Have you ever dreamed of exploring the southwest like a true pioneer? Imagine happening upon Dolores, Colorado-- a town characterized by untouched nature and classic small town touches. Located in a canyon with the beautiful Dolores River cutting along one side and rock cliffs on the other, this town is home to the McPhee Reservoir and the San Juan National Forest. An outdoor enthusiast's dream, this small town also has best-in-class accommodations and museums. Dolores, Colorado is a true diamond in the rough!
What to Do
Go mountain biking: While it may not be easy to find an adventure base camp for the entire family in other parts of the US, Boggy Draw in the San Juan National Forest has got you covered. This camping and biking heaven is perfect for the entire family with its single track rides spanning all levels, lakes for wading and catching fish, and fields for youngsters to ride and run around in. One of the best parts of Boggy Draw is its nice gradient as opposed to the steeper alpine climbs of Telluride or Crested Butte nearby. Of course, you can still find the most experienced bikers at Boggy Draw...but they aren't the only ones dominating the trail!
Enjoy McPhee Lake: The McPhee Lake, or reservoir, is Colorado state's second biggest lake. With its sloping timbered shore, it is just as beautiful and interesting as it is fun. Enjoy McPhee Lake by water skiing, sailing, jet skiing, or fishing for large and small-mouth bass, blue gills, and crappies.
Experience White Water Adventure: Southwest Colorado is one of the best places to experience white water adventure. Whether you are looking for a multi-day trip (offered in lower Dolores), a mellow afternoon afloat, or an exciting class IV whitewater adventure (Stoner Stampede), it is all available at the Dolores River.
Note: The upper Dolores River runs in the spring, usually getting below boating level by late June. The lower Dolores River is dam controlled and usually had boat releases in the spring with intermittent releases occurring randomly in the summer.
Where to Go
The Dolores River Festival in June: The Dolores River Festival is one of the most exciting and unique festivals in the US! As a celebration of the Dolores River and the ways it connects the community with the environment, the festival involves dressing in fun costumes, grabbing a boat or rafts, and spending all day afloat while listening to live bands and enjoying local vendor's food.
At the festival you can expect a costumed river parade, live music all day on two stages, informational booths, food and beverage vendors, river contests, children/family activities, free raft rides, and camping.
What to See
The Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located just about a mile outside of Dolorado, Colorado. This park is home to the largest archaeological preserve in the United States and features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the Ancient Pueblo people, called the Anasazi. The Mesa Verde trails will take you right by the famous cliff dwellings, which are structures built within the caves, such as "Cliff Palace" thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America. This is something you must see!
The Anasazi Heritage Center: After seeing the actual ruins of the Anasazi, get a more in-depth look at the fascinating Anasazi tribes at the Anasazi Heritage Center. Noted as one of the best museums to learn about pre-European contact societies (due to the sheer quantity of archeological sites nearby), the exhibits are interactive and informative. Plus, outside the museum are two 12th century pueblos, a picnic area, hilltop view of the surrounding area, and dessert gardens.
Arches National Park: Located in southern Utah, right outside of Dolores, the Arches National Park is worth the trip! Perched high above the Colorado River this extended canyon is carved and shaped by eons of weathering and erosion. The dramatic red sandstone formations are the reason for the parks name, "arches". This is a place worth the visit as there are more arches here than in any another place in the world!
Where to Eat
For your morning coffee... The Pony Expresso is a small, unassuming cafe home to delicious lattes, americanos, and mochas. Make sure to try their famous red velvet cupcake and carmalita bar! They also serve up some great breakfast burritos if you need some extra energy for hiking.
For a local lunch... The Naked Moose is a local joint known for their casual, no-frills, delicious food. Get ready for big portions and homestyle cooking as they offer everything from burgers to homemade Alfredo pasta dishes.
For the best in town... From travelers passing through to longtime residents, the Dolores River Brewery is regarded as the best in town. With local brews, a varied wine selection, and unique pizzas this is the place where you want to end your long day of outdoor fun. Plus, the brewery offers live music during the night which adds to a lively and fun atmosphere!
Where to Stay
Having gained attention from both Harper's Bazaar and The New York Times, Dunton Hot Springs is an exclusive resort situated in an "old ghost town". Once a bustling mining town, Dunton has been completely restored into 12 private cabins made with hand-sawed logs embodying old town charm and modern luxuries. Made up of exquisite cabins, private trails, sensuous hot springs, and a life-worn saloon serving quality cuisine, Dunton Hot Springs is a rustic escape.
Each of the twelve cabins is uniquely named and decorated to fit different tastes and groups. For example, The Well House Cabin features one bedroom, a private hot springs pool, and a fireplace. The two-level, three bedroom Tipping Cabin is ideal for families with up to six people while the 10-person Potter House features a fireplace and an ideal location between two trout ponds perfect for photo shoots and play.
Day and overnight experiences are available at the resort as well as exclusive and comprehensive packages for weddings, reunions and retreats. The entire town can be reserved for private use for up to 44 people, including the nine miles of private streams filled with trout, horseback trails with guides, and impressive hiking trails.
Indoor and outdoor hot springs provide relaxation after a long day outdoors. Soak in the restored 19th century bathhouse or take a dip outdoors is several pools and hot springs. Plus, a full spa menu is available at the exclusive spa.
Exquisite cuisine is served in Dunton's Saloon where the chef painstakingly sources local organic foods such as tree-ripe fruit and plump vegetables from the estate's own farm and vineyard. Wines include first growth Bordeaux, super Tuscans, and lusty Aussie favorites.
Dunton Hot Springs is one of the many jewels found in the sleepy town of Dolores, Colorado. Surrounded by natural beauty and five-star amenities, Dolores is worth a visit!
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