Ready to hike

Gary (13) and Rupert (7) are ready to hike!

On Sunday morning, the boys and I decided it was time for a hike. I grew up hiking around the Monument, but these days I can’t easily justify going somewhere I can’t take my pups, so I’ve been researching dog-friendly hikes that are close to home. Fortunately, I connected with Joe Neuhof of the Colorado Canyons Association and he pointed me in the right direction.

The Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is one of our local treasures. It looks after National Conservation Lands in our region, with a focus on the Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge, and McInnis Canyons. Aside from being some stunningly beautiful landscapes, the best part about these areas is that they are all dog friendly! Over the next few months, we are going to explore these areas and report back to you in the hopes that you find some time to get your four-legged friends out on the trail and continue to build that special bond between you and your pet.

Devil's Canyon Trailhead entrance

Entrance to the Devil’s Canyon Trailhead in Fruita. If you’re using GPS, navigate to “CO Hwy 340 and Kingsview Rd” and it will take you to the road that snakes around to the trailhead

Poop station

Rule #1 of hiking with your dogs: CLEAN UP AFTER THEM. Feces spread disease and can ruin the hiking experience for others. Grab a few bags from the poop station before you start hiking, or bring your own.

After we arrived at the trailhead and leashed up the pups, I grabbed a map and we started off. The first part of the trail was not very difficult, but we were frustrated to have an off-leash dog come barreling up to us with his owner far behind us almost right off the bat. We avoided a scuffle, but not without frustration. Hiking etiquette means leashing your dogs. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” The problem is, many dogs aren’t. Not when they are startled and on-leash. Avoid potential problems and keep your dog under control. Leash up or be ready to leash at the sight of another hiker.

We decided to take trail D1 and see where it led. The first mile was moderately easy and relatively flat, with sections of thick sand that gave us a good leg workout. At just under the one-mile mark, you reach lumpy looking rocks with a towering balanced rock. This is a great landmark to gauge where you are and how your pups are doing. If you have a small or normally inactive dog, this is probably a good turnaround point. My little men were still quite energetic,  though, so we kept going deeper into the canyon.

One-mile mark

Rock formations right around 0.9 miles. This is where the trail increases in difficulty and is a good marker for a turnaround point for less active dogs.

We kept following the D1 trail markers and were glad we had. At about two miles, you find yourself with a breathtaking view of the Grand Valley. But just after the two-mile mark, my little hikers’ enthusiasm started to wane. I checked my phone to see how much was left on Google Maps (the trails are actually marked on Google Maps and you can zoom in to your exact location on the trail because cell service is so good there) and saw that we were not quite at the halfway mark. I decided to turn us around and come back the way we came because I didn’t want to push my little old man too much. As we headed back, I scoped out the map and found where the D6 trail splits off, which has a loop that would be perfect for a shorter hike.

View from the two-mile mark

View of the Grand Valley from the two-mile mark.

By the time we were back at the car, we had walked an hour and a half and covered four and a quarter miles. We definitely pushed the limits of Ol’ Man Gary, but in all, it was an appropriate hike for both dogs, both in distance and difficulty. The trail had been virtually empty once we got to the canyon and we enjoyed the cerulean sky and mountain air in peace. It was great bonding time for the three of us and we are looking forward to exploring the miles and miles more of canyon trails out there.

If you appreciate having a place like Devil’s Canyon to take your dogs and drink in the Colorado wildlife, remember that CCA relies on donations much like Roice-Hurst. You can donate on their website, You can also find interactive maps of Devil’s Canyon and the other CCA trails here. And don’t forget to come out on Saturday, April 22 from 9am-12pm to hike with your pups and help RHHS and CCA clean up the poop that others have left behind.

Anna Stout is the Executive Director of the Roice-Hurst Humane Society. She has five beloved creatures at home: Gary the 13-year-old Jack Russell and Rupert, the little white ball of happines, known together as her “little men,” Poopies the puppy cat, Bella the indifferent princess cat, and Agador Spartacus, the nanday conure that potties in the toilet. She has been with Roice-Hurst since June 2015.