Travel Colorado: Durango

This post was originally published on July 7, 2019.

Durango TrainJust before our second anniversary, my husband and I decided to go on a 10-day road trip to New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. Our goal was to see as many national parks as we could in those ten days. We stopped at Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Mesa Verde National Park near Durango, and Great Sand Dunes National Park. This trip is still one of my favorite things we did before having kids.

For most of the parks, we stayed only one night, toured the park for one day, and then moved on to our next stop. But when we came to Durango, Colorado, near Mesa Verde National Park, we stayed for three days. And I am so glad that we did. Durango is still one of my favorite small towns to visit in Colorado.

Getting There

To get to Durango from Colorado Springs, head south on I-25 until you get to Walsenburg. At Walsenburg, you will travel west on US-160 for several hours until you get to Durango. Although the drive is almost 6 hours from the Springs, the route is fairly simple. And the scenery is breathtaking as you drive through valley farmland and the Rio Grande National Forest.

Durango History

Like many of the small mountain towns in Colorado, Durango was founded by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as part of the San Juan mining district. Established in 1880, this railroad town was a hub for both passengers and freight. The freight mostly included gold and silver ore from San Juan Mountains. Colorado territorial Gov. A. C. Hunt had traveled to Durango, Mexico, during the time this small mining town was being established. He thought the two areas looked similar, so he named the new settlement Durango, Colorado. “Durango” comes from the Basque word “Urango” which means “water town” or “well-watered place.” Gov. Hunt had probably thought of the Animas River, which runs right next to Durango, when he was naming the new railroad town. To learn more about the town’s history, visit

5 Must-Do’s

Rafting. The Animas River boasts some awesome rapids. With several rafting companies in the area, you are sure to enjoy a wild and wet ride.

Historic Downtown. Take a stroll through downtown, where you can see many of the original buildings from the 1800s. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and entertainment to fill your afternoon and evening.

Durango Silverton Railroad. In operation since 1882, the original railroad is a must-do for any visitor to Durango. The station is located in downtown Durango, and the trip to Silverton and back takes several hours through beautiful mountain scenery. There are busing options if you prefer a shorter ride.

Durango Hot Springs. Formerly Trimble Hot Springs, this is a great place to stop if you are looking to relax on your Durango vacation.

Animas Museum. If you are a history buff, and want to know about the history of the Durango area, this local museum is for you.

5 Family-Friendly Activities

Biking. A paved biking and walking trail follows the Animas River for miles. Any one of the local bike shops can provide you with enough bikes for your whole family.

Vallecito Lake. This beautiful lake and resort area is located less than 40 minutes from Durango. Try boating, paddle boarding, fishing, hiking and more. Lots to do with the whole family.

Mesa Verde National Park. One of many National Parks in Colorado, this park is home to the preserved cliff dwellings and archeological sites of the Ancestral Pueblo people. The history is intriguing, the cliff dwellings are fascinating, and the views are breathtaking. Some of the climbing and walking may be difficult for young children, so come prepared.

Purgatory Resort. With adventure attractions in the summer and skiing in the winter, this resort is hard to beat. There is something for every member of your family.

Fort Lewis College Scenic View. Just a short drive from downtown Durango, the view from this local college is hard to beat. Seeing the city from up high is magical. Take a picnic and enjoy the views. To get there, take 8th Ave. to Rim Drive. 

5 Great Places to Stay

Blue Lake Ranch. A bit pricey, but worth it for the luxurious accommodations and delicious gourmet breakfast every morning. Located on 200 secluded acres, this bed and breakfast is a top pick for a romantic getaway.

Historic Strater Hotel. Open since 1887, this is Durango’s historic and iconic hotel located downtown. Although updated with modern amenities, if you want to experience Durango in its early days, this is your place to be.

Comfort Inn and Suites Durango. This is one of the best value hotels in Durango, highly rated with a pool, free breakfast, and more. This is a great hotel for your family vacation.

Best Western-Mountain Shadows. This is another great value hotel located on the north end of Durango. My husband and I stayed here when we visited Durango. The accommodations are clean, comfortable, and modern. Our favorite things about this hotel are the local coffee and the pool.

Pine River Lodge. If you are looking for a large space to host your family, Pine River Lodge (located on Vallecito Lake) has many large and small cabins for rent. This is the perfect spot to stay for both its outdoor adventures and its short drive.

Great Eateries

Michel’s Corner Crepes. This permanent food trailer is located in a downtown plaza. The crepes—both savory and sweet—are creative and delicious. Relaxing outdoor seating.

Zia Taqueria. Rated best tacos in Durango. There is something on the menu for everyone.

Fired Up Pizzeria. Who doesn’t love a good pizza place? As lovers of pizza, my husband and I enjoyed the food here immensely.

Steamworks Brewing Company. Rated a top restaurant in Durango. Family-friendly, and well known for their delicious food and local brews. Enjoy!