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Delta County, Colorado’s Grand Mesa Goes to the Dogs

Guest Blogger Kelli Hepler, Delta County Tourism Coordinator, shares:

Delta County, Colo.’s Grand Mesa Goes to the Dogs

Taking your dog on a ski trip takes on a whole new meaning in Delta County in southwest Colorado. Delta County is home to a dog-gone big mountain, the Grand Mesa, which is the world’s largest flat-topped mountain soaring to more than 10,000 feet in altitude. Grand Mesa is a mecca for the fast-growing dog sport of “skijoring” and often has snow well into the summer months.

What is Skijoring?

“Skijoring” is the Norwegian word for ski driving. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors, as well as to exercise and bond with your dogs in cold weather months. Plus, it plays to your pooches’ passion to pull! Skiojoring dogs need to be athletic and enjoy hunting, pulling or herding. The breed doesn’t really matter, it’s just about will and size – they must be big enough to give you some horsepower!

Why Grand Mesa?

Grand Mesa boasts 32.4 miles of beautifully groomed trails (thanks to the Grand Mesa Nordic Council), beautiful snow, and some of the best scenery in Colorado. Most of the trails on Grand Mesa are dog friendly (Skyway Trail is the one exception to the rule). Dog owners are asked to please clean up after their four-legged friends, and bags are provided at the trailheads. Some of the most popular skijoring routes include County Line and Ward Lake, which are groomed trails that provide several routes to choose from as they loop around.  Grand Mesa is also host to the annual Grand Mesa Summit Challenge, which have been held since 2007. This sled dog racing event has the reputation for being the highest international spring sled dog race in North America.

How Do I Get Started?

It may seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t take much equipment to get into skijoring, especially if you are already a cross-country skier. All you is some cross-country skis, poles, a harness, a six- to eight-foot rope, a tether and a motivated dog or two! It’s recommended that you use skate skis, but traditional cross-country skis will do the trick. And, you don’t want to use skis with metal edges as you could hurt the dogs if you run into them. Mesa Lakes Resort on top of Grand Mesa offers both cross-country ski and snowshoe rental, as does The Board & Buckle in Grand Junction.

Skijoring borrows its terminology from the sled dog world. The most common commands are:

• Hike: to make your dogs go
• Gee: to turn them to the right
• Haw: to turn them to the left
• Easy: to slow down
• Whoa: to stop

At first it might be helpful to have a human helper go along to stand ahead of you to ensure the dogs move in the direction you command. Since most dogs have the predisposition to please (and to pull!) it doesn’t take long before most get the hang of it. Another training tip is to go with someone who is a savvy skijorer so your canines can learn by observing.

Getting to Delta County & “Pick of the Litter” Lodging

Delta County is located on the western slope of Colorado’s Continental Divide. It’s about a five hour drive from Denver, the largest city in Colorado, and it’s less than an hour-long drive from Grand Junction. There are a number of dog-friendly lodging options, including: The Comfort Inn in Delta, the Rodeway Inn in Delta, the Cedaredge Lodge in Cedaredge, Alexander Lake Lodge on Grand Mesa, Mesa Lakes Lodge on Grand Mesa, and the Grand Mesa Express Inn in Cedaredge.

To learn more about planning a trip to Delta County, Colo. visit

Guest Blogger Kelli Hepler, Delta County Tourism Coordinator

Kelli Hepler resides in Delta, Colo. near the Grand Mesa. Kelli has lived in the area for more than 30 years and has loved activities on the Grand Mesa year-round with camping, fishing, hiking, biking, skiing and more. She has shared those experiences with her two children and many friends. Kelli has been involved with the Grand Mesa National Scenic and Historic Byway for 15 years. This organization works to preserve and promote the intrinsic qualities of the Grand Mesa.

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