Durango Vacation Rentals
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Durango Activities


Things To Do In Durango

Wow, there is no lack of interest in wanting to know what to see and do in the Durango Area. We’re locals, and here is just a sampling of our favorite Durango activities and other great things to do in Southwest Colorado. The actual list of Durango activities is endless but this will get you started. We love enhancing your experience and enjoy sharing our experiences.


THE TRAIN:  Thousands of people each year take the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway from Durango to Silverton, putting it on the top of the list for most-popular Durango activities. Train buffs enjoy the entire 7-hour round trip but there is a second option for a family or group who would be satisfied with a one-way trip. By splitting the group, half would take the train to Silverton and the other half drive to Silverton and Ouray to enjoy the scenic drive and spend time in the communities. With a plan for the driving group to meet the train in Silverton, upon meeting it would switch tickets with the train passengers and take the train back to Durango while the other half of the group takes the car for the driving tour to Ouray and Silverton before heading back to Durango. The drive follows much of the Million Dollar Highway and is so wonderful, definitely worthy of seeing from all angles. At every turn is something different and, in places, not for the faint of heart, especially over Red Mountain pass and near Ouray. In Durango, don’t miss the free train museum located at the train depot. You’ll see full-sized locomotives, miniature trains, train museum memorabilia.

4×4 TOUR TRIP:  A personal favorite for how unconfined it is compared to the train ride, in a sturdy 4×4 vehicle you can really get up in the mountains for some of the most fantastic views.  You travel on the old mining roads established years ago. With so few places to take a 4×4 tour in the United States, we are very lucky that we have the old mining roads to explore. You can visit a ghost town, learn more about mining, view fantastic mountain scenery and for most of the touring season see fields of wild flowers.  We have used San Juan Backcountry for years and have NEVER had anyone come back and say it was not one of the BEST things they did in the area. The drivers will stop and let you pick rocks, tell you about the mining days, put the mountain ranges in perspective and provide interesting details about the wild flowers. They have an option for an easier trip that takes you across the pass to Telluride, where you get dropped off to take the ski tram down into town for lunch. You then get picked up and taken back across the pass. This trip has fewer bumps and is less adventuresome but magnificent all the same. These 4×4 trips rate high on our list when we have family and friends visiting. Contact San Juan Backcountry Tours by calling 800-4×4-tour (800-494-8687) or through their web site,  www.sanjuanbackcountry.com. You can add a mine tour in Silverton but don’t miss the trip to Ouray!

MESA VERDE PARKThe park is historic and very interesting with ruins you can’t see just anywhere.  If you have kids they have probably studied about it in school. A visit to Mesa Verde takes a full day and the park gets more crowded as the day goes on, so we suggest an early start.  The drive to the entrance and visitor center takes about 45 minutes. You’ll need to stop at the visitor center to purchase tickets for one or more of several sites that you can join on tours that can take only 30 people at a time.  Kids between the ages of 6 and 16 might enjoy Balcony House where you access the site by crawling through a small tunnel and climbing a ladder. It’s a high ladder, so anyone with a fear of heights will want to pass on this one.  Extended hikes to remote areas are also offered (2 hours to 1/2-day), but call ahead for reservations. When we go to Mesa Verde, we take coolers packed with lunch and drinks. Each of our vacation units has a cooler for you to use. There are two eateries in the park but they’re not very special and service is not especially fast.  We take our cooler and stop at one of the many picnic stops to eat lunch and rest. The park’s museum is interesting and worth a visit. Take binoculars if you have them.

HIKING & BIKING:  Easy to difficult, long to short, there are hikes for every interest and ability within easy reach of Durango, many of which start in town. If you have either big or small plans for hiking in the area you should check with one of our outdoor stores for suggestions or resources. Either way you’ll get a great list of hikes, including the length of each hike and its difficulty. You’ll also find information on area hikes in the basket of information in your vacation unit. An over-the-counter insurance card will cover you while on any trails, if you need rescue. The insurance covers the cost of evacuation and search. We buy a 5-year card because we do a lot of hiking in the area. It’s worth it. Not long ago a man and his son went for a short hike with only a bottle of water and got lost for three days. They were eventually rescued but had to pay for the entire cost of the search and rescue, which would have been covered by the insurance. We have information on this insurance in the units. For an easier hike, then the Durango River Trail follows along the river through town, with the north end starting near us at the North City Market and follows the river south seven miles way beyond the Durango Mall. It’s paved, so you can take strollers or bikes if you wish. You can also take your dog but be sure to keep it on leash. It is a wonderful walk, and has great views of the river. Along the way, you will see people fishing, rafting and just relaxing.

