San Juan Forest approves 25 miles of trails at Boggy Draw

Thursday, April 26, 2018 6:16 PM
Sam Dayzie rides Italian Canyon trail in the Boggy Draw area near Dolores. The new McNeil Trail loop will begin from the Italian Trail
Trail crew boss Lloyd McNeil of the San Juan National Forest Dolores Ranger District packs materials into the backcountry the old-fashioned way on his U.S. Forest Service horse, Willie. A new trail at Boggy Draw is being named in McNeil’s honor.
Construction of the 5.3-mile McNeil Trail will take place this summer.
The Boggy Draw Trail system north of Dolores is a popular recreation area. Pat Goddard and his dog Poodles recently enjoyed the trails.

In the next five years, expect more nonmotorized trails to appear in the Boggy Draw recreation area north of Dolores.

A final plan for 25 additional miles of trails was approved by the San Juan National Forest in January. It did receive any objection after 45 days, giving trail builders the green light to begin construction.

At least 5 miles will be added per year, said Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla. New trails will be “nested” within the existing boundaries of the 25-mile trail system. If more funding comes in through grants, trail development could be faster.

The popular trails winding through ponderosa forests and hidden canyons are used by mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and horseback riders.

In response to residents’ concerns about increased traffic to the trailhead and parking lot at the end of County Road W, signs will be installed on County Road W and County Road 31 informing drivers to share the road with cyclists and walkers. In the main parking lot, brush was cleared in the fall to make more room for vehicles.

Trail building will be conducted by forest staff and volunteers with the Southwest Colorado Cycling Association. Padilla said 15 sections of the trail system were put up for adoption for volunteer maintenance, and all sections were adopted.

“It’s exciting news, and we have had lots of interest from groups wanting to get involved in providing a desirable recreation experience,” Padilla said.

The new trails range from cruisers to more technical trails, said forest recreation planner Tom Rice.

Rice said the new routes were explored, analyzed and adjusted to avoid sensitive wildlife areas, riparian zones and archaeological sites.

“They are stacked within the existing trail system. Having recreation concentrated in one area helps preserve other areas of the forest for wildlife habitat,” Rice said.

A section of one of the proposed trails was dropped because it came too close to a red-tailed hawk’s nest. New trails also were routed to avoid historical railroad grades. There will be no seasonal closures.

The new 5.3-mile McNeil Trail will be the first to be constructed. It takes off from the existing Italian Canyon trail, and will travel along the canyon rim, weaving through large boulders. It is a nontechnical cruiser trail.

“We plan to install a new trail every summer and will be relying on our partners and volunteers,” Rice said. “The project has had a lot of support from the local community and adds to the region’s recreation opportunity.”

The other trails that will be added include:

The 6.8-mile Horse Camp Trail is “a real gem,” said Shawn Gregory, a trail builder with the cycling club. The loop explores little-known side canyons that feed into House Creek east of the Norwood Road. “There are some really deep, forested canyons in there. The trail adds a whole new level of scenery and has good elevation,” he said.The 7.1-mile Nth trail loop, named because it heads north, takes off from the Boggy Trail at the prominent stock pond past the fence line. The easier trail offers a casual ride through aspen, an experience largely missing from existing trails.The 5.4-mile String Bean trail is the most technical of the proposed trails. It drops into Bean Canyon and follows along rocky, canyon rims with a great view of McPhee Reservoir. Two of the trails were named in honor of Lloyd McNeil, a popular forest employee and trail builder who recently passed away. He worked with the Rainbow Family when they had their New Age festival in the San Juan forests, and String Bean was their nickname for him.