Growing up in Vermont and being an East Coast skier, I’ve always wanted to visit the majestic Colorado mountains. A few months ago, when I finally decided to check skiing the Rocky Mountains off the bucket list and began researching the most dog-friendly places in Colorado, I realized just how welcoming the entire state is to dogs. With tons of outdoor activities during all of Colorado’s seasons, there is an abundance of pet-friendly places to check out. After lots of back and forth, I landed on dog-friendly Aspen. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with a quaint ski town surrounded by breathtaking mountains, an A+ après-ski scene, and most importantly, an exceptional dog-friendly atmosphere. You just can’t.
Luxury Pet-Friendly Lodging: The Little Nell
I began searching for luxury pet-friendly lodging right in town, and a place that would pamper Bear as much as they would spoil us. Enter The Little Nell. The Little Nell is the only Forbes Five Star accommodations with ski-in and ski-out access to Aspen Mountain. Sounds spectacular, but what about the pup pampering? The Little Nell offers luxury pet amenities including epicurean treats, a special pet menu, walking and pet sitting services, and a Puppy Jet Lag Kit. It’s definitely a splurge. Standard rooms start at around $500 to $1,400 per night, depending on the season, but it was exactly what we were looking for. Booked!
We began our dog-friendly Aspen adventure with a long day of travel from Boston to Denver and then Denver to Aspen. I was sure to keep Bear extra hydrated as I wasn’t sure how he would take to the altitude. Side note: Pets can be affected by altitude sickness as well. It is essential to keep them hydrated and let them rest when you are going to be 8,000 feet above sea level. Bring along a travel water bowl to make sure your dog has access to fresh water. Lixit’s travel water bowl, for example, holds up to 3 quarts of water. Lucky for us, and Bear, we had no problems with the high altitude.
When we finally arrived in Aspen and pulled in to the luxurious mountainside hotel, we were immediately greeted by the friendly staff and Bear was given lots of belly rubs and delicious cookies. Once we checked in, Bear was given his Puppy Jet Lag Kit which had homemade cookies, an Earth Rated PoopBags Dispenser and a custom Little Nell leash. From there we walked through the intimate lobby complete with cozy fireplaces and guests warming up from a day on the slopes, with their pup by their side.
Our room was both modern and stylish with a large fireplace, marble bathrooms and, of course, a huge comfy dog bed for Bear, as well as food and water dishes. We settled in nicely, and over the course of our stay at the pet-friendly lodging, we felt entirely at home. If we wanted to venture out and grab a quick bite the concierge would arrange a walk for Bear, which would consist of a bellman taking Bear on a walk, letting him hang out in the front of the lobby to soak up attention from the staff and guests, and concluding with a delicious dog treat or two.
Dining and Lounging
Bear also had the opportunity to try out The Little Nell’s Special Pet Menu. Choose from four different proteins—chicken, beef, or salmon—which all come with brown rice and scrambled eggs and is served in a doggy-friendly bowl. Needless to say, the meal was gone in under a minute and Bear has been picky ever since.
The hotel has a large lounge area known as the Family Room in the lobby resembling an intimate private residence where you and your dog can hang out, grab a drink, and even have a bite to eat. While the hotel has two restaurants (Element 47 and Ajax Tavern), we favored Ajax, which allowed you to sit on the sun mountainside patio overlooking the mountain and Silver Queen Gondola with your pup! It is an unbeatable spot to lunch on.
One of the dog-friendly places at the hotel that stands out is The Little Nell’s Chair 9 bar, recognized as one of the best après-ski lounges in the country. Chair 9 opens just as the lifts are closing and features DJs nightly. Needless to say, we were all spoiled, and Bear was beyond happy to be by our side at all hours.
Dog-Friendly Activities in Aspen
This ski resort town is known for the high-end restaurants and boutiques. The town is also filled with dogs and their friendly, like-minded owners. Just down the street from The Little Nell is Wagner Park, a professional-sized rugby field that is open for the public’s use. Many dog owners gather here to let their dogs off leash to romp in the snow and meet some new four-legged buddies. We visited the park every day of our vacation, and Bear made lots of new Colorado buddies.
When we were exploring the town we were also popping in and out of shops, always asking “Are you dog-friendly?” Every answer was always, “Of course,” and a number of times boutique staff even thanked us for asking, like we were crazy to think otherwise.
Aspen Animal Shelter
The highlight of the trip was visiting the Aspen Animal Shelter. When we arrived, we were greeted by the shelter’s executive director, Seth Sachson. Seth walked us around the beautiful facility and showed us the different divisions that keeps the shelter running by generating revenue. Their doggy daycare and boarding facility was not like anything I have ever seen before. The outdoor facility was designed after a natural habitat, and the kennel is naturally sunlit, with no artificial lighting required during daytime hours. The shelter also has a store and a grooming shop, again both generating revenue for the shelter.
When our tour was complete, Seth asked us if we would like to take one of their shelter dog’s for a walk. Well, of course we would! Seth came out with Sheba, a gorgeous 7.5-year-old Rottweiler mix. I was instantly in love as I am with all other furry creatures. We took her for a nice stroll overlooking the mountains and gave her an abundance of belly rubs before it was time to give her back, which broke my heart. If we didn’t already have three dogs, Sheba would have come home with us. If you are interested in adopting or donating, please take a look at Aspen Animal Shelter’s site, and if you are visiting Aspen, definitely swing by, visit and take a well-deserving pup for a walk.
Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Aspen
While you are out and about exploring the town, be sure to have lunch at the extremely dog-welcoming White House Tavern. Located a few blocks from The Little Nell, this tavern serves delicious sandwiches, burgers and salads in a cozy, 19th-century miner’s cottage, which is great for dog watching. They have a substantial patio where you are welcome to bring your pup, which we did. It is likely your neighbors will have brought their dogs along, too, making for great conversation and new friends.
Another great lunch spot is Meat & Cheese. Also located down the street from The Little Nell, this Restaurant and Farm Shop specializes in specialty cheese and meats from Western Colorado, as well as additional lunch item selections. The restaurant sits on a large sidewalk where there are 11 dog-friendly tables to choose from. We all left satisfied!
While we were only able to hit a few, we were told there are a ton of dog-friendly restaurants in Aspen, and we hope to hit more on our next visit.
After multiple trips with our pups and stays at numerous luxury dog-friendly places, I can say that dog-friendly Aspen—and more specifically, The Little Nell—have made it to the top of my list. The adorably quaint ski town and the lavish hotel treated Bear like a King, so much so that it was quite the adjustment to return to kibble, regular treats and walks with mom. If you have the opportunity to visit Aspen with your dog, I strongly recommend it.