RAFTING: Rafting in Durango during the summer months is more of an enjoyable float trip than a wild ride — great for families. The float can get wild during the high flows of spring, especially at Smelter Rapid and along Santa Rita Park where the Chamber of Commerce is located. For any of these fun floats, you can sign up with various companies on Main Street.  The river rafting companies use a variety of put-ins and takeouts, and generally put in near 32nd (most popular) or 9th streets and take out near Four Corners Riversports or below the High Bridge south of the Durango Mall. The Animas River is also a fun river to kayak, and there are slalom courses located above 32nd Street and at Smelter Rapid — the kayakers are fun to watch. The Chamber is a great place to get local river outfitter information for both the Animas and other rivers in the area.

FISHING: With something for everybody, the Durango area has small and large streams and lakes with healthy fisheries. Here in Durango, you can fish the Animas River, which has a Gold Medal Water section for trophy catch-and-release trout. Local lakes include Haviland and Electra lakes (no license needed at Electra, just pay to fish), both located north of town and are great trout fisheries for kids. Others include Andrews Lake at Molas Pass, which is a high mountain trout fishery, and Vallecito Lake east of Durango, the home to trout, pike and kokanee salmon. Information is available at Duranglers 888-347-4346, Proflyfishers.com-970-385-9048, Gotrout.com, and Sanjuantrout.com (970-385-4665).

STAGE COACH RIDES/HORSE BACK RIDING: Located down the highway towards Purgatory Ski Area at Buck’s Livery, Inc., an outfitter offers horse trail rides in the summer and sleigh rides and dinner in the winter.  Both are lots of fun (970- 385-2110). Hole In The Wall Horseback Riding and Stage Coach Ride are just down the road from us off Highway 550.  They do a lovely ride through private ranches and are so close to us.  Call Tom Mc Carthy (928-788-1764) and tell them we sent you.

DURANGO RECREATION CENTER is a fantastic facility to get some exercise and relax for little cost.  It is subsidized by the town of Durango so it only cost about $6 per adult and $4.50 for kids and seniors. With a punch card or annual pass the fees are even less. The rec center has multiple pools, (warm pool, tidal pool, Jacuzzi, shallow pool for toddlers with sprinklers and slides, a three-story slide, diving pool, a lap pool area), and showers and changing areas with lockers. Also available is a rock climbing wall, hand ball courts, basketball courts, walking track, classes, exercise machines, outdoor water area and playground area. The river trail is adjacent to the rec center and a great place to take a relaxing walk after a long day of sight seeing or to further wear out the kids. The rec center also has family nights with movies where a big screen is lowered and you can watch a family movie while swimming and playing in the pools.

DURANGO/PURGATORY  SKI AREA: Located 13 miles north of the Condos EastWest units, the ski area is in your backyard. During the summer months, the resort is an activity-packed destination that provides fun whether you go alone or with the entire family. At the resort base area you will find the Alpine Slide, miniature golf, mountain biking (take the lift up and ride down), bungee jumping, zip lining, panning for stones and a lot of other fun things with a day pass. You can even have lunch with the lamas or attend a free lift ride-and-hike on Tuesdays, sponsored by the San Juan Mt. Association from Memorial Day through mid-August. In winter, skiing is popular but options include snowmobiling and snowshoe trips.  Across from the Purgatory Ski Area is a Nordic park where cross-country skiers can rent equipment, take lessons and experience cross-country skiing across acres of forested property.

For a ski report and information for Durango Mountain Resort, call (970) 247-9000.

Nearby ski areas:

• Wolf Creek, located at Wolf Creek Pass north of Pagosa Springs. Drive time: 1hr. 45 min.

• Telluride Area, located above Telluride: Drive time: 2 hours.

• Chapman Hill, a fun rope tow area located in Durango at the junction of Riverview Drive and Florida Road. There is also a sledding area adjacent to the Chapman Hill ice-skating rink.

TROUT HATCHERY/MUSEUM: Located just south of the library off the River Trail, this is a great place to explore with your kids. Trout of various sizes are reared in the long pens and dash after food pellets you purchase from quarter-fed food machines. It’s a feeding frenzy you create, and the kids will love it.  Our grandson loved to feed the trout, and also the great museum on the property which focuses on local Colorado animals.  It offers a great hands-on experience for kids who can feel various animal pelts and see stuffed animals and birds of the area.  Entry is free and near the River Walk where you can also venture to watch people raft by.

DURANGO ART MUSEUM: Great art and a fun gift shop with a good children’s museum on the second floor.  The craft programs allow you to leave your child for an hour or two to learn an art craft, leaving you free to shop the nearby stores on Main Street.

ORGANIC FARM/JAMES RANCH:  Just down the road from us, the James Ranch has great produce, meat, eggs and cheese. A couple of goats tied up in the yard is a big draw for children. Our grandson would see the sign and ask me to let him pet the goats.  During the summer on Saturdays, the ranch sells its goods at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Durango across from the Transit Station.

The Farmers Market every Saturday during the summer is a big local’s gathering and a great place to listen to music, have breakfast and coffee, shop for produce and organic meat, buy pottery and knitting … you name it.  Take the kids for face painting, making balloon animals, etc.

