Mountainous, serene, and striking are some of the words used to describe the Durango landscape. It’s one of the largest mountain towns, boasting a big downtown and plenty of amenities. Because of its history, it makes it a unique stop for those exploring railroads, ghost towns and ancient ruins.
Durango’s mild elevation of around 6500 feet is a perfect mix of winter wonderland and milder temperatures. This extends many of Durango’s activities into year round status, including hiking and fishing.
Located about 30 minutes north of town, Purgatory Mountain Resort is one of the main draws of town. Fort Lewis College is located in town, which brings an additional few thousand students into La Plata County.
The streets of downtown Durango are wide and lined with nice shops and restaurants. The best thing to do is give yourself a self-guided walk around the streets. Everybody is friendly and more than happy to help. Be sure to stop by the historic sites including the Durango & Silverton Railroad, Depot which runs daily in the summer.
The famous archeological sites of Mesa Verde are only a scenic 45 minute drive west. This national park is open year round and a must visit if in the southwest region. Year round there is also an airport nearby for added travel and cargo convenience.
Durango was home to the Ancient Puebloans until the 14th century, and later the Ute. The area was settled by westerners in the 1860s and 1870s. It got it start as a mining town. There are many different places where you can learn about how gold miners made a living.
Today, it’s one of the largest of the Colorado mountain towns at nearly 25,000 full time residents, located in the southwest, not far from the New Mexico border. It’s fairly secluded, with not much around but the beautiful alpine scenery. Silverton is about an hour to the north and Pagosa Springs one hour west.
Animas River – On top of being a scenic river through town for sightseeing, the Animas River offers a range of water sports. Fishing is great on different sections of the river. Perhaps the most popular activity during the summer is whitewater rafting on the Animas River. There are 2 sections:
- Lower Animas – A great trip for families, available in 1/2 and full day. It passes through the Durango Whitewater Park in downtown Durango, which is popular kayaking too.
- Upper Animas – Renowned worldwide as a scenic, yet challenging section of the Animas River. Trips available in 1, 2, and 3 day adventures. Class III-V, depending on the water level. It’s known as the longest section of Class IV-V rapids in the country, boastings 30 miles of continuous whitewater.
Durango & Silverton Train – This tourist train departs daily during the summer season for the Old West town of Silverton. It runs along a historic narrow gauge railroad high up in the San Juan Mountains.
Lake Nighthorse – Prime spot for motor boating, fishing and swimming within a few miles of downtown Durango. It opened for public recreation in 2018, bringing a big water sports destination to town.
Purgatory Mountain Resort – Known as “Purg” to the locals, this laid back resort features an exciting mix of runs for all abilities. Out of 3 ski areas, it’s the best place to ski in town with exceptional views and fun, rolling terrain.
Read about the best things to do in Durango.
- There are a few places to camp out at Vallecito Lake. With 80 individual campsites, Vallecito Campground, operates from late May to late September. A few of the campsites have hookups. There is also dispersed camping to be found in the forest roads nearby the lake.
- Read about the camping near Durango and Bayfield.
- The Animas River passes through town, providing numerous spots to fish with convenient access from downtown.
- Vallecito Lake out in Bayfield is a great place to fish during the warmer summer days. It’s located about thirty minutes outside town.
- Read about the lakes and rivers to fish near Durango.
- There are a lot of great hiking trails in Durango. One of the most well known trails in the state ends in Durango. The Colorado Trail makes its way from Littleton’s Waterton Canyon all the way southwest to La Plata County.
- Another noted trek is the 17-mile Highline Loop Trail. It’s a designated national recreation trail, which makes a great overnight backpacking trip.
- Read about the hiking trails near Durango.
For a true Old West experience stay at the Strater Hotel. Opened in 1887, the Strater was quick to become the place to stay. Friendly staff and an elegant Victorian setting add to this National Historic Landmark.
