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Dolores River Trail

Distance1.86 mi
Elevation Gain10 ft
My Time46 min
Nearest TownCortez
Food NearbyDestination Grill

Dolores River Trail

While on a trip to Cortez, Colorado I was looking for a place to get out and hike. Making this more of a challenge was the fact that about a foot of snow had dumped on the area earlier in the week and a lot of parks were closed. I decided to check out the Dolores River Trail and was excited to see it still open.

Getting Started

There are several starting points to the Dolores River Trail but I went to one I was more familiar with. My start was at the same trailhead as the McPhee Overlook trail I hiked earlier in the summer. Starting at this point, which is marked on the map below, puts you directly across the road from the Dolores River Trail and under the cliffs that you hike up for the McPhee Hike.

The Ridgeline Above The Dolores River Trailhead.
The Ridgeline Above The Dolores River Trailhead.

Once you cross the road you will continue to head south between a long wood fence to your left and the Dolores River to your right. On this winter day the trail was pretty easy to follow as it was the part that was plowed!

The Dolores River

On summer days, the Dolores River would be a sight from these early steps on the trail. This section of the river contains a bit of a bend in a lowland area. In the winter it is much harder to tell where the river starts and where the lands begin. A frozen flat is all that is visible.

The Frozen and Snow Covered Dolores River.
The Frozen and Snow Covered Dolores River.

As you turn the corner the river bed comes more into focus but on this winter day it didn’t mean that the water was visible. Instead, round mounds of snow collected above the frozen water below. The snow on the land was relatively flat so the only way to notice where the water was at was by seeing these mounds.

Frozen Snow Mounds on the Dolores River.
Frozen Snow Mounds on the Dolores River.

The Snow

The trail itself is a really nice path along the river that runs around the outskirts of a park with some ballfields and a playground. The nearly two mile out and back trek that I took had very little elevation and was more of an enjoyable nature walk than strenuous hike. The big factor was the snow.

I mentioned that the area had been hit with a large snowstorm and that storm had left the snow piled about knee high in the area. The trail itself had been plowed or dug out however making it easy to follow but a little slick.

A Snow Trench as the Trail on the Dolores River Trail.
A Snow Trench as the Trail on the Dolores River Trail.

The trail ended up being more like a trench than anything with loose snow covering the bottom and I was glad that I had a pair of spikes with me. The travel was slow but it was very enjoyable seeing the vast amounts of powder.

Plenty of deep snow on the Dolores River Trail.
Plenty of deep snow on the Dolores River Trail.

The Dolores River Trail was very enjoyable even if it wasn’t that challenging. The snow and frozen river gave it a very nice aesthetic. The sun, low in the sky, allowed for the piled snow to sparkle. This hike along the river was the perfect short trip into nature on a chilly day and I can’t wait to come back and see it in the summer!

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 1.86 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 10 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 6,936 feet. I was also moving for a total of 46 minutes.

I am a Pro member of Alltrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.


During normal times this is a very easy trail from an effort standpoint. Well manicured and little to no elevation make it a really enjoyable walk. It was a little more challenging after a big snowstorm but the trail was still really easy to handle. I am going to rank this as an easy hike and I think it will be accessible for most to all skill levels.


While it was very difficult to determine what the terrain was in the summer, I can at least say that it is mostly flat. I also want to throw a huge shout out to the parks department for making this trail accessible even after a foot or so of snow had fallen. The trail was dug out and was easily handled by wearing just spikes. Very impressive to have a walk like this that can be enjoyed even after a ton of snow!

Access to the Dolores River Trail

Wrapping up the Dolores River Trail

The Dolores River Trail was a wonderful break after a day of work. I didn’t know if I would be able to get out and hike with all of the snow in the area but the trail was well maintained and allowed me to get in nearly two miles.

While I am sure the river would have been amazing in the summer with the water running next to the trail, there was something magical about seeing it covered in snow and ice. The longer I went the more I enjoyed the snow crunching under my foot with each step. If you are looking for a short hike in the Cortez area, this might be a good one to enjoy!

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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