Dog Days in Aspen

How to Be on Your Best Behavior as a Dog Visiting Aspen

Answers to all of the questions your pooch may have when visiting the Roaring Fork Valley

By Cindy Hirschfeld July 5, 2021 Published in the Summer/Fall 2021 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Aspen dogs have a howling good time.

Image: Daniel Bayer

Here’s the scoop on all of the “Can I?” questions your dog may have when visiting the Roaring Fork Valley. In the spirit of the sentiment that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners, we’ve addressed the answers to all good dogs.

Can I be off leash in Roaring Fork Valley towns and in unincorporated Pitkin County?

No. Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs all have leash laws, as does Pitkin County. In unincorporated parts of Eagle and Garfield counties, however, you may be off leash, as long as you are under voice and sight control by your human.

Can I be off leash on National Forest and Wilderness trails?

Yes ... and no. You can hike free of the leash on most National Forest trails (unless there’s a special order, which would be posted at the trailhead). On trails in designated Wilderness areas (e.g., Collegiate Peaks, Holy Cross, Hunter–Fryingpan, and Maroon Bells–Snowmass), you must leash up as soon as you pass the signed wilderness boundary.

Can I walk on the pedestrian malls in Aspen and Snowmass Village?

Yes. Unlike in some other Colorado towns (looking at you, Boulder), leashed dogs are welcome on the malls here.

Can I ride the Aspen Mountain and Snowmass gondolas in the summer?

Yes. Just sniff out the dog-friendly gondola cars, marked with a paw print.

Can I ride the local bus with my humans?

No, and yes. In general, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses don’t permit dogs, but you can ride RFTA’s special summer bus to the Maroon Bells. And the Town of Snowmass Village graciously allows you on its buses.

Can I eat outside with my human(s) at local restaurants?

Often, yes. Many local restaurants accommodate dogs on their patios and may even provide a water bowl. Just have your human ask first.

Can I listen to concerts outside the Benedict Music Tent?

Yes. You can join your human on the Karetsky Music Lawn outside the tent for Aspen Music Festival and School concerts, which take place almost daily from July 1 to August 22 this year. Just stay on your leash and refrain from making noise during the performance, no matter how much you may want to howl along during the third movement of the Stravinsky.

Can I climb a 14er?

For the most part, no. Five of the six 14,000-foot mountains around Aspen are among the state’s most difficult to climb. The sixth, Castle Peak, is no slouch, either. But if you’re an experienced mountain climber and can ably scramble up and over large boulders (perhaps with a boost from your human), you can likely tackle Castle.

Can I visit Ashcroft and Independence ghost towns?

No and yes. Ashcroft doesn’t allow canine visitors, but you can sniff as much as you’d like around the tumbledown cabins at Independence, 13.5 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82. Envision what life might have been like for a miner’s dog in the late 1800s at this former gold-mining community below the Continental Divide, now overseen by the Aspen Historical Society.

What about other scenic trails, lakes, and natural areas? Can I visit them?

Hallam Lake Nature Preserve, the trail system in Sky Mountain Park and Seven Star Trail, trails in the on-mountain Snowmass Bike Park, Conundrum Hot Springs, Crater Lake, Hanging Lake outside of Glenwood Springs, and the Lake Christine Wildlife Area in Basalt are all off limits. You may hike past Crater Lake (by the Maroon Bells), but that’s about it.

Can I paddle with my human at the Northstar Nature Preserve?

No. You’ve never been allowed to set paw in the preserve itself, but as of summer 2021, you’re not allowed to ride on a stand-up paddleboard on the section of the Roaring Fork River that runs through it, either. Blame those unruly humans.

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