When you head outside for some summer fun, you don’t have to leave your best friend at home. By that we mean man’s best friend — the pup that you love even when they make a mess on the rug. There’s plenty for you and your dog to do outdoors here locally this summer, from new hikes to take to places where you can eat with your dog under your feet.
“The valley has so many dog-friendly restaurants, trails and parks,” said Eagle-Vail resident Kristie Buse Bratschie, who owns two retriever mixes named Hannah and Titan. “It’s just such an awesome place to have a dog.”
STRETCH THOSE DOGGY LEGS
Before embarking with your dog on an outdoor adventure, it’s important to know that canines, just like humans, experience the effects of heat and high altitude.
“Just as people need to get in shape for hiking, dogs need to too,” Buse Bratschie said. “People who are coming up here from Denver don’t realize elevation affects dogs just as it affects people.”
If you plan on taking your dog on long excursions, start with shorter hikes and work your way up. Buse Bratschie said it’s important to bring lots of water for you and your dog, and seek out hikes that offer water along the way. Also, keep in mind that your ideal pace and your dog’s might not be the same.
“With smaller dogs, you have to (remember) the dogs are moving a whole lot faster and taking far more steps,” Buse Bratschie said. “Knowing your own dog is the best way to decide how far (they) can go. A dog that runs all the time is much better suited to hiking.”
Dogs are not encouraged at Beaver Creek, but dogs can hike up any of the trails on Vail Mountain and then ride the gondola down with their owner, which might be good for both owner and pet after a sweaty climb to the top.
While no hike here in the mountains is considered “easy” for any mammal, there are a few one can do with their dog that aren’t as strenuous. Buse Bratschie suggests the Gore Lake Trail, which starts in East Vail on Bighorn Road and runs along Gore Creek, giving your dog opportunities to take a dip in the water to cool off. The trail to Gore Lake is 12.2 miles, but there’s plenty to see if you don’t complete the entire journey. Another option is Berry Creek Trail, accessible from Berry Creek Road in Edwards, which also has water along the path.
GETTING YOUR CANINE COMFORTABLE WITH CROWDS
Avon resident Jolene Dart also has two dogs, Max and Nellie. Dart often takes her dogs on hikes and said owners should try to stick to trails with shaded areas so their dogs won’t overheat. Dart recommends Grouse Lake Trail in Minturn; the trailhead is located off Highway 24 across from the Meadow Mountain Business Park. The trail is 4.6 miles one way and a bit difficult, but it does run along Grouse Creek with access to water. Dart also suggests Whiskey Creek Trail (which tends to open later in the summer) near Meadow Mountain in Minturn and the East Lake Creek Trail in Edwards. Located off West Lake Creek road, the trail is 12.5 miles one way but the first few miles are quite shaded.
Many local trails are busy in the summer, so it’s good to make sure your dog is comfortable around people and other animals. Dart said you can socialize your canine to like others of its kind.
“One of my dogs was a shelter rescue and did not get along well with other dogs,” Dart said. “Then I started taking it out and introducing it into packs, and then we established the pack. That’s the way we socialized the dogs, rather than going out on these hikes where you’re coming across other dogs.”
If you have a friend who has a dog, Dart suggests meeting up with them in a controlled environment, and once the dog gets used to their new friend, you can try hanging out with other dogs in a pack.
PLACES TO PLAY AND EAT
If you’re in shape but your pet isn’t yet, the new dog agility course at Eagle Ranch can help your pup get tough. Located near Brush Creek across from the Eagle Ranch Clubhouse in Eagle, the updated park now includes an obstacle course for dogs with ramps, jumps and tunnels. Erin Vega, Eagle Ranch Association community manager, said the park was improved by a local Girl Scout troop and is already getting a lot of use.
“It was something that was a great need in the community for those of us with dogs,” Vega said.
Other dog parks in the area to check out are Freedom Park in Edwards, near Battle Mountain High School, which has a pond for dogs to swim in; Stephens Park in West Vail, which has a field and is near a creek; and Bighorn Park in East Vail. Most local dog parks are off-leash, so you can let Fido run around freely with glee.
Some dogs only like to jump for the treat jar, but there are still ways to get your dog out of the house and enjoy the fresh air. Many local eating establishments are OK with dogs on the deck or patio. Buse Bratschie likes to head down to Crazy Mountain Brewery in Edwards, which allows dogs as long as they’re well behaved. Gore Range Brewery and e|town, both in Edwards, also allow dogs on the patio.
“It’s great to be able to come home from work, and if you want to go get a beer you don’t have to leave your dog at home; you can bring him with you,” Buse Bratschie said.
A few local restaurants currently allowing dogs (in outside eating areas) in Vail Village are Bully Ranch Restaurant, Vendetta’s and Alpenrose Restaurant & Bakery. Dog-friendly places in Lionshead include Bart and Yeti’s and Blue Moose Pizza. Old Forge Pizza in Vail also allows dogs. If you want to know if a place is OK with dogs, it’s best to call ahead before you go. No guarantee they’ll be serving Kibbles ‘n Bits though.