Time to get outside and let your pup run wild in one of the city’s best dog parks.
“We love the happiness it brings Tillie, our two-year-old Sheepadoodle, to run around and socialize with other dogs,” said Midtown resident Bre Patterson, who visits as many dog parks as possible in search of the perfect one. “It’s also a way to get out of the house and get exercise.”
According to Denver Parks & Recreation, the Denver metro area has an estimated 15,000 dogs, and currently 12 designated off-leash dog parks exist withing city limits. But not all of them are favored by local dog owners.
For Patterson, the top three places to take her pup are Westminster Open Space, Midtown Dog Park and Berkeley Dog Park.
“We look for a large space so that it doesn’t feel crowded,” said Patterson. “What many dog parks are missing are agility play areas, grass and/or turf, water fountains, shade for dogs and humans, benches for humans and obstacles like tunnels or different height rocks or platforms.”
Dog parks as a concept haven’t been around for too long. In 1979, the first dog park in the country opened, the Ohlone Dog Park in Berkeley, Calif. Decades later, Denver saw its first dedicated puppy playgrounds when spots like Berkeley Lake and Fuller Park dog parks opened, sometime before 2010.
Parks & Rec officials “couldn’t find a definitive date or a ‘first’ dog park,” according to spokeswoman Cyndi Karvaski. “However, an initial pilot project was started in 2003 with five sites being the first dog parks: Berkeley, Green Valley Ranch East, Kennedy Soccer Complex and Barnum.”
Over the years, the areas have changed to better accommodate the pets, their humans and the overall local environment, she added, and Parks & Rec plans on maintaining this evolution as more dog parks are planned.
“Much like Denver’s human population growth, it’s expected that the number of dogs will continue to increase,” Karvaski said. “In Denver, the continued creation of dog parks is being explored to help keep all residents and pets safe and comfortable.”
The latest dog park plan was released in 2019, the first update since 2010, and like many ventures around the country there were setbacks to production due to the pandemic. Still, said Karvaski, there is a new dog park and playground along Sanderson Gulch (off West Florida Avenue and South Zuni Street) that’s scheduled to be designed this year with construction beginning in 2022. There are also community-driven proposals out for three dog parks, tentatively located in Quality Hill Park, Washington Park and Rosedale Park, but those are still in the discussion stages.
Some tips for dog parks:
- Know your dog, and what he can handle by way of socialization.
- Do not bring any sick animals around the parks.
- Keep an eye not only on your own pooch, but also on what’s going on around them.
- All pet owners are responsible for removing their pup’s waste and monitoring the animal’s behavior while in all of these public spaces.
With that in mind, we scoured the reviews and reached out to our dog-loving friends and family to find out where they like to bring their canine companions.
Berkeley Dog Park
“This park is really well maintained and spacious enough for dogs to have space,” said Patterson. “There are always dogs there and gallon water jugs.” Also, she added, the city provides backup tennis balls in one of the locked sheds and mangled balls are often replaced.”
The spot is a busy, 2-acre lot right across from Lakeside Amusement Park that saddles Berkeley Lake and the park, right by the Scheitler Recreation Center.
Location: Berkeley Lake Park; near 46th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard
Hours: sunrise to sunset
Best for: friendly dogs who love to chase balls
Pros: shaded area; water available; balls available; small and large dog area
Cons: close to street noise and highway, so not best for anxious animals; gets crowded at peak hours
Things to know: dogs must have current rabies shots; Denver residents must have a Denver dog license and their animals must be spayed, neutered, or have a current Denver Intact Permit
Fuller Dog Park
Dogs can frolic in this 1-acre, sand-filled dog park in the Whittier neighborhood.
“Whittier is lovely because it has a bigger section for all dogs and a small section for small dogs,” said Rosemari Ochoa, who adopted her small dog, Garbanzo Alonso Quarantino Carrillo Ochoa, in June. “When we first got ‘The Banz,’ we weren’t sure how he would behave with other dogs, which is why Whittier was such a great dog park to take him to.”
Location: Fuller Park; 2801 N. Williams St.
