Nature lovers, food enthusiasts, and history buffs will agree that there are so many great things to do in Durango, Colorado, you might never want to leave!
One visit and you will quickly see why Durango, CO, is consistently listed as one of the best places to visit in Colorado.
Durango boasts awesome outdoor activities, including incredible snow skiing slopes, wonderful hiking trails, and fabulous hot springs.
Of course, one of the top draws for outdoor enthusiasts is the famous Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that calls this mountain town home.
In addition to its great outdoor activities, Durango is home to a historic downtown area brimming with boutique shops and fabulous restaurants.
Durango’s close proximity to Mesa Verde National Park and its unique mountain location make it the perfect home base to explore Southwest Colorado.
If you don’t have Durango on your couple’s bucket list, you will definitely add it once you read this post!
Let’s dive into some of the best things to do in Durango, Colorado!
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Things to Do in Durango, CO
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, also known as ‘the train,’ allows visitors to take a beautiful ride through the mountains of Durango, CO, aboard their steam-powered locomotives.
The 1880s train is listed as a National Historic Landmark and is one of the top Durango attractions.
Visitors enjoy a scenic train ride to see parts of the countryside and the San Juan Mountains that can only be accessed via train ride or foot.
The winding journey is one of the top tourist attractions as guests love seeing the incredible waterfalls, gorgeous forest land, and breathtaking canyons during their journey.
Don’t miss the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Durango, CO, during your visit. The museum is 12,000 square feet of railroad history.
Varying routes are offered year-round, but we highly recommend taking the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tour during the summer when the train goes from the train depot to Silverton, Colorado.
Remember that different classes are offered on the train when booking your ticket. If the weather is nice, we recommend purchasing tickets in the open-air carriages for some incredible views of the surrounding mountains.
San Juan Scenic Byway and the Million Dollar Highway
To see the natural beauty surrounding this small town, take a mini road trip and drive the San Juan Scenic Byway.
The San Juan Scenic Byway is a 233-mile stretch of road that loops around the southwest corner of Colorado, passing through Durango, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride before returning to Durango, providing gorgeous views of the San Juan Mountains and the surrounding area.
If you don’t want to drive the entire 233 miles, we suggest you drive the most scenic stretch of the road, the Million Dollar Highway.
The San Juan Scenic Byway stretch between Durango and Ouray is known as the Million Dollar Highway.
While this section of road is nicknamed the Million Dollar Highway due to the large expense associated with building the road, we think it is called that for the million-dollar views you get during your drive.
This portion of the highway ascends up three mountain passes, with the highest one measuring over 11,000 feet above sea level.
These are truly breathtaking views of Southwestern Colorado and truly shouldn’t be missed when you visit Durango.
Purgatory Ski Resort
Purgatory Ski Resort is a fabulous place to visit in summer or winter!
Of course, the Purgatory Ski Resort is the place to go during the winter months to enjoy fabulous skiing in Southwest Colorado.
Boasting more than 1,600 acres of terrain and 11 lifts servicing more than 100 trails and an array of terrain parks, the Purgatory Ski Resort is a top Durango, CO, attraction during ski season.
If you are visiting Durango, CO, during the summer months, don’t skip visiting the Purgatory Resort, as it is much more than a ski resort. The Purgatory Resort offers loads of fun summer activities.
Summer attractions at the Purgatory Resort include the Inferno Mountain Coaster, a blast. We love riding a good mountain coaster, and the Purgatory Resort’s Inferno Mountain Coaster definitely didn’t disappoint.
The resort also boasts a mountain slide, great mountain biking trails, hiking trails, and more during summer.
San Juan National Forest
Head just north of Durango, CO, and you will find another fun place to enjoy the great outdoors, the San Juan National Forest.
The San Juan National Forest was established in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt and contains over 1.8 million acres of wilderness.
The numerous trails throughout the San Juan National Forest are perfect for mountain biking, horseback riding, or the perfect Colorado trail hike.
Mountain bikers flock to the San Juan National Forest to enjoy mountain biking through the gorgeous forest terrain and Ponderosa pines.
With miles of back roads and scenic trails, it is no wonder that the locals love having the San Juan National Forest and the San Juan Mountains in their backyard.