Durango has weekly festivals along Main Street and at various parks in Durango.

BAR D CHUCK WAGON: Located just 2 miles across the valley from us, the Bar D Ranch has a working ranch and a dinner show. Go early and watch horse shoeing, leatherwork,  etc. and peruse the gift shops. The dinner is outside in a spacious open area at large tables where you are provided a tin plate and cup for the buffet dinner. The entertainment is a lot of fun, with singing, dancing and joke telling. The entire family, young and old, with enjoy Bar D Chuckwagon.

DURANGO RESTAURANTS: Of Durango activities dining out ranks high on the list, but Durango has so many good restaurants it is hard to know where to start. So the best place to start is by picking up a copy of the Flavor of Durango restaurant guide at the Chamber of Commerce, located in the Durango Area Tourism Office at 111 Camino del Rio. Its website, www.durango.org is a great source of areas for visitors.  We are a member of the Chamber.

The Palace, located immediately north of the train station, has good lunch and dinners. You can sit either inside or outside and view the trains leaving and returning.  It has a happy hour and special bar menu for smaller meals. The Diamond Belle is a bar in the historic Strater Hotel with live entertainment and great food.  Francisco’s is very popular for Mexican food and, if you like sushi, East by Southwest might be your place; it has a happy hour (5 – 6:30 p.m.).  Carver Brewing Co. has good breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beer. The Durango Diner, a nostalgic local diner on Main Street, serves large breakfast portions with its own green chili sauce recipe, and the blueberry pancakes are big!  Just sitting on a stool watching them grill is an entertainment in itself.  The list goes on and on.  At the Hermosa Market just two miles from our vacation rental units, Mama’s Boy has order-out Italian food, which is convenient after a long day of enjoying the activities in our area. For sit-down Italian we love Moto’s on 2nd Ave. Some good and very popular restaurants are Ken & Sues, Cosmo’s, Cyprus Café, and The Red Snapper but are higher priced. Highway 3 Roadhouse has shucked oysters, shrimp, catfish, etc. and a happy hour from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.  Bad restaurants do not last long in Durango so the choices are endless. After you explore the local restaurants let us know what your favorites are.  Lots of comments are in our guest book. For savings on shopping and eating in Durango, pull up Destinationcoupons.com.

Zipline:  Over the past few years zip lining has entered the list of Durango activities in full force. In fact, Durango has the largest canopy zip line in the United States. It’s located at Soaring Tree Top Adventures, which is accessible only by taking the train to Rockwood. It’s not cheap but many of our renters loved the experience.  There are also zip line experiences at Full Blast Adventure Center off 160 west of town and at Durango Mountain/Purgatory ski area.

CASINO:  If you like gambling, visit Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio where you’ll also find a wonderful bowling alley, miniature golf, an Indian museum, and five restaurants. A free shuttle to the casino is provided in Durango, 970-563-7777.

Other things to do in the area:

• Take a dip in the mineral waters at Trimble Hot Springs, located just 2 miles south of us on Highway 550.  You can also get a massage.

• Take a sleigh ride and have dinner near Purgatory.

• Watch live theater, Western Jazz and folk music in town.

• Enjoy Music in the Mountains at Purgatory. This variety of concerts at the ski resort is ongoing over several weeks in the summer.

• Golf at a variety of courses in the Animas Valley or adjacent to Fort Lewis College in Durango.

• Go on a dig for artifacts with Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

•  Ouray has world-class ice climbing and hot springs.

 * Just thought I would mention that IF YOU WANT TO BUY REAL BEER you will want to get it from a LIQUOR STORE.  Beer in the groceries is a lower alcohol level because of a crazy Colorado law. It looks like the real thing but does not taste the same.


Local happenings in Durango: www.Durango.org

Durango Ski Resort/Purgatory ski report or summer/winter information:  (970) 247-9000, press 1, www.durangomountain.com

Bears Den (Daycare at Durango Mountain Resort: (970) 385-2144

Durango Chamber of Commerce: (970) 247-0312 – full of good information, we are a member.

Animal Care:  I use Bakers Bridge Animal Hospital: (970) 247-4701. The Durango Animal Hospital across from the Durango High School is good as well: 247-4311. If you have your dog or dogs with you and want them walked in the middle of the day, give me a call and if I can arrange it I will be happy to walk them. I also have a few friends in the area that would be accommodating.

Durango Recreation Center: (970) 375-7300.

Chapman Hill (ice skating, sledding, skiing), 500 Florida Rd.: (970) 275-7395.

Durango Urgent Care:  For injury or sickness that is not a life or death situation, this facility is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is cheaper than the hospital emergency room.  Urgent Care is located at 1800 East 3rd. Ave., Suite 112, next to the Durango Library:  (970) 247-8382.

If you have a more serious situation or one that occurs off hours, call 911 or Mercy Hospital: (970) 247-4311.


Linda and Jack Murray
(970) 769-1561