5 Great Dog-Friendly Things to Do in Aspen During Late Winter

High Country Dogs provides skijoring lessons at Aspen Animal Shelter on Fridays and Saturdays.
High Country Dogs provides skijoring lessons at Aspen Animal Shelter on Fridays and Saturdays. High Country Dogs
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Boasting a myriad of winter hiking and dog-friendly Nordic trails, five parks, and shops that welcome canine patrons with treats, Aspen in the wintertime is paradise for pooches. And that's great news for those who love the outdoors but hate leaving Fido at home.

Here, five of the best dog friendly things to do in Aspen for wintertime fun, perfect for exploring this popular Colorado ski town with your furry best friend in tow.

Skijoring Lessons

Skijoring typically includes one to three dogs and a cross-country skier. | Photo: High Country Dogs
Skijoring typically includes one to three dogs and a cross-country skier. | Photo: High Country Dogs

If “skijoring” is a new word to you and your pooch, get acquainted with this Norwegian winter sport with a lesson. Every Friday and Saturday, High Country Dogs offers skijoring lessons at Aspen Animal Shelter in the Aspen Airport Business Center.

Skijoring typically involves one to three dogs and a cross-country skier. The skier provides power with skis and poles, while the dogs provide power by running and pulling. The skier wears a special skijoring harness and the dog wears a standard sled dog harness; skier and dog(s) are connected by a rope. Aspen has a couple of dog-friendly cross-country trails that also make for great skijoring venues. (See the Nordic skiing section below for more information about those trails.)

Nordic Skiing

With landscapes like this to explore, how could you leave your dog at home?
With landscapes like this to explore, how could you leave your dog at home? Flickr/Rich Pearce

The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail system offers skiers 60 miles of free trails, seven of which are dog friendly. If you’re looking for quick laps convenient to downtown Aspen, head to the Marolt or Bernese Boulevard Trails. The Marolt Trails are close to the Aspen High School Trails and Bernese is located amongst the Golf Course Trails.

Nordic skiers and their furry pals looking for a longer adventure will want to hop on the Rio Grande at Stein Park. From here it’s possible to ski the 12 miles to Basalt (24 miles roundtrip). The four-mile, gradual uphill ski along Maroon Creek Road from T-Lazy 7 Ranch is a treat for those looking to be rewarded for their efforts. The end of the route yields snow-capped views of the stunning, 14,000-foot Maroon Bells Peaks.

Hiking

Three best friends enjoy the views of downtown Aspen and the surrounding  peaks from the observation deck on Smuggler Mountain Road.
Three best friends enjoy the views of downtown Aspen and the surrounding peaks from the observation deck on Smuggler Mountain Road.

Aspen’s most popular year-round dog hike ascends up Smuggler Mountain along the mining-road switchbacks which were once used to extract silver. This route enjoys plenty of sunshine, and during low snow years is mostly dry. Whether there’s a lot of snow or just a little, ice trekkers are recommended.

Dog owners are welcome to leave their pooch off the leash while hiking up Smuggler. But it's critical that the animals are under voice command even during the winter months, as fat bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts are getting their endorphins on while climbing the 2.5-mile, 800-vertical-foot ascent. If you’re hiking up Smuggler with Fido, it’s also important that he or she get along with other dogs, as the overwhelming majority of dogs will be off-leash and will likely to come up and say hi to you and your pooch.

In downtown Aspen, Little Cloud and/or Ajax Trail are great options. Located off Midland Trail on the Western edges of Aspen Mountain, the trails can be completed together or separately in under an hour. Hiking up Little Cloud and/or Ajax Trail is a top-of-mind option for the dog owner looking to fit a quick romp into a tight schedule. After a day of skiing, lace up your snowshoes or ice trekkers and take your furry best friend along to explore this hidden hiking gem—your dog will thank you.

Uphilling at Snowmass

Thanks in large part to the welcoming uphill policyput in place by the resort, Aspen Snowmass is quickly becoming the U.S. mecca for uphillers, randonee, and touring. Uphilling is permitted at all four mountains, but Snowmass is the only resort that allows dogs and use during operational hours. Dogs must be leashed at all times, and a harness is recommended.

If you're ascending Snowmass during operational hours, be sure to stay visible at all times and keep to the side of the trails. Also keep in mind that no ski area services, including Ski Patrol, are available during hours that the ski areas are not open for business.

To buy or rent touring equipment, including Dyafit and Scarpa products, head to Ute Mountaineerin downtown Aspen.

Exploring Downtown Aspen

The view of the pedestrian walking mall from Wagner Park. | Photo: Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Snowmass
The view of the pedestrian walking mall from Wagner Park. | Photo: Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Snowmass

Craving a day enjoying in-town delights? Don’t leave your four-legged friend at home or in the car. Nearly every shop (that doesn’t sell food, that is) welcomes dogs, and many shop owners and employees will ask if they can give your pooch a biscuit. Even the Wells Fargo bank tellers have dog treats on hand.

In between popping in and out of the shops and art galleries lining the pedestrian walking malls on Copper and Hyman avenues, set aside some time to let your pup romp in the snow at Wagner Park. Conveniently located steps from Aspen's shopping district, the Rubey Park bus station, and just two blocks from Aspen Mountain's Gondola, Wagner Park is a great place to meet other dogs and their owners. Around lunchtime on sunny winter days, you'll find hordes of dogs stretching their legs in this rugby park while owners referee playtime from the sidelines.

Downtown Aspen is home to several other parks within walking distance, all of which provide a great setting to play fetch. They include Koch Park in the West End, about three blocks west of Wagner, Glory Hole in the East End, about three blocks east of the Gondola Plaza, and the Rio Grande park, located just beneath the public library.

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