The Ultimate Mountain Biking Base Camp for the Whole Family

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By Emily Brendler Shoff

It’s easy to find an outdoor adventure in the Rockies. What’s not as simple is finding an adventure base camp for the whole family. For mountain biking, there may be no better place than Boggy Draw.

This camping and biking Mecca, located in southwestern Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, outside of Dolores, Colorado, is the perfect spot for a multi-age group to play. With singletrack rides for all abilities, lakes for wading in and catching fish, and fields for little ones to ride and run around in, Boggy Draw is a great three-season road-trip destination.

“Fishing” at Boggy Draw. Photo: Emily Brendler Shoff

The riding at Boggy Draw is a refreshing change from the steep alpine climbs in Telluride (about an hour north) and Crested Butte. Plus, it's much cooler than Moab, and way more kid-friendly. At the Draw, smooth singletrack trails undulate through ponderosa pine forests and around lakes. The surface of the trails is forgiving, more like swishing through powder than crashing down hard pack. The nine-mile namesake trail, the Boggy Draw, is so gentle that novice riders and kids as young as six can easily ride it.

Tag-team: the author gets some singletrack time.

Camping at Boggy Draw is just as laid back. On weekends, its fields transform into a satellite commune. Families and friends set up tents and trailers, and muddy-faced children run amok. In the evenings, everyone gathers around a big campfire where s’mores are shared and stories are told.

Boogy Draw Camping“Fishing” at Boggy Draw. Photo: Emily Brendler Shoff

When everyone needs a clean-up, head to the town park for a dip in the Dolores River (it's calm and there's a flat multi-purpose path that runs along it) or to Cortez’s terrific recreation center, with pools and showers. We almost always pull down camp Sunday, swim at the rec center, then head to the Dolores River Brewery for dinner. With games for the kids, beer for the adults, and pizza for everyone, it’s an easy place to start planning for our return trip to Boggy Draw.

From Dolores (about an hour west of Durango), turn north off of Highway 145 onto 11th Street and follow the road (which turns in County Road 31) up to the top of the mesa. Turn east onto Road W and look for a large grassy lot on the right after about a mile.

There are no services provided. Bring water, pick up your trash, and dig holes well away from camp for all other necessities. We bring a kid’s potty and set up a “bathroom” to make it easier for the little ones.

All Boggy Draw rides can be ridden right from camp. Depending on how good your friends are and how long they’ll watch your kids, you can either do a single loop or link rides. 

Boggy Draw Trail: Beginner
Length: 8.7 miles; Time: 1-1.5 hours

Bean Canyon Loop: Intermediate/Advanced 
Length: 13.5 miles; Time: 2-4 hours

Maverick’s Loop/ Italian Loop: Beginner/Intermediate 
Length: Maverick 6-mile loop, Italian 9.9-mile loop; Time: Maverick 1-2 hours, Italian 2-3 hours

Dolores Food Market is a deli/natural foods shop that makes outfitting the trip a cinch.

Kids have a great time mucking about in lakes (a.k.a. swamps) at Boggy Draw. Bring nets and some courage. (The kids didn’t seem to mind leeches as much as I did.) Soccer balls, frisbees, bikes, and striders are also recommended for fields and trails at camp.

The Kid’s World Community Park at the west end of Dolores is one of the best kid’s parks ever. We last went to Boggy Draw about three weeks ago and my two-year-old asks daily about the dragon park.

With a pool packed with slides and toys, a climbing wall, a gym, and showers, the Cortez Recreation Center, located 10 miles west of Dolores on Highway 145, is hard to beat. Daily passes are cheap too: $4.50/adults; $3.50/kids and seniors. Open Monday-Friday 5:30-9; Saturday 8-9; Sunday 10-7.

Emily Brendler Shoff writes regularly for Telluride Inside and Out and the Telluride Daily Planet. She lives in Telluride with her husband and two girls.

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