Running the Best City for Pet Travelers contest each year is a special treat for me. The nominations start rolling in, and I get to reminisce about the time we’ve spent in those fantastic places. And … every once in a while … I get surprised.

After traveling the country for three years, we’ve been to most of the cities that get entered in the tournament. And if we haven’t been there yet, we’ve at least heard of them. Researching the most pet friendly destinations is our job, after all! So, when Salida, Colorado was nominated this year I wrote it off as someone’s sentimental favorite … and then it beat San Francisco in the first round. Perhaps it was a fluke, but still, I dug out the map and looked it up. Hmmmm … right there in the middle of the Rockies. That has some definite appeal.

In the second round Salida was up against Seattle – a pet friendly town by any measure! In the final mintes of voting, Seattle managed to pull ahead of little Salida by just 10 votes. But, by that point, Salida had my attention and I knew we were going to have to pay a visit.

Salida Trail - Salida, CO

Sauntering Through Salida

Fresh off our visits to Durango and Telluride, we made our way to the town that’s known as the “Heart of the Rockies.” Founded in 1880, Salida was a railroad town surrounded by mountains. Now the draw is an abundance of recreational activities and it’s bustling downtown, which happens to be the largest downtown historic district in Colorado.

The old Victorian buildings are impeccably restored and house unique shops and restaurants – temptation at every turn! The boys tend to follow their noses in these situations and were able to sniff out a couple of great restaurants – The Fritz has the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever eaten and a lovely dog friendly courtyard where you can listen to the river gurgle by as you enjoy your meal. Moonlight Pizza has a fantastic patio area where you can play a game of beanbag toss while you’re waiting for your order to arrive. And PloughBoy is a wonderful little local food market and kitchen where you can have lunch and then pick up the groceries you’ll need to make dinner.

Fetch Restaurant - Salida, CO

Moonlight Pizza - Salida, CO

PloughBoy - Salida, CO

Get Out!

Positioned perfectly between converging mountain ranges and with the Arkansas River in it’s backyard, you can’t help but want to spend your time here outdoors. Our first stop was the Franz Lake State Wildlife Area, where the local beavers and families of geese share the lake. It’s a nice place to have a picnic, do some fishing, or burn a few laps with your dogs on the trail around the lake.

Franz Lake - Salida, CO

Ty and Buster at Franz Lake  - Salida, CO

Back downtown we stumbled across the paved Salida Trail heading out of town. Trees flank the path, which runs, straight-as-an-arrow, toward the mountains in the distance. We passed by the furriest cows ever, grazing peacefully in the pasture, seeming oblivious to the killer views.

Buster and Ty - Salida, CO

Cows - Salida, CO

Cows - Salida, CO

A bit further on is Loyal Duke’s Dog Park with separate areas for small and large dogs, a pavilion for shade, and some equipment to play on. It’s a great sized dog park, though a little rough around the edges … Ty and Buster were uncomfortable running on the gravel and reluctantly stuck to the grassy patches.

Loyal Duke's Dog Park - Salida, CO

Loyal Duke's Dog Park - Salida, CO

The Verdict

So, how would I rate Salida on the pet friendly scale? That’s always a tricky question because peoples’ definitions of “pet friendly” vary so much. It’s clear that a lot of people here have dogs and love getting out with them. We saw dogs hiking, walking, running, biking, swimming, and strolling downtown and they all seemed to be having a great time. Of course, there’s the plethora of trails, restaurants where pets are welcome, and some of the shop keepers were happy to have Buster and Ty peruse with us. There’s also the big dog park where pooches can romp. One thing that disappointed us was that dogs are not allowed in the city parks downtown. On a scale of one to ten I’d give Salida a 7.5 for pet friendliness.

What are your criteria for measuring how pet friendly a town is? How would you rate your town?

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  • I would give it a 6. Salida is a very lovely city. The people are wonderful. So many residents have dogs and love dogs. There are plenty of places to walk your dog on concrete paths / bike paths , or dirt paths by the river, etc. It’s a mountain town so within a few miles there are plenty of places for hiking with your pup. There are businesses that are pet friendly, but I don’t know if I would say that is significant compared to Denver/ Boulder; unless you broke it out by a % of businesses? Since Salida is a smaller town then statistically it might show up as pretty high. I have seen many people also walking their dogs and letting them swim in lakes near their communities. The odd thing is they have a law that prohibits dogs from being in any city park except 1 that is specific for dogs which is “rough around the edges.” For all the money that Salida brings in and for all the residents that LOVE their fur babies, you would think there would be more Dog parks that are full of amenities, well maintained, not rough around edges, and again, more than just 1. Boulder has 4. Denver has like 20 or more. When you see the pristine parks for humans and look at the 1 dog park, it’s really a total joke. I took our dog to the dog park and it was all dirt and just felt kind of ghetto. We didn’t want to be there very long. Energetically just felt off and it really does same something in a passive aggressive way. It’s a slap in the face IMHO. You also have a city council that quibbles on the dog laws with some Nazi like remarks from some of their members. Needless to say I would give the area a 9 for dogs, but the city itself a 3 which is why I averaged it to a score of a 6. Given I have never been to a city that banned dogs in a park and had a singular ghetto place for dogs, I am quite surprised that Salida was 2nd runner up to being the most dog friendly city in the nation. Feels like there is some sort of PR campaign going on or I’m living in an alternative Universe. :).

  • Salida is NOT dog friendly. Most city parks prohibit dogs, even on leash. Yes, a lot of businesses will allow dogs but good luck finding a place to walk them on some cool grass.