Summer Sunday: Hiking With Your Dog

telluride hiking

Sandy in Deep Creek

This is Sandy. She is a 75-pound Pyrenees/Lab mix who has never met a leash she couldn’t chew through or a command she couldn’t ignore. She chases small animals and cars, but couldn’t care less about a bear pummeling our trashcan. She is sweet and loving, but she is still in that netherworld between puppyhood and being an old dog, that exasperating time when she is tall enough to eat food off the counter and young enough not to care about the consequences.

I thought that every time I cursed at the dog in front of the children, I was doing it under my breath. After one frustrating morning of trying to get her into the car and get the kids to preschool on time, I sat in the driver’s seat and said, “That dumb dog!”

My 4-year-old scolded me. “Mommy, Sandy is not a dumb dog.”

I was ashamed. “Mommy shouldn’t have said that, honey. Of course she is not a dumb dog.”

My 2-year-old piped up innocently, “No … she’s a f__ing dog.”

So I guess I am out of the running for the Mother of the Year award. But it’s not too late to step up my attempts at being a good mommy to that f__ing dog. It’s been said that a tired dog is a good dog, and that is certainly true of Sandy. So my quest this summer has been to take her on long hikes and runs, to tire her out sufficiently so that she is calm and well behaved and so that I can stop dropping the f-bomb in front of the kids, who apparently have very good hearing.

The key to taking a big, precocious dog out into the mountains is finding the perfect trails. There are a few components to consider when taking the dog: There should be enough water and enough shade, and as few cars and bikers as possible. Ideally there will be no elk, porcupines or other wildlife for them to chase, but that is a variable beyond our control. This summer I have found a few hikes or trail runs that are great for Sandy, and I am sharing them in case you have a dog of a similar age or demeanor:

 Deep Creek: This is a pretty long hike or run, about 13 miles, and you will still probably want to bring water for the dog, but there are streams and rivers all along the way and it is a great route. You may encounter some bicycle traffic along the Mill Creek section and there is a good chance of seeing deer or elk, but there is a also lot of shade and very few other people. Bonus: There is no vehicle traffic at all. Park at the corral on Deep Creek road and you can hike the whole route to town (it comes down at the Jud Wiebe’s west entrance) or just go up as far as you like and turn around.

Owl Gulch: This trail is fairly shady and crosses water somewhere in the middle of the route. You are unlikely to encounter any wildlife (sorry, I probably just jinxed you by writing that) but there is a small section on Tomboy Road with vehicle traffic going over Imogene Pass. Once you pop into the woods, your dog will be in heaven, and it’s a great quick hike that gets up pretty high.

 Silver Lake: I hesitate to include this hike, because the last time I did it my friend’s dog got quilled by a porcupine. Still, there is no better teachable moment than the one you have while yanking quills out of a dog’s sore nose after you screamed at them to come back and leave the porcupine alone. And this is a great trail, with lots of water and shade — just park up by the Bridal Veil powerhouse on top of the falls so that you can avoid all the vehicle traffic on the way up.

(For more great hikes, check out

For all the good people of Telluride, who have been patient with my dog shaking off its water on them or sniffing their private parts when I pass them on the trail, I sincerely thank you. Remember, all bad puppies become great old dogs. And I truly love this f__ing dog—without her I’d be getting a lot less exercise. And tired humans are good humans, too.

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