Craving outdoor adventure with a canine companion? Colorado has no shortage of scenic destinations and exciting recreation opportunities. Even better, The Centennial State has consistently topped lists of the most dedicated dog owners. That means dogs are not only welcomed but specifically catered to in many places across the state.
Whether you live in Colorado and are looking for weekend warrior trips or are planning a larger van life excursion to the state, you’ll find plenty of pup-friendly locations on this list. From massive off-leash dog areas to refreshing lakes where you can swim together, these destinations will have you both grinning. We’re sharing a campground for each place that can accommodate camper vans and furry friends. Ready to introduce your pup to Colorful Colorado? Read on.
Where: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Why we love it: National parks aren’t known for being pet-friendly. However, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park welcomes canine companions on multiple scenic trails and at campgrounds. We recommend the South Rim Campground if you’re looking for van camping with electrical hookups. After taking in the dramatic canyon landscape, head to the nearby Museum of the Mountain West to explore the area’s history with Fido in tow.
Where: Cherry Creek State Park
Why we love it: This serene state park is widely recognized as a paradise for pups. Most notably, Cherry Creek State Park boasts an impressive off-leash dog area. For just two dollars a day, you and your pal can run free in this roughly 100-acre fenced-in area. The fun doesn’t end there–leashed pets are allowed everywhere in the state park except for the swimming beach. Full hookups at the Cherry Creek State Park Campground ensure that humans and animals can stay clean and comfy between outdoor activities.
Where: Curecanti National Recreation Area
Why we love it: Next to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, you’ll find a refreshing recreation area centered around the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water. Adventurous dogs can join their owners in water sports like canoeing and paddle boarding as well as hiking all seven of Curecanti’s major trails. There are multiple pet-friendly campgrounds in the area, but Elk Creek is the only one with electrical hookups.
Where: Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Why we love it: Just an hour outside of Denver, the wilderness of Golden Gate Canyon State Park beckons. Here, you’ll find picturesque evergreen forests, meadows, and peaks. Autumn visitors will also be treated to bright yellow aspen groves. If taking in this scenery with your fur baby sounds like a dream come true, you’re in luck. Dogs are allowed on every hiking trail in the state park. That’s over 35 miles of trails to explore!
Where: Chatfield State Park
Why we love it: For another outdoor adventure near Denver, head to Chatfield State Park. This pet-friendly wonderland provides around 26 miles of trails to explore together and a nearly 70-acre off-leash dog area. The fenced-in land even boasts two ponds where playful pups can frolic and cool down in the water. Let dogs get back in touch with their natural instincts by socializing and investigating their surroundings freely. The well-appointed campground facilities have everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay.
Where: Highline Lake State Park
Why we love it: If your idea of a lakeside vacation wouldn’t be complete without an invigorating dip, you’ll love Highline Lake State Park. It’s rare to find bodies of water that are open to canines. Luckily, doggie paddlers are welcomed anywhere at Highline Lake aside from the human swim beach and the boat dock. The Fido fandom continues throughout the park’s infrastructure, including areas to fill water bowls and free dog waste bags.
Where: Eleven Mile State Park
Why we love it: At Eleven Mile State Park, relaxation is king. Humans and their canine companions are prohibited from swimming in the Eleven Mile Reservoir, but you can both enjoy boating, fishing, and hiking in the area. At night, the sky comes alive with stars. For electrical hookup sites tucked between boulders, make Rocky Ridge Campground your home base. For lakeside sites without hookups, opt for one of the North Shore Campgrounds.
Where: Rifle Gap State Park
Why we love it: For the chance to ramble off-trail with your four-legged friend, visit Rifle Gap State Park. In addition to the two official hiking trails, visitors are allowed to independently traverse the inviting landscape. Just be sure to keep pups on a leash for the safety of your pet and the surrounding wildlife. Then retire to one of the state park’s five van-friendly campgrounds. We recommend Lakeview Campground for its incredible views, full hookups, picnic tables, and fire pits.
Where: Pike-San Isabel National Forest
Why we love it: Immerse yourself in classic Colorado scenery with the snow-capped peaks and forests of Pike-San Isabel National Forest. In spring, wildflowers brighten the landscape. In autumn, golden foliage spreads across the forest. There are plenty of challenging hikes here that will have both you and your pup panting. The simple but lovely Cottonwood Lake Campground offers dry camping surrounded by aspen trees.
Where: Lake Pueblo State Park
Why we love it: Recreation opportunities abound at Lake Pueblo. From boating the reservoir to hiking around interesting geological features, you won’t be bored at this state park. Leashed dogs are allowed everywhere except the swimming beach. Hundreds of campsites with a range of hookup options surround the lake, guaranteeing an option for every type of van camper.
Whichever destination you choose, be sure to practice responsible pet ownership. That means keeping your dog on a 6-foot (or shorter) leash everywhere other than dedicated off-leash areas. This rule guards your pup against predators, fast-moving cyclists, and vehicles while ensuring they don’t get lost in unfamiliar surroundings. It also protects fragile ecosystems and small wildlife. Picking up and properly disposing of dog waste is another measure that keeps our natural landscapes pristine. When camping, don’t leave pets tied up at the campsite or in hot vans without supervision. Aside from obvious safety reasons, no one wants to hear a dog barking themselves hoarse while its owners are away. By following these protocols, you’ll guarantee a fun, safe trip for you and your four-legged friend.
Looking for more tail-wagging destinations? Check out “10 Dog-Friendly Destinations for Van Dwellers” and “Top 10 Pet-Friendly Campgrounds Across America.” Get more specific with “California’s Best Dog-Friendly Trails and Beaches” and “The Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Florida.”
Van life with man’s best friend is truly a treat. If you’re considering joining the vanning revolution, visit RecVan. We carry a huge selection of top-of-the-line RVs, including the best Class B vans for pet owners.