Hours: sunrise to sunset
Best for: All dogs, especially first-timers to dog parks
Pros: small dog section; water bowls; sand base instead of dirt; fenced
Cons: No shade; bring your own water
Things to know: Dogs must have current rabies shots; Denver residents must have a Denver dog license and their animals must be spayed, neutered, or have a current Denver Intact Permit; bring bags to stock dog-waste dispensers
Midtown Dog Park
“This dog park has shade for dog parents, a water fountain for both humans and dogs, and two separate parks depending on your dog’s size,” said Patterson, who was happy the Midtown Dog Park is in her own neighborhood. “It has a double entrance, which most parks have, but the gate swings inward towards the park to help push other dogs back and allow the dog entering to have space.”
Location: 6702 Zuni St., Westminster
Hours: sunrise to sunset
Best for: all dogs
Pros: shaded spots; water fountain; two inward-swinging gates; small dog area; sand base
Cons: small space
Things to know: Dogs must be on leash before entering and exiting dog park, bring poop bags
Cherry Creek Dog Park
Invest in a park pass and a dog park pass and enjoy this 107-acre dog park full of open fields, trails to run through and a creek to splash around in. It’s the only dog park we added that charges a fee, but enough pet owners recommended it we thought it should be included.
Location: Cherry Creek Reservoir; South Entrance Road, Aurora
Hours: daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Best for: Water-loving dogs and energetic dogs that respond to voice control
Pros: huge area to explore; creek to play in; amount of people allowed in is vetted so it’s never too crowded; space available for sport dog training
Cons: if your dog likes water, he will probably be soaked; costs $3 for a day pass or $25 for a year pass, plus the annual or daily park pass, $83 and $11 respectively; there may be a wait to get in
Things to know: Only three dogs per handler allowed; must have an annual pass to use this park; all handlers must have a leash and poop bags on hand
Stapleton Off Leash Dog Park
Also called Greenway Dog Park, the canines in this Central Park dog park are allowed to be off the leash and run free, as long as someone over the age of 12 is with them. Sand in the box means less mud on wet days, and bits of green can be seen peeking around the border of this almost 3-acre park.
Location: Greenway Park, at Spruce Street between East 21st and East 23rd avenues
Hours: open 24 hours
Best for: larger dogs and feisty smaller dogs that can hold their own
Pros: lots of open space to run around in; covered in sand so it doesn’t get muddy; some shade trees; fully fenced; rocks for dogs to climb on
Cons: no water available; easy to lose sight of dog due to size of space; no seating
Things to know: bring your own poop bags; multiple entrances; because of the sand, open-toed shoes aren’t recommended; no children under 12 allowed
Tony Grampsas Park in Golden
Though this park is a little outside the Denver area, the 2 1/2 acres of wooded land, grass and natural look of the space made it a favorite of many of the dog owners we spoke to.
“It has trees and a little creek running through it, so be prepared for a muddy pup,” said Deirdre Borer, who has a 7-year-old Swiss mountain dog mix named Uni. “But it’s so much nicer than the gravel pits we have in my neighborhood.”
Location: Grampsas Memorial Complex; 4471 Salvia St., Golden
Hours: sunrise to sunset
Best for: all adventurous dogs, thanks to variations in terrain and vast space
Pros: large trees and shrubs; a little creek for pups to play in; large, open space; benches for humans; fenced in
Cons: in the summer it can get muddy; need to bring your own water; no dedicated small dog area
Things to know: dog must be leashed going in and out of the park; located about 300 yards from the ball park; bring poop bags
Westminster Hills Off-Leash Dog Park
Located in the Westminster Hills Open Space, this unique off-leash dog park offers 420 acres to play in. It’s a popular spot and often has canines from all over the city running around from open to close.
“It’s partially fenced so every dog enters the park off-leash, which is great for reducing dog fights,” said Patterson, who loves to hike along the trails while her dog runs off-leash. “The park is massive and includes runners, people on mountain bikes with dogs running alongside, and casual walkers.”
Location: parking lots are at 10499 Simms St. and 11610 W 100th Ave.
Hours: sunrise to sunset
Best for: dogs of any size that are under voice command
Pros: benches; porta potties; a shade shelter; dog drinking fountain (but bring your own water too because sometimes the fountain is shut off)
Cons: partially fenced; the size makes it harder to keep track of pets
Things to know: dogs owned by residents of Westminster are required by law to be licensed; dogs must be leashed when entering or leaving the dog park; all dogs must be spayed or neutered; only dogs with current vaccination tags attached to collar worn by the dog are allowed.
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