Durango is a great place for a Colorado getaway, especially for people living in Santa Fe or Northern New Mexico. It’s a scenic four-hour drive from The City Different, making it an easy getaway.. It’s a beautiful part of the country and worth visiting even if you don’t live as close as we do. We first visited the small city in early January 1992, when we still lived in New York. We spent a bit of time there when we lived in Colorado before moving to Santa Fe. There are a lot of cool things to do in Durango and the surrounding area. Here are some we thought you might enjoy.
Explore historic Downtown Durango
Durango has a lot of history. Founded in 1880 as a center to process ore from local mines as well as a railroad hub, the town retains many of its historic buildings. Walking Main Avenue, if you block out the traffic noises, cars, electric lights and other modern trappings you can get a sense of what the town looked like in a bygone era. Pass the imposing red brick and sandstone Strater Hotel built in 1887 and the General Palmer, circa 1898 as well as the train depot dating to 1882.
There are restaurants, bars, shops and galleries to explore. Like many other Colorado cities and towns, microbrews are big and there are several local brewing companies to check out. One of the things that makes Colorado shopping unique these days is the legalized marijuana. Like many Colorado cities and towns, Durango has retail pot shops to check out.
The great outdoors
Whether you visit Durango in winter, spring, summer or fall you’ll discover lots of outdoor activities to enjoy. In winter there’s downhill skiing and snowboarding at Purgatory Resort, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Spring, summer and fall are great for hiking and biking; rafting on the Animas River (dependant on water levels) and/or zip lining at Soaring® Tree Top Adventures where they offer 27 zip lines ranging from 56 to 1,400 feet in length.
Ride the Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
If you are a train bluff you’ll love riding the historic Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The train runs from Durango to Silverton from May through late October. We loved riding this coal-fired train up the steep mountain. From November to May they run the train as far as Cascade Canyon where a fireside hot lunch is served. During the Christmas holiday season the DSNGRR runs the Polar Express™ to delight children of all ages.
Drive the San Juan Skyway to Silverton and beyond
Drive the US 550 segment of the San Juan Skyway (driving the entire 233-mile loop takes about six hours), between Durango and Ouray. Some say it’s the most scenic drive in the USA. You can do the portion between Durango and Silverton or continue on the segment dubbed “The Million Dollar Highway” to Ouray or take the entire loop which takes you through Telluride and Cortez. Local legend says got this nickname either because it cost so much to build or for all the gold mined along the way. If you’re driving this in winter check road and snow conditions. Red Mountain Pass has the highest number of avalanches per mile of any road in North America.
Visit Mesa Verde
The presence of ancestral Puebloan sites scattered through Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona makes the southwest a special place to visit. One of the best-known is Mesa Verde National Park a bit over an hour west of Durango. Allow at least a half-day to visit this historic spot. The cliff dwellings perched on rocks under protective overhangs are spectacular. Plan in advance as some things require advance reservations.
There are many more things to do in Durango and the surrounding area. Thinking of heading to Southern Colorado? Plan some time in this historic city. It’s a great base for exploring this beautiful Rocky Mountain state as well as parts of Southeastern Utah and Northern New Mexico.
What are your favorite things to do in Durango, CO?
Author’s note: We’ve been to Durango several times and we love it! We got a bit of assistance arranging this vist from Visit Durango. They hooked us up with the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad who comped our train ride and gave us a welcome gift (want to know what it was, just email us). We arranged the rest of our Durango visit on our own.