The Southwest’s Secret Singletrack
by Jesse James McTigue
Jul 22, 2013 | 12029 views | 0 0 comments | 431 431 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Phil’s World, south of Cortez, has a well-deserved reputation as a swooping, 28-mile-long rollercoaster for mountain bikers of all abilities. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
Phil’s World, south of Cortez, has a well-deserved reputation as a swooping, 28-mile-long rollercoaster for mountain bikers of all abilities. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
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Heading back to camp at Boggy Draw outside Dolores. The four trails here wind in and out of the forest above the canyons of the Dolores River. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
Heading back to camp at Boggy Draw outside Dolores. The four trails here wind in and out of the forest above the canyons of the Dolores River. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
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A trail marker at Phil's World. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
A trail marker at Phil's World. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
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Mountain biking in Colorado can seem intimidating – long climbs, high altitude and big mountain passes. But in the southwest corner of the state, right outside Dolores and Cortez, there are three high-desert trail systems that include none of the above. These trail systems – Boggy Draw outside of Dolores, Phil’s World south of Cortez, and Sand Canyon north of Cortez – weave in and out of Ponderosa pine forests, coast around rollercoaster turns and climb desert canyons among the Anasazi cliff dwellings.

BOGGY DRAW

Getting There: Situated about 60 miles downstream from the snowcapped mountains of the San Juans along Colorado State Highway 145 sits the sleepy, little town of Dolores.  Its namesake river runs parallel to the main drag, while McPhee Reservoir anchors the town to the west; the trails of Boggy Draw are perched above the town to the north. To find the trailhead, head north off highway 145 on 11th Street and follow the road for about two miles as it climbs to the top of the mesa. Look for the cross street, Road W, and turn right (east) onto it. Continue for about a mile, until you see signs for the trailhead on your left.

The Trails: Boggy Draw is an open playground of the San Juan National Forest, full of meandering, buttery single track that’s as playful as its name. The trail system is made of four trails – Mavericks, Italian, Boggy and Bean’s Canyon – and, incredibly, has something to offer every level of mountain biker, from children and beginners to expert riders.

Boggy Draw Trail is the easiest of the four trails, and it loops riders along the soft dirt floor of the pine forest. The Mavericks/Italian loop is a perfect intermediate ride, giving cyclists more challenging terrain, but still void of any harrowing climbs. The trail cruises through the pines, then explores the eastern end of the plateau, offering views of the rugged San Juans before turning back toward the forest along a steep canyon ridge above a finger of McPhee Reservoir. Bean’s is the most difficult and longest of the four rides. Like the others, the trail weaves in and out of the forest before traversing a technical rocky ridge of Bean’s Canyon and dumping the rider into a fast descent to the canyon’s bottom. As all cyclists know, after a radical descent comes a long ascent; the ride ends with the climb out.

PHIL'S WORLD

Getting There: About 12 miles west of Dolores is Cortez and about 4 miles south of Cortez on Highway 491 South is Phil’s World.

The Trails: If Boggy Draw is a giant playground, then Phil’s World is an amusement park, complete with rollercoasters and corkscrews. The entire trail system – the “whole enchilada” – is 28 miles of gradual climbs and sweeping downhills that twist, weave, ascend and descend any way they can – up, down and across the desert butte. The 28-miles is split into three- to five-mile segments that can be connected in a variety of ways. Each junction is clearly marked. To link the whole enchilada, riders turn left at every intersection, including the most technical “Ledges” segment. To cut down on the miles and still get in the park’s signature steep, fast rollers that make up Rib Cage, link CoCo Race to Bob’s Loop, head up Abajo, add Stinky Spring and let it rip over the whoop-de-doos down Rib Cage. The one thing you won’t leave Phil’s World without is a giggle.

SAND CANYON

Getting There: Head north on Highway 491 toward Shiprock, N.M. A few miles outside of Cortez you will come to a light and see a sign for Hovenweep National Monument. Look for County Road G and go west on it (take a right onto it if you are coming from Cortez). Stay on this road for 12 miles and look for a sandstone parking lot on the right hand side of the road. Park and ride.

The Trails: Sand Canyon is arguably the least explored of the trails around Cortez and offers perhaps the most solitude. When done together, the three trails – Sand Canyon, East Rock Canyon and West Rock Canyon – equal about 20 miles of riding. Sand Canyon climbs the canyon on the way out, and can be done heading out or back or linked to West Canyon. According to local cyclist Keith Evans, the trails are a combination of technical Moab slick rock and playful, windy, Phil’s World-single track. Evans also notes that Sand Canyon is a good place to bring a lunch and spend the day not only riding but exploring tangential spur trails that contain hidden gems from the Ancients – like cliff dwellings. Or, Evans suggests, “Take in the sunshine at Sandstone Dome.”

For a map or more information of any of the rides, check www.mesaverdecountry.com and/or Kokopelli Bike and Board on Main Street in Cortez, or http://www.kokopellibike.com. Look for The Mountain Bike Map for Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Rico, published by Big Loop Maps.

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