. 1 – Forbes, “America’s Most Pet-Friendly City”
- No. 1 – Men’s Health, “Best Cities for Dogs”
- No. 2 – Livability, “Pet Cities”
- No. 2 – Men’s Fitness, “Fittest City in America”
You may notice a common denominator in these awards.
People in Colorado Springs love their pets.
Dogs aren’t the only animals found outdoors, so don’t be surprised to see goats or llamas being walked while hiking. Yet for the most part, you’ll see people with dogs out hiking one of myriad trails found in and around Colorado Springs. In many cases, pet sitting involves dog walking, so what better way to get outside and enjoy the area?
Before you head out…
There are some important things to remember as you head out for your hike, with or without dogs.
Plan your Outing:
As with most parks, you’ll find the busiest days are the weekends. Major parks such as Garden of the Gods will see lots of people throughout the summer. So if you prefer more solitude, hit the trail early in the day. Or check out local parks that may not be as frequented by tourists or workers off for the weekend.
Water for you and your dog is extremely important due to Colorado’s high elevation and low humidity. Altitude sickness is a serious matter. Therefore, it’s imperative that you drink lots of water on a daily basis and even more when you are hiking.
In many cases you will experience some elevation gain on even the easiest of trails. You’re already up higher when you start the Seven Bridges Trail and will gain another 1100-plus feet when you reach the last bridge.
This is one of most frequented trails and you’ll want to arrive early to get a parking spot.
Know Your Limits:
You may currently walk, run or bike for miles on a daily basis. However, here in Colorado Springs you may find that you struggle to breathe.
Being fit does not exempt you from altitude sickness, which occurs due to less oxygen in the air. If you begin to get a headache, feel nauseated or fatigued, descend to a lower elevation and rest.
Walking around where you’re staying will give you a good indicator of how the altitude is affecting you personally.
Know Where You Are Going:
In most cases trails are marked. However, as in the case of Seven Bridges you need to know when to exit the main road and which way to turn at the T (left).
Those blue skies are gorgeous. But they can also lead to sunburn and heat exhaustion. Wear a hat and apply sunscreen. A jacket tied around your waist or in a backpack can mitigate any weather fluctuations that are common in the mountains.
Stay on the Trail:
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t leave the trail, but suffice it to say that remaining on the marked trails will ensure you and your canine companion stay safe.
Be Cognizant of the Weather:
Colorado skies may be beautiful blue as you head out, but mid to late afternoon it can rain or even worse, hail.
If you’re going out during the later part of the day, make sure you take a weatherproof jacket (actually good to have on hand almost all the time), and know what to do about lightning.
Primarily the key things to be aware of are that you should get off ridge lines or higher elevations close to the summit, and don’t go under trees or out in the open. If with someone else, stay some feet away from each other.
GARDEN OF THE GODS PARK
Garden of the Gods Park is the most appropriate place to start.
For some, its name is nothing like you’d expect—in fact there is no garden of any type in the park! Instead you will find a mélange of towering rocks that thrust you back into prehistoric times. Its beauty is captured from many angles.
While pets ARE allowed at any time on a leash, in the tourist season it can get crowded. At this time you’ll encounter hikers, bikers, runners, and those simply touring the primary concrete sidewalks that meander throughout the park.
After taking in the spectacular views of the main section, head down to the Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Trail and enjoy an easy walk among the rock formations and scrub oak.
If you want more of a view, check out the Siamese Twins Trail, an easy one mile round trip. You can see Pikes Peak through the natural window of the twins.
OLD COLORADO CITY
After enjoying your hike, head over to Old Colorado City for a stroll down Main Street.
You can grab something to eat and take it to Bancroft Park. Or enjoy your meal at restaurants offering outside dining. Most restaurants don’t allow dogs inside but as long as they are leashed and well-behaved, they are welcomed on outdoor patios.
Most people love dogs, but choosing a place away from the entrance is appreciated by all.
DOG PARKS – OFF LEASH
While Garden of the Gods gets all the accolades, Colorado Springs is home to many parks and trails that offer walking and hiking with your furry friend.
Here are just a few of the many parks available to you throughout the region.
Bear Creek Dog Park:
[Southwest Colorado Springs] – This park is one of the few off-leash dog parks in the city. As its name implies this dog park covers 25 acres bordering part of Bear Creek.
