Trail plan thrills non-motorized users
New route will link Dolores to House Creek along McPhee rim
"Additional non-motorized trails include a connector trail from Dolores to House Creek."
Those 12 words, tucked deep inside the byzantine bureaucratic opus otherwise known as the Boggy-Glade Travel Management Plan, brought visions of a recreational mecca to Dolores residents.
And when the final travel plan including the new trail was approved by San Juan National Forest officials, the chatter of excitement from mountain bikers, runners and hikers could be heard in brew pubs and coffee shops from Dolores to Cortez and even Durango.
"People who have talked to me about the trail are extremely happy and excited. They want it to go in this summer, but we all will have to wait until next year," reports Dolores Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. "There is still a lot of planning and work to do and we want to make sure we get it right."
Dolores is negotiating with a landowner for a 350-foot easement in order to best position the trail for access to Granath Mesa. Details of where the trailhead will go still need to be worked out.
The eight-mile route, initially dubbed the McPhee Overlook Trail, will link Dolores with the House Creek campground, and to a series of loop mountain bike rides in the Boggy Draw area of the San Juan National Forest.
Cyclists, hikers and horse riders will first climb through switchbacks beginning at the base of the mesa, near the Dolores Cemetery. Once up top, the trail will continue for five miles along the mesa rim overlooking McPhee Reservoir to the House Creek campground. From there, another two-mile trail will connect users to the Bean Canyon trail.
"The connector trail has been approved, so we are just now getting together all of the pieces together to lay it out and do the archaeological work," said Chris Bouton, trails manager for the Dolores Ranger District. "We're still working out exactly where it will connect to the House Creek campground. It will finally give visitors there a trail to use from the campground."
The construction phase is expected to begin next summer. With the help of volunteer trail crews, officials are optimistic it could be partially available for public use by late next year, Bouton said.
The Boggy Draw recreation area sports 31 miles of winding, non-motorized singletrack through forests, meadows and along a mesa overlooking the Dolores River Valley.
The riding ranges from easy to intermediate, and the area's popularity is made evident by a consistently full parking lot at the main trailhead north of Dolores at the end of Road W. The new trail will give cyclists access to Boggy Draw from town and enable them to avoid riding up the Dolores-Norwood road and then along Road W with its frequent dust plumes.
Dolores planners are working out where the new trailhead will be located and also where it will gain the mesa top from town. One idea is to have trail users park at Joe Rowell Park, where the river trail passes underneath Highway 145. From there, bikers and hikers would take the river trail around the sewer plant approximately one-fourth mile to the base of the mesa and the switchbacks. Or parking and a trailhead could be built somewhere near the Dolores Cemetery.
A significant trail from town is expected to be a boost for the local economy.
"I think it's awesome. It will help Dolores and make the trails here more popular," said Nicholas Ian Tuyson Jones, owner of Lizard Cyclery in Dolores. "We do ski tuning also, so having cross-country skiers using the new trail is a plus and helps the slower winter economy here."
Public meetings will allow people to weigh in on the details of the new Dolores to House Creek trail. The dates have not been set. An online survey will also be available soon to collect public comment.
Another non-motorized Forest Service trail is expected to open this summer in the Sage Hen area west of Dolores next to McPhee Reservoir. That trail was also approved as part of the new Boggy-Glade Travel Plan.
The Sage Hen trail will travel north from Road X, and loop for 14 miles through pinon-juniper forests. A collection of user trails in that area will be re-routed into a single, signed route.
"It has nice views of the lake and the dam," Bouton said. "We are hoping to have it open this summer with signs in place so people and can find it and use it."