Summer outdoor programs offer fun, learning for families

Courtesy of Kim Morlan and San Juan Mountains Asso

For toddlers to 12-year-olds, San Juan Mountains Association has a summer program designed to combine a learning experience with outdoor fun. Children examine plant life around a tree during an SJMA activity last summer.

Who doesn’t love Colorado in the summer? Peaks to ‘bag,’ wildflowers to smell, rivers to run. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

San Juan Mountains Association, in partnership with San Juan National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management’s Tres Rios Field Office, has many opportunities for you to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Colorado summer while learning in the process.

Most of these programs are free. Unless otherwise noted, to inquire about or register for these programs, call 385-1256 or email

San Juan Family Explorers

The San Juan Family Explorers program starts off investigating the beautiful diversity of butterflies and flowers at Durango Mountain Resort. It runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon July 7. For information, email

Get your feet wet and check out the creatures that feed our river fish from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 11 at the Buggy Water program. Meet at the corner of 8th street and Riverside in Dolores.

Fall Family Fun Day will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15 at Farmer Cabin, a historic site north of Durango along Cascade Creek. Learn about the history of the area, geology, aspens, bugs and more with a delicious lunch to boot.

For the kids

Toddlers and preschoolers in the area have more fun opportunities to get outside with Little Legs Adventures at Denny Lake in Cortez on select Fridays this summer.

Children ages 6 to 10 can learn everything about birds during the Bird Brained Kids Camp also at Denny Lake, July 16 to 19.

We are excited to use Farmer Cabin for another camp for kids ages 8 to 12, from July 9 to 12 (transportation fee will apply; email

Finally, for those ages 10 to 12, we have two History Detectives Youth Day Camps: “Animas City Detective Agency” on July 19 and “If Headstones Could Talk” on July 26. Each of these camps will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $25 (email

Guided hikes at DMR

We are happy to again offer free guided nature hikes at Durango Mountain Resort from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays through Aug. 16.

Meet by 9:45 a.m. outside Backcountry Experience at DMR, then ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain and enjoy a walk around the top with a trained SJMA volunteer naturalist.


If you want something a little more rigorous while learning about wildlife, wildflowers and more, sign up to backpack with SJMA.

The trip is Aug. 11 and 12 on the Fourmile Lake Loop north of Pagosa Springs. The loop is 12.4 miles, and the trip is for beginners to experts (email

Field seminars

A Weeds/Oxeye daisy field trip will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 21, led by Rod Cook, La Plata County weed manager. Meet at the La Plata County Fairgrounds for introductions, then drive north to observe and learn more about these invasive species.

Explore the Colorado Trail for mushrooms and edible plants with Katrina Blair, co-founder of Turtle Lake Refuge, from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 29.

Thanks to all our amazing volunteers, without whom we couldn’t offer all these superb programs.

Gabi Morey is education outreach director with San Juan Mountains Association. SJMA is a nonprofit dedicated to public land stewardship and education.

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