Less than two hours from Denver, the Columbine Lake Trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness is a perfect high-altitude day hike when you and your pup are wanting to get away from it all. Flower-laden mountain meadows, lush wetlands, and a secluded lake surrounded by pines are just some of what you might see on this scenic hike. The steady elevation gain will give you some good exercise without leaving you or your pup exhausted. This is a great jaunt for everyone.
Do note that there is more than one Columbine Lake in Colorado, and another Columbine Lake Trail in the San Juan National Forest several hours southwest from Denver. This Columbine Lake Trail (#11.1) begins at the Junco Lake Trailhead northwest of Denver. To get there, take US 40 north from I-70 then take County Road 84 to USFS Road 129. Much of the last segment of the drive is over dirt roads that may have some washboarding and potholes, so drive carefully. You'll also need to pay $5 for a pass to the Indian Peaks Wilderness at a Forest Service ranger station or kiosk on your way there.
While this hike is a good choice for people and pups looking for a moderate aerobic challenge, it's also perfect for a more contemplative day. You and your dog will enjoy relative solitude on this lesser-traveled trail, and there are many places along the way that serve well for moments of rest and reflection. Spread out a blanket in a quiet meadow encircled by pine trees or sit on a rock next to the lake and watch the clouds pass overhead. You might even see a trout leap from the water as you and your pup sit together and enjoy the quiet warmth of your bond. (Anglers take note: fishing is allowed here with a valid Colorado fishing license.) Wildflowers are plentiful in warmer months, including orange paintbrush and the trail's namesake blue columbines.
If you're looking for a peaceful hike to refresh weary spirits, you can't go wrong with the Columbine Trail.