This allows for dogs and owners to play in the creek, walk the trails, play catch in the open spaces and even enjoy an agility course.
Water is provided, as is a “clean-off station” for muddy paws or boots. There is also a two acre fenced section for smaller or older dogs.
[Central Colorado Springs] – Centrally located and offering a dog park as well as an off-leash area.
The dog park is on the right as you enter and may be a good place to take your dog if you want to talk with others. If you want to stretch your legs though, head on past the park. You will come to a junction that offers a beautiful view of all of
Colorado Springs. If you’re ready to get walking, there are trails off from this area.
If you want to let your dogs run off leash, go back to the main road and turn left. You’ll drive a short way further until you come to a turn-off on your right. This dirt road curves left and continues to the parking lot.
Here you can let dogs run off-leash. This area has extremely limited shade so don’t forget your hat! There are trails off the main roads, but you’re expected to leash your dog on those routes.
Fox Run Park:
[North Colorado Springs/Black Forest] – Located up in what is known as Black Forest.
As its name implies, the area is largely wooded. Fox Run has two off-leash dog parks which are three acres (for larger dogs) and two acres (for smaller dogs) respectively.
So, compared to Bear Creek or Palmer Park, they are very small areas. However, again, if you need some human companionship, this is a great place to allow your dog to run while you chat to other dog owners.
There are numerous longer trails throughout the park, but your dog is expected to be on-leash during that time.
Along the trails, look out for the bent trees which were created by Native Americans as signage.
While Springs’ residents love dogs, they also are cognizant of rules around keeping the city beautiful.
There are many reasons for this leash rule, and it is safe to say that if you are stopped by a ranger for not having your dog leashed, you may receive a fine.
Leashing your dog provides comfort and safety for other individuals and dogs, but it should also be remembered that Colorado Springs is home to many wild animals. Bears, Bobcats, Coyotes, Deer, Long-horn Sheep and even Mountain Lions do live in the area and may be spotted on your walk.
Leave No Trace:
In simpler words, “scoop the poop”.
Owners must ensure that dog waste is removed. Trash cans are often located in parking areas to dispose of bags.
Right of Way:
In many areas, you may encounter bikers (Ute Park), runners (Red Rock Open Canyon Space) and horses (Black Forest Section 16). In most cases, the walker is expected to yield in those situations.
There are so many trails and everyone seems to find their favorite. If you want more, you can check out a listing of all the trails with pictures, difficulty and mileage here.
DON’T MISS OUT ON THE CITY SIGHTS & BREWERIES
While you could go to a different park almost every day, you might want to check out some of the city sights as well.
Colorado Springs is home to many outdoor art installations. And, if you love American architecture, take a stroll through the Old North End and view the many homes that date back to the 1800’s.
Colorado Springs is also proud to be known as home to many quality micro-breweries. The award-winning Bristol Brewery and Pub is housed in the old Ivywild School.
Bristol’s is joined by the Old School bakery, The Principal’s Office—an espresso/cocktail bar, Axe and the Oak (whiskey bar), to name a few.
During the summer you may find a Farmer’s Market in full swing. Outdoor seating offers a great place to bring your favorite beverage of choice and hang out.
And finally, no matter where you go in Colorado Springs, you’ll usually have a beautiful view of America’s Mountain—Pikes Peak. Once you visit, you’ll want to return again and again.
Hottest Months: July/August – Avg Temps: 84F (28C)
Coldest Months: Dec/Jan – Avg Temps: 42F (6C)
Snowiest Months: March/April
Best Off-Season Month: February or “fake-spring”
Parkland: 9000 acres
Trails: 500 acres
Vikki Walton is the author of Work Quilting: Piecing Together Diverse Income Streams; Live an Insanely Awesome Life.
She is also the founder of girlswantago, a woman’s Facebook group and travel blog (see link below).
When she’s not writing or traveling, you’ll often find her in the garden or hiking in the Colorado sunshine with her dog, Ginger. If you want to know more about what you can do in Colorado Springs sans pets, you can check out her blog post 3 Days in Colorado Springs.
This article appeared in Issue 10 of House Sitting – The ultimate lifestyle magazine