By Emily Spahn

This article is part of our Generation Wild Coalition Storytelling series to give you an inside look at the work being done on the ground in Generation Wild communities – straight from the perspectives of the rockstars involved.

Emily previously served as a Marketing and Communications Fellow with the Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC). She worked to connect people in the community with the various programs that MLC offers. One such program is the Montezuma Inspire Coalition or MIC. MIC is the Generation Wild community in Southwest Colorado that serves youth by bringing together a diverse group of nonprofits, businesses, and governmental organizations that have a great passion for youth and the outdoors.
You know when you’re growing up and people tell you “You can’t have it all?” Well, that’s most definitely NOT the case here in this beautiful corner of Southwest Colorado. We have access to mountains, deserts, canyons, bodies of water, and so much more. The best part is, if you don't have gear to play with and enjoy in all these amazing and diverse locations, a Gear Lending Library run by the Montezuma Inspire Coalition’s partner, the School Community Youth Collaborative, is here to lend a hand. They have paddle boards, mountain bikes, snowshoes, tents, backpacks – you name it, you can borrow it. They are all completely FREE and you can borrow them with just a click of a button!

Emily Spahn
Emily Spahn at Boggy Draw. Photo by Matthew Tangeman.

Where are you going to go once you’ve got your gear? Let’s explore…

Boggy Draw (Hiking, Mountain Biking, Cross Country Skiing, Camping)

Boggy Draw is a trail system and camping area that offers sweeping vistas from the top of the Dolores Canyon. The Boggy Draw loop starts a few miles up the hill from the town of Dolores in a signed trailhead parking lot. A kiosk near the parking lot has a trail map showing recreation trails in the area.

This is a wonderful area for all skill levels looking to explore the high-desert Pinon Pine and Juniper forests. The trail system features over 30 miles of trail with various loops for all skill levels. Although this area is mostly known for its beginner mountain biking trails, the area lends itself to family hikes and pristine campsites. Plus, it’s only 15 minutes outside the town of Dolores.

Don’t worry, all you winter-lovers. The fun is not limited to the summer months! In the winter, Boggy Draw transitions into a popular spot for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The mostly flat trails make it a wonderful sport to enjoy with the whole family, all year round.

McPhee Overlook Trail (Hiking, Swimming, Camping, Paddleboarding)

Paddle Boarding
Photo courtesy of Emily Spahn. 

This is a relatively new trail in Dolores about 15 minutes north of Cortez that was developed in 2017. The trail is a 16-mile loop, but you’ll find plenty of places to stop and hang out along the way. There’s really no pressure to do the whole thing because each section is just as beautiful as the next. The Overlook Trail follows the shoreline of the McPhee Reservoir from Bear Canyon Loop heading south all the way to town.

About mid-way through the trail, you can take a detour to the House Creek Campground. This campground is at the bank of the McPhee Reservoir and is the perfect place to enjoy the water and cool off from the hot desert sun.

The House Creek Campground has covered camping spots, bathrooms, a boat ramp, and plenty of parking. The reservoir is a perfect place for paddle boarding with the whole family and, if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s even a great place to cliff jump.

Sand Canyon (Hiking, Mountain Biking, Puebloan Ruins)

Sand Canyon is a wide, two-level drainage just 20 minutes west of Cortez. The trail provides beautiful views of the canyons on well-maintained trails with a large number of loops for every skill level. Once you reach the top of the canyon, you can see the beautiful Sleeping Ute Mountain, a sacred spot for the members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. If you look at it from the right angle, you can see how it looks like an Indigenous Chief lying down with his arms over his chest. The tall rock on the south end of the mountain is his toes.

The most amazing part about the Sand Canyon area is the archeological sites! While you’re hiking or mountain biking, you pass by several ancestral Puebloan ruins. They offer an incredible opportunity to imagine the lives of the people who lived here before and to be grateful for all that we experiences we have here today.

So, if you and your family are looking for a place to enjoy mountains, canyons, archeology, and more, this is the place to visit. The Cortez area offers activities for everybody at every skill level. The best part is that you don’t even need to pack or buy gear to enjoy an adventure of a lifetime. All you need to do is swing by the Gear Lending Library and a Generation Wild partner will help you out.