The forest is the perfect place to take a guided tour with one of the area’s Jeep tours!
Participating in a Jeep tour lets you get offroad and enjoy the scenery in the area you might otherwise miss!
Historic Downtown Durango, CO
When you walk the streets of historic downtown Durango, you might feel you have been transported back to the Wild West.
This former mining town dates back to the 1880s when this small town was just a typical Wild West old mining town.
Be sure to visit some of downtown Durango’s boutique shops and amazing restaurants before the art gallery hopping and sipping on local craft beer to close out a great day of exploring.
If you want to learn more about the mining town’s history, then take a historical walking tour of downtown Durango. This tour will teach you about the downtown area, including historic buildings like the Strater Hotel and the General Palmer Hotel.
One of our favorite things is to grab a drink at the Diamond Belle Saloon, located inside the Strater Hotel.
Belly up to the historic bar at the Strater Hotel and pretend you were transported to the late 1800s when Durango was just starting!
Animas River Trail
To enjoy some time outdoors, head out to the Animas River Trail. This trail, which runs seven miles along the Animas River, is great for mountain biking, walking, horseback riding, or jogging.
The Animas River is a tributary of the San Juan River and is a fabulous display of the beauty of the Colorado River system.
The Animas River Trail links downtown Durango to the northern and southern parts of the city. The beauty of the trail is that it is an entirely paved trail.
Enjoying a day on the Animas River Trail provides easy access to public parks and recreation areas, including Schneider Park, Rotary Park, and the Fish Hatcher & Wildlife Museum.
Animas River Rafting Trip
While the Animal River Trail is great, nothing beats floating down the Animas River!
Nothing beats floating the Animas River in the summer. Lucky for you, several tour operators will help get you out on the water.
Tour companies offer river rafting on the lower Animas River ranging from 90 minutes to full-day trips. No matter your choice, rafting the Animas River is a must-do summer activity in Durango, CO!
Durango Hot Springs
Nothing beats soaking in a Colorado hot spring for the ultimate in relaxation. We loved visiting all the hot springs in Steamboat Springs, so we had to add this to our list of things to do in Durango.
A fabulous place to enjoy hot springs is the Durango Hot Springs Resort.
Located about 15 minutes north of downtown Durango, the Durango Hot Springs Resort offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy their hot springs while surrounded by fabulous mountain views.
The Colorado Trail is a popular hiking and mountain biking trail that stretches 567 miles from Denver to Durango, CO.
While you might not be up to hiking the entire Colorado Trail, you can add some of it to your Durango itinerary.
You can start the trail at Junction Creek and go to Gudy’s Rest.
This portion of the trail is a great place for a day hike in Durango. Located on a portion of the Colorado Trail, Gudy’s Rest is a moderately challenging 9-mile hike at the trail’s end.
How impressive is it to go back and tell your friends that you hiked the Colorado Trail?
Powerhouse Science Center
Visitors will find the Powerhouse Science Center located along the Animas River.
Using several hands-on exhibits, this fun, hands-on museum teaches guests about electricity and steam power.
The Powerhouse Science Center offers great traveling exhibits every few months, so you are guaranteed to see something cool and unusual during your visit!
Dalla Mountain Park
If you haven’t gotten your fill of mountain biking, climbing, and hiking yet, you must visit Dalla Mountain Park on your Durango itinerary.
This beautiful park is set among 175 acres of forest and sandstone boulders.
Climbers are drawn to Dallas Park to try scaling the large sandstone boulders throughout the property, while hikers and mountain bikers love the miles of trails that transverse the terrain.
It is important to note that the Dallas Park trails are considered advanced due to the technical terrain found here.
Mesa Verde National Park
Granted, Mesa Verde National Park is technically located outside of Durango, CO; it should definitely be on your list of things to do.
Known for the amazing cliff dwellings that were carved into the side of the cliffs more than 700 years ago, Mesa Verde National Park is a must-visit.
It is incredible to see how the ancestral Pueblo people carved their homes right into the sides of the cliffs at Mesa Verde National Park.
Start off your time at Mesa Verde National Park by checking out the Visitor Center to learn about the ancestral people of this area before exploring the ancient cliff dwellings.
