If you are looking for the perfect vacation to the Colorado mountains, then look no further than Durango, Colorado. Nature lovers, adventure seekers, and history buffs will all feel right at home when they visit Durango.
Located in the southwestern corner of Colorado, Durango is consistently named as one of the best places to visit in Colorado. In winter, people come to Durango to go snow skiing, but don’t worry if that isn’t your thing. There are plenty of things to do in Durango off the slopes!
Boasting a historic downtown, great shops and restaurants, and loads of outdoor activities, Durango is sure to have something for everyone. The former mining town’s most popular attraction is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a scenic train journey through the mountains of Colorado.
Surrounded by majestic mountains and scenic valleys, Durango is the perfect place to enjoy a vacation.
1. Ride The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a must-do attraction when visiting Durango.
Known as “the train,” the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad takes visitors on a scenic journey through the Colorado Mountains on its historic steam-powered locomotives. The 1880s train is listed as a National Historic Landmark, allowing guests to see areas of the Colorado countryside that can only be seen by foot or train.
The winding journey takes you through breathtaking canyons, past glorious waterfalls, and through gorgeous forest land. Routes are offered year-round and vary in length from just over 5 hours to approximately 0 hours.
Be sure to visit the 12,000-square-foot railroad museum in Durango as well to learn all about the history of the railroad system in this area.
Pro Tip: While different classes and styles of carriages are offered, we recommend choosing the open-air carriages for unbeatable views!
2. Drive The San Juan Scenic Byway & The Million Dollar Highway
The 233-mile road known as the San Juan Scenic Byway loops around Southwest Colorado through Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, and more before making its way back to Durango.
The most scenic stretch of road, known as the Million Dollar Highway, is from Durango to the hidden gem of Ouray. This section of the San Juan Scenic Byway ascends up three mountain passes, the highest one coming in at over 11,000 feet in elevation.
Pro Tip: Drive this road from south to north for the safest route as you are on the opposite side of the cliffs, and read up on 8 Things To Know About Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway before you go!
3. Explore The San Juan National Forest
Durango is fortunate to have the San Juan National Forest as its personal playground.
Located just north of Durango, the San Juan National Forest was established in 1905 by Theodore Roosevelt.
While a ride on the Durango and Silverton Railroad or a drive on the San Juan Scenic Byway will take you through the national forest, there is nothing like exploring it in person.
This 1.8-million-acre wilderness is the perfect place to do some hiking, mountain biking, or camping. There are miles of back roads and thousands of miles of trails waiting for you in the San Juan National Forest.
Pro Tip: If you want to camp in this area, consider camping at one of the best campgrounds in Colorado, Little Molas Lake Campground!
4. Visit The Durango Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum
The Durango Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Museum raises over a million fish a year to release into Colorado’s waterways. As the state’s oldest fish hatchery, you can learn all about this process and the conservation efforts when you pay a visit to the hatchery, which is located near 16th Street.
While admission to the hatchery is free, be sure to bring some money to purchase fish food so that you can enjoy feeding the fish during your visit. You can check operating hours for the hatchery here.
5. Walk The Animas River Trail
Enjoy an afternoon out in nature walking the Animas River Trail. The trail, which runs for 7 miles along the Animas River, is lined with interpretive plaques and public art for you to enjoy during your walk.
The trail, which is paved, is perfect for walking, biking, or jogging, and is wheelchair accessible. While walking the Animas River Trail, be on the lookout for fishermen and/or kayakers in the river!
Pro Tip: If you only want to walk a portion of the trail, then choose the section between the Durango Recreation Center and the Highway 160 overpass as this is the most scenic portion.
6. Explore The Historic Downtown
The town of Durango dates back to the 1880s when it was an important mining town. This history is apparent throughout the historic downtown area. You can see the history in the architecture of the buildings, many of which still maintain their grandness today.
The historic downtown area houses some great boutique shops, lovely cafes and restaurants, and excellent art galleries. Exploring the shops and historic landmarks of downtown Durango is a must during your visit.
7. Enjoy Dinner Or A Drink At An 1800s Saloon
Take a step back in time when you visit the Diamond Belle Saloon located inside of the Strater Hotel!
This 1800s saloon will have you thinking you have been transported to the Old West. The wood paneling, long bar, live ragtime music, and costumed waitstaff ensure that you have a truly unique experience during your visit.
The Diamond Belle offers a variety of food to choose from, so you are sure to find something to tickle your tastebuds.
8. Relax In A Hot Spring
There is nothing more relaxing than soaking in a Colorado hot spring. Lucky for you, you can experience this during your time in Durango. Just head 15 minutes north of downtown to the Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa.
The hot spring waters, believed to have healing properties, have drawn visitors to this area for years. The water reaches the surface at 120 degrees, perfect for melting away the stresses of your day.
The resort offers day passes to enjoy the 12 spring-fed pools that vary in temperature. Please check their website for the most up-to-date hours and fees.
Pro Tip: Bring your own towel as the resort charges a fee to purchase one.
9. Play Golf Or Disc Golf
Durango offers a gorgeous backdrop for a day of golf thanks to its location in the Animas Valley. The gorgeous red San Juan Mountains and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains provide visitors with stunning views to tee off to.
If you would rather try your hand at disc golf, you can do that during your time in Durango also. Just head to the Fort Lewis College Disc Golf Course, the course at Colorado Timberline Academy, or or Purgatory Resort.
10. Have Fun On The Animas River
Take a float on the Animas River to get a whole new perspective on the area.
If you are visiting in the summer months, people often ride inner tubes down the river when the water is experiencing low-flow times. You can put your tube in starting at 32nd Street. Just be sure to get out prior to 9th Street to avoid the rapids!
Of course, there are other options for floating the river. You can join a whitewater rafting expedition on the Animas if you are feeling adventurous. This will allow you to experience some of the rapids that the Animas has to offer.
Just take note that whitewater rafting requires participants to be able to sit on the side of the raft and help row.
11. Check Out The Animas Museum
The Animas Museum is housed in a 1904 Animas City School Building and is the perfect place to visit if you want to learn about the history of the area.
The displays inside include a replica of an early 20th-century classroom, historic documents, and photographs telling the history of the Animas area. There are also several examples of pottery, basketry, and beadwork on display.
12. Visit A Local Brewery
Craft and microbreweries have become super popular in Colorado, and this holds true for Durango. During your time visiting Durango, why not try a few and find your favorite? Durango is home to several for you to choose from.
Ska Brewing offers guests a modern tasting room to try their seasonal and flagship brews. Steamworks Brewing serves up its award-winning beer alongside some great pub food in a laid-back, fun atmosphere. Lastly, Animas Brewing Co. is a great family-friendly place to enjoy some beer on their lovely patio.
No matter which one you choose, you are sure to enjoy trying these Colorado-produced beers.
Any time of year is a great time to visit Durango. It doesn’t matter if you want to enjoy the snowy winter or the gorgeous sunny summer, Durango always has something great to offer visitors.
During your time here, be sure to take things slow, enjoy the great outdoors, and don’t be shy to make friends with a local or two. They always have the best recommendations and stories!