Colorado is a beloved destination for many travelers, and it’s easy to see why. Magnificent mountain views, a plethora of outdoor activities, and rich Western culture are just a few of the reasons people keep coming back. But where is a good place to go for your first road trip to the Centennial State to get a taste of why people love it so much? Here are a few reasons why we think Durango is one of the best Colorado towns to visit.
The Idyllic, Rustic Downtown
Durango’s Main Street is lined with a myriad of unique shops and restaurants. Antique stores, sporting goods, boutique gift shops, book stores — you name it! On Saturdays during the summer, you can get in touch with the community at the farmer’s market held in the parking lot of TBK Bank on West 9th Street. There you’ll find locally grown produce, meats, and cheeses, as well as lovingly crafted artisan goods.
If you’re a foodie (and we know you are), then we've got good news for you. Durango boasts more restaurants per capita than San Francisco, an impressive claim to be sure. Thanks to more than 200 dining options, you could spend a whole summer here and still have new places to try. There’s mom-and-pop diners to get your day started, pizzerias and burger joints for lunch, and fine dining galore to close out the day.
Our personal favorite spot to dine and stay is the historic Strater Hotel, which sits on the corner of 7th and Main in all its vintage Western glory. While there are certainly cheaper places to stay in Durango, its authentic Victorian decor and prime location definitely make it worth the price tag. But the real star of the show at this hotel is the Diamond Belle Saloon. Even if you don’t stay at The Strater, be sure to stop by for a bite. This charming Western tavern drips with history and class. Live ragtime piano and authentic costumed staff compliment the delightful cuisine and handcrafted cocktails to create a truly magical experience. Ask for Evelyn!
Skiing and Snowboarding
For anyone looking to hit the slopes, Durango has a couple of nearby options. Purgatory Mountain is about 30 minutes from downtown, and adjacent Purgatory Resort offers lodging, scenic tours, and private lessons in this area. The resort even has its own roller coaster!
A little closer to town, the Hesperus Ski Area is smaller, but has slopes for every level of difficulty. It’s a great place for tubing too, which makes it ideal for the whole family to get in on the fun. Plus, kids 10 and under ski for free. However, if you’re looking for more of a challenge, Silverton Mountain is about an hour’s drive to the north and is only suitable for advanced skiers. Ungroomed trails give these slopes a more authentic mountain experience for anyone up to the challenge.
Durango Hot Springs
No Colorado vacation is complete without a dip in natural mineral hot springs. Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa has 26 unique water features for you to drift away in, from private tubs to their 25-meter saltwater swimming pool. Surrounded by scenic mountain views, these pools are loaded with a unique blend of minerals that are as good for your skin as they are for your soul.
"We are the only natural hot springs in the world to infuse our soaking water and swimming pools with nanobubbles of oxygen, which improve the already fantastic mineral waters," says Ken Stone, Marketing Director for Durango Hot Springs. Currently undergoing a major renovation, this day resort is open for anyone to visit. Simply book a 2-hour soaking session any day between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
There’s no better way to recover from a day of hiking, skiing, shopping, or whatever other mountain adventures you embark on.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
This classic steam train will take you on a 5-hour journey along the Animas River to the breathtaking Cascade Canyon. These are the same tracks that miners and settlers took during the early days of Durango back in the Old West. The view along the river is absolutely stunning and overlooks the San Juan National Forest, and the layover at Cascade Canyon is the perfect opportunity for a mountainside picnic. This is truly Colorado wilderness at its splendid best.
Whitewater Rafting on the Animas River
If the cliffside view of the Animas isn’t quite close enough for you, try river rafting to get closer to the action. There are several companies that offer tours, usually ranging from two- to four-hour excursions. The tour guides are very knowledgeable about the area and will help you appreciate the river’s rich history. Whether you’re a veteran rafter or a first-timer, adventure awaits on the Animas River.
Of course, tour companies offer much more than just rafting tours. Mild to Wild, for instance, provides jeep tours, zip lining, and cliff tours. Toward the end of July, the Silverton jeep tour becomes more of a wildflower tour. Cliff tours to Mesa Verde in the summer will take you back in time to the cliff dwellings that were inhabited by Ancestral Puebloans. There are a wide variety of packages available for all ages and aptitudes.
If you’re vacationing on a budget, there are plenty of options available for you as well. Durango is surrounded by hiking trails, from the 7-mile, paved Animas River Trail right through town to the 1-mile Raider Ridge Overlook trail that will reward you with a marvelous panoramic view of the town. In addition to numerous hiking trails, Durango is home to over 40 city parks for you to enjoy free of charge. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has a train museum that’s free and great for kids, and the Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum has a ton of fun family activities.
Honeyville Retail and Distillery
For over 100 years, Honeyville has been providing Colorado with the best quality Rocky Mountain honey. Their wildflower honey is harvested at an elevation of over 6,000 feet, and has a hearty, caramel-like flavor. In addition to a variety of honeys, they have many other products like jams and syrups, all infused with their signature honey flavors. The Honeyville Distillery crafts amazing bourbon whisky, premium vodka, and spiced rum, all with a honey twist. Of course you can order all of these products online (minimum quantities apply), but it’s so much better to come see where the magic happens!
The Ghost Walk Tour
Get ready — we saved the best for last. As the name suggests, the Durango Ghost Walk is a tour, on foot, with ghosts. Gunfights of the old West, a huge fire in 1889, and the Stockton/Simmons Gangs feuding are just a few contributors to Durango’s 140+ year history. Those happenings have led to a long tradition of ghost stories and supposedly haunted sites. Tour guides with firsthand experience have preserved folklore and legends from previous generations. It’s history with a true-crime twist!