Amenities include the Mahogany Grille, a fine dining restaurant, the Diamond Belle Saloon, a ragtime piano bar, and The Office Spiritorium, specializing in fine spirits, appetizers and lighter fare.
Hotels and lodging:
- Colorado Trails Ranch – dude ranch
- DoubleTree by Hilton – luxury 3 star
- General Palmer Durango – historic 4 star
- Rochester Hotel & Leland House – historic
- Strater Hotel – historic 3 star
- Trimble Hot Springs – rental units
- Read about the best hotels in Durango.
- Read about the top bed and breakfasts in Durango.
Durango is loaded with awesome dining. Go see a show, drink a happy hour or sleep the night at the historic Strater Hotel. Afterward give your feet a rest at Colorado’s second oldest microbrewery, Carver Brewing Company. Then go back in the morning for “Durango’s best breakfast”.
Durango’s also home to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Get all your fudge, caramel apples and various locally made treats. For a one-of-a-kind dining experience, watch a live western stage show while you eat BBQ at Bar D Chuckwagon Suppers. It’s an authentic western ranch just outside town.
Bars and restaurants:
Jan/Feb – Snowdown – Winter festival held in late January/early February featuring a plethora of activities scheduled for five days around town.
Apr – Durango Bluegrass Meltdown – Three days of bluegrass music at varying venues around town held in mid April.
May – Durango Wine Experience – Three day wine tasting festival held in downtown Durango in early May.
May – Iron Horse Bicycle Classic – Three day festival centered around bikers racing the Durango and Silverton train. It’s a one-of-a-kind event held in late May, so don’t miss it.
Jun – Animas River Days – Kayakers race a challenging slalom course right through downtown Durango in early June, followed by a river parade with viewing party.
Jun/Aug – Durango Blues Train – Attend one of 4 nights at this one-of-a-kind rolling jazz concert on the rails.
Jul – Durango Fiesta Days – Weeklong July western festival with rodeos, parade and horse racing.
Aug – Mushroom & Wine Festival – Two days of wild mushroom and wine pairings held at Purgatory Resort in mid August.
Aug – San Juan Brewfest – Annual summer Saturday attracts thousands from across the state to one of the largest beer festivals in the southwest, held in late August.
Aug – Four Corners Motorcycle Rally – Three day summer weekend drawing hundreds of motorcyclists from around the southwest for a slew of festivities, held in late August.
Aug – La Plata County Fair and Fiesta – Classic county fair, with food, drink, entertainment, craft competitions, and complete, with a Western rodeo Held in mid August at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.
Sep – Durango Autumn Arts Festival – Experience a weekend of local art in downtown Durango. Explore the various booths filled with local arts and crafts, held annually in mid September during the autumn colors.
Oct – Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering – Early October weekend festival showcasing poems and cowboys in Wild West Durango.
Activities near Durango
- Durango Adventures Zip Line
- Durango Alpine Slide (26mi)
- Purgatory Plunge Zipline (26mi)
- Soaring Tree Top Adventures
- Purgatory Bike Park (26mi)
- Sky Ute Casino (29mi)
Cross Country Skiing:
- Animas River
- Electra Lake (22mi)
- La Plata Mountains
- La Plata River
- Lemon Reservoir (18mi)
- Mesa Verde National Park (36mi)
- Potato Lake (34mi)
- San Juan National Forest
- Vallecito Lake (18 mi)
- Weminuche Wilderness Area
Made in Colorado:
- Lake Nighthorse (4mi)
State Wildlife Areas:
- Haviland Lake SWA (20mi)
- Arboles (40mi)
- Bayfield (19mi)
- Cortez (45mi)
- Dolores (45mi)
- Hermosa (10mi)
- Hesperus (11mi)
- Ignacio (23mi)
- Mancos (27mi)
- Needleton (only a flag stop on D&SRR for backpackers)
- Pagosa Springs (60mi)
- Silverton (48mi)
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