~ by Bob Volpe ~
The opening of the Golden Meadows Dog Park in Woodland Park has provided a safe and convenient place for dog owners to exercise their furry friends,
But some may also be wondering about forest service and other local trails they can hike with their canine companions. For many outdoor buffs, it’s almost a requirement to take their dogs, unless they want to face an animal mutiny. Plus, in many cases, canine companions act as great guides and scouts for possible hazards.
We in Teller county are most fortunate to have a plethora of national forest trails so close to town. There are hundreds of miles of trails on this land for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, ATV riders and dog owners to enjoy. All of these trails are also a great place to take the pooch out for some exercise. Below are a few of the trails closest to Woodland Park.
Distance: 5.5 miles round trip (balloon loop)
This beautifully scenic trail is tucked in right outside of Woodland Park off of Rampart Range Road. The spot is popular with hikers and those folks riding bikes or horses. This is also a dog-friendly trail. Once you get through the initial section of backyard hiking the trail opens up to meadows, a nice stream and gorgeous views. On the way back the trail don’t miss taking a picture with the goal post tree! Please note that to make the most of the elevation gain it is advised to travel this trail in a counter-clockwise direction from the start point. To find the trailhead, drive up Rampart Range Road past the middle school until you see the new city maintenance building. Turn left into the parking area.
Distance: 6 miles round trip (including a loop called the Elder-Fehn trail)
This family and dog-friendly trail is located just outside of Woodland Park a few miles back Edlowe Road and is part of the Catamount Ranch Resource Protection Area. There are two, clearly marked trails and from May through September the trail is the portal to the Ring the Peak Trail and the North Slope Recreation Area. This tranquil hike provides excellent views of Pike Peak and scenic lunch spots along the shores of the North and South Catamount and Crystal Reservoirs. More information can be found at www.palmerlandtrust.org/protected-lands/public-properties/catamount-ranch.
Forest Service Road 339
This is one of the lesser known dog friendly trails close to Woodland Park. The trail follows Trout Creek and has very little elevation gain. It also features several beaver ponds where your dog can cool off. To find this one drive north on Highway 67 about a mile past the turn to Lion’s Camp and Red Rocks Group Campground. Look carefully on the left for the turn onto FS road 339.
Mule Creek Trail
The Mule Creek Trail is a 7 mile out-and-back that follows along Trout Creek and Mule Creek. It begins off of Forest Service Road 75, just off of Highway 67. Look for a trail marker that designates allowed uses at the trailhead.
The single track winds through aspen and pines. Within the first mile, there are several rocky sections where you’ll have to watch your footing. The trail then climbs steadily without sustained steep sections; however roots, rocky features and several river crossings keep the hike interesting. Near the end of the trail, it passes a cabin, and joins into the 717 system. As mapped out here, the trail ends at trail 717A. From here you can turn back around and retrace your steps or head further into the 717 trail system.
If time and distance are an issue there are two dog friendly trails that exist right in town.
The Centennial Trail is a paved biking/walking trail that runs along Highway 67 north of Woodland Park. At first the trails goes downhill through the town of Woodland Park for about 1.5 miles but soon you will be out in open country with a mix of meadows and forest. The trail follows the highway on the east side for about 5 miles, then it goes under the highway and switches sides. For the more adventuring spirits, this trail continues all the way to Manitou Lake. If you choose to go this far, be aware that the walk back is all uphill. The total length of the trail, including the Manitou Lake section is 14.8 miles.
The other dog friendly trail right in town is the Fountain Creek Greenway Trail. This trail begins in Cavalier Park at the intersection of Fairview and Foster Street. The trail is an easy and level trail that winds along the banks of the headwaters of Fountain Creek. It terminates just behind the Safeway shopping center.
This is just a small sampling of the many dog friendly trails available around Woodland Park. Some things to keep in mind while out enjoying the great outdoors with your dog are: In general, it is not recommended to let your dog off the leash unless you are in an enclosed area. Your dog must be properly trained to behave well and stay right by your side or under your voice control at all times when it is off the leash. Do not allow your dog to harass wildlife.
Pets are allowed in all national forests, but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times while in developed recreation areas and on interpretive trails. Most other areas within the National Forests do not require dogs to be on a leash, but they should be under control at all times.