“Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness?”
—Jonathan Safran Foer (author, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)
To watch a dog run free makes one’s heart soar. And thankfully, the Denver metro area has plenty of locations to unleash your dog’s soul.
“The dog is the god of frolic.” Henry Ward Beecher
From the suburbs to the inner city, more and more Colorado cities have responded to the public’s wishes for dog parks, and in particular, off-leash areas. With a huge increase of people living with their dogs in high density housing, Denver metro area parks departments have responded with parks targeted for people to exercise their four-legged friends.
Denver Metro Area Responds to Need for More Dog Parks
The demand for dog parks was recognized by Denver over a decade ago, and in 2010, the city developed the Dog Park Master Plan and Policy Recommendations which added four more canine quarters in the city. That master plan acknowledged, “…Denver is one city among many that is seeing an increase in demand for off-leash dog exercise areas. And Denver joins numerous cities over the past decade in researching and responding to changing and diverse recreation trends and needs, such as dog off-leash areas. Increased dog ownership is a societal phenomenon that has further spurred Denver Parks to work with many constituents, experts and other individuals to satisfy dog owners and non-dog owners in their desires and needs for parks and open space.”
In 2019, Denver Parks & Recreation implemented a technical update to the Dog Park Master Plan. It is estimated that over 158,000 dogs live in Denver and there are 98,000 + households that own dogs in the city. Much like Denver’s human population growth, it’s expected that the number of dogs will continue to increase.
Dog parks have become a necessity for these residents to assure their four-legged friends get the proper amount of exercise and socialization, and as a result, Denver Parks and Recreation is considering adding off-leash dog areas at the following locations:
- Quality Hill Park, 10th and Pennsylvania
- Washington Park, Franklin and Virginia
- Rosedale Park, Logan and Harvard
Furthermore, the city of Denver has targeted the central neighborhoods of Denver, in particular the Capitol Hill area, as the areas in greatest need of dogs parks.
As a community-driven process, proposal owners are being asked to collect signatures and letters of support for any new dog areas in these locations. If this is completed, each proposed location will host a public open house.
The most recent addition to Denver dog parks is Carla Madison, located on the northwest corner of the new recreation center, bearing the same name, at 2405 E. Colfax Ave. This small park opened in 2018, and is a much-needed addition for the residents of City Park and Congress Park neighborhoods. There is easy access to the park off 16th Ave. and Josephine St., and a large parking lot provides plenty of room for cars.
Know the Rules Before Unleashing Your Dog
The Denver Parks and Recreation has created a separate page for the dog parkslocated on the city website. You’ll find a set of the rules, parks’ operating hours and a comprehensive map of the locations.
Keep in mind, it’s hard to maintain grass in dog parks so the majority of the venues (aside from the larger open space parks) are forced to rely on dirt or sand base. While not always aesthetically pleasing, the surface allows for easy maintenance and cleanup. Regardless of the surface, it’s imperative to pick up after your dog. Various parks have been forced to shut down due to dog owners not being responsible for picking up poop. This not only impacts others’ enjoyment of the park but becomes a health hazard. Please think about others and the impact your dog has on the environment.
Finally, obey all signs. Socialize your dog adequately before turning him or her loose in an off-leash park. You know your dog best; don’t get yourself and your dog into an uncomfortable position by taking the “let’s see what happens” approach. If your dog has shown signs of aggression with other dogs, keep him or her leashed or better, yet, don’t go to a dog park.
Here are a few of the highly rated Denver dog parks in the metro area:
Kennedy Dog Park (9700 E. Hampden Ave., Denver)
You and your dog will love this three acre park that was upgraded by the city of Denver and is now fully enclosed. Depending on the age and activity level of your dog, you can steer them into a low energy or high energy area, which benefits both you and those around you. Located next to the Kennedy Golf Course, make sure you bring your own water.
Chatfield State Park (11500 N. Roxborough Park Rd., Littleton)
Set against the foothills, this popular state park also offers one of the best off-leash areas. Offering a whopping 69 acres of completely fenced open space for your dogs to exercise, including two ponds and miles of paved and unpaved walking trails, Chatfield is a dog paradise. Your dog must be under voice control while off-leash and you must have leash(es) in your hand. Limit of three dogs per person. To use this area, you must have a parks pass as well as a dog off-leash area daily or annual pass (available at entrance stations).
Greenway/Stapleton Dog Park (E. 23rd Ave. and Spruce St., Denver)
Located next to the Stapleton Greenway Community Garden, the Greenway Dog Park is a popular choice among people and dogs living in the Stapletonneighborhood. There is convenient parking on the south end of the park, next to the tennis courts. It features three acres of off-leash area for your fur baby to roam freely.
Westminster Off Leash (105th Dr. and Simms, Westminster)
This behemoth 420 acre open space is dog nirvana. Situated at 105th Ave. and Simms, there are miles of trails over rolling hills, a pond and creek in which dogs can frolic, and drop dead gorgeous views of the foothills and Boulder Flatirons. It is open from sunrise to sunset. There are plenty of benches and a shelter if you need to take a break from the activity.
West Arvada Dog Park (17975 W. 64th Pkwy., Arvada)
This open space is unique in that it is a “special use” park. It is operated by volunteers on city-owned property and is funded 100% through donations. Located next to the Arvada Reservoir and the Bird’s Nest Disc Golf Course, this park is a favorite among Arvada residents. There is plenty of space in which your dog can run and gets consistently high marks for ambiance, cleanliness and friendliness of the patrons and volunteers.
Glendale Farm Open Space Park (I-25 Frontage Rd./South of RidgeGate)
Take a quick drive down I-25 to Glendale Farm Open Space and its 17-acre dog off-leash park that is perfect for burning off some of your dog’s energy. After exercising your dog in the park, put the leash back on and take a stroll along the adjacent, scenic 1.6 mile Glendale Trail. This park is part of Douglas County, and features a diverse ecosystem and incredible views of the Front Range. From I-25, exit 188 Castle Pines, and go north two miles on East Frontage Rd. or exit 192 RidgeGate, go south two miles on East Frontage Rd.
Railyard Dog Park(19th St. & Bassett)
Centrally situated in the Riverfront Park neighborhood, the Railyard Dog Park is a popular venue for urban dwellers. Approximately an acre in size, this triangular space was constructed using quick-draining soil which slows down puddling of water and fosters year-round use. The fenced park is landscaped with trees, and there are some shade structures which provide nice cover on hot days. To keep things civil, there are separate play areas for small and large dogs.
Here is the complete list of City of Denver dog parks:
- Barnum Dog Park – N. Julian St. between W. 4th Ave and W. 5th Ave
- Berkeley Dog Park – Sheridan & West 46th Ave.
- Fuller Dog Park – Franklin St. & East 29th Ave.
- Green Valley Ranch East Dog Park – Jebel & East 45th Ave.
- Greenway Dog Park – E. 22nd Ave. & Syracuse St.
- Kennedy Dog Park – Hampden & South Dayton St.
- Little Box Car – Broadway & Lawrence St.
- Lowry Dog Park – East 4th Place & South Yosemite Way
- Railyard Dog Park – 19th St. & Bassett St.
- Sonny Lawson Park – 24th St. & California St.
- Carla Madison Dog Park – 16th Ave. and Josephine St.
- Parkfield — E. Maxwell Place and Idalia St.
(Editor’s note: This article was previously published in March of 2019. It has been revised and updated with new information).