Once you have seen the dwellings, explore the rest of the park by enjoying over 30 miles of trails that make their way through the Colorado terrain.
Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum
For an experience as unique as Durango, don’t miss an opportunity to visit the Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum.
Located on over 18 acres, the Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum is the state’s oldest fishery.
The coldwater stream on the property is the perfect place to try fishing; be sure you obtain the necessary permits before casting your line.
You have a good chance of hooking a fish considering the fish hatchery stocks over 1.5 million catchable fish a year!
The onsite Wildlife Museum is a great place to learn more about the wildlife in this area. The museum is small and can be seen in under an hour, so don’t miss it during your visit.
James Ranch Market & Grill
For an awesome farm-to-table dining experience, head to James Ranch Market & Grill.
This 400-acre farm prides itself on providing its guests with pasture-raised meats, including beef, chicken, and pork, in addition to the succulent vegetables grown here.
The outdoor dining area is surrounded by gorgeous red rock cliffs, making it the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal accompanied by locally produced organic beer, wine, or cider.
Experienced hikers should jump at the chance to hike to the breathtaking Emerald Lake.
The hike to Emerald Lake lets you enjoy magnificent views at elevations reaching up to 2,000 feet during the 20-mile roundtrip journey.
Once you reach the lake, you can swim in the frigid water or relax and enjoy the views!
Oxbow Park and Preserve
To get up close and personal with some of Durango’s wildlife, go to Oxbow Park and Preserve.
Oxbow Park is a riverside park containing 44 acres of preserved wildlife habitat.
Here you can find elk, deer, fox, bobcats, and over 85 species of birds, including bald eagles!
Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the park or relax by the river. You never know what you might see.
11th Street Station
Head to 11th Street Station for a fun and unique dining experience in Durango, CO.
What was once an auto repair shop and gas station has become a food lover’s paradise boasting some awesome Durango food trucks.
Visitors can find everything from gourmet sliders to aromatic wood-fired pizzas when they visit 11th Street Station.
Once you’ve settled on your dinner, pair it with a great cocktail from Ernie’s Bar, now where the original service station used to be.
Steamworks Brewing Company
Steamworks Brewing Company is the definition of a Colorado craft brewery.
Housed in an awesome warehouse-like space on East 2nd Avenue, Steamworks Brewing Company serves up loads of delicious beer, sure to please any beer drinker.
Whether you prefer a cold IPA or a great Pilsner, Steamworks has you covered.
To learn more about the brewing process, you can tour the microbrewery before enjoying a tasting of their beers.
Four Leaves Winery
Beer isn’t the only delicious beverage served in Durango, CO; it also has a great wine scene.
To try some of the awesome wines produced in Colorado, head to Four Leaves Winery.
Not only can you enjoy wines produced by Four Leaves Winery during your visit, but you can also make your own custom blend wine!
Add a custom label to your wine for a one-of-a-kind souvenir of your time in Colorado.
Pinkerton Hot Springs
Head about 20 minutes north of Durango, CO, and you will find the incredible Pinkerton Hot Springs.
The now unassuming attraction was once the site of an incredible natural spa and resort established in 1875 by James Pinkerton.
The resort, a tourist hot spot, burned down and was left in disrepair until 2001, when the site became just a hot spring.
What were once man-made cement steps now look like a natural rock structure and sit gracefully marking the hot springs.
Visitors will find the Animas Museum in the 1904 Animas School Building.
The museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the Durango community and houses relics and documents dating back to the Native Americans that first called this area home.
During the self-guided tour, you can learn about local history and see the historic school building the museum calls home.
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About the Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through creative content creation and her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel and accompanying social media accounts. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight:
We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best flight prices. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines worldwide to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.
Book Your Vacation Package:
If you want to book an entire vacation package, we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use, and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.
Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!
For full guided vacations, including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all your needs while ensuring a great experience.
Trip.com allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop shop.”
Book Your Accommodations:
We always begin our search by checking out honest reviews on TripAdvisor hotels. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site!
There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is Booking.com because it offers a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.
Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is Hotels.com. We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!
If you want a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.
Tour Companies We Trust:
We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are Viator.com and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!
CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.
Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.
Looking to Save Time and Money?
Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!