Colorado's Wild Side
Jul 1, 2019 at 8:00 AM in Things to Do by
Colorado consistently ranks high as one of the fittest states in
the United States. The mountain towns score the highest. That includes Durango,
which although it’s not tucked in at the base of towering rocky peaks, its size
and character give it a distinctive Rocky Mountain town feel. And there’s no
doubt about it, most people live and visit here because they like being active
in the outdoors.
Traveling on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR) might not require you to burn many calories but its open railway cars definitely make for an outdoorsy experience. Built in the silver and gold rush crush of 1881 during the boomtown days of mining, a ride on this historic railroad offers dramatic views all the way up to the quaint little mining town of Silverton. Actually you might want to take the railroad’s air conditioned coach up the renowned Million Dollar Highway and the train back, since the great outdoors experience on the train involves becoming all sooted up–just like in the old days. For memorable musical fun on this world renowned railroad, take the Durango Blues Train, a soulful adventure put on by the founder of the famous Telluride Blues & Brews Festival.
The sometimes gnarly Animas River, which cuts through these parts, transforms into a water sports play land in spring, summer and fall. Whitewater rafting and kayaking will keep you exhilarated and cool in this hot, dry, southwestern Colorado climate. Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours offer a wide variety of rafting options as well as a boatload of excursions for landlubbers. Those in search of more tranquility will delight in the many fly fishing opportunities that await you just outside of town.
Ever hear of the Colorado Trail? It’s a 486-mile trail that runs from Durango to Denver. It crosses eight mountain ranges, seven national forests, six wilderness areas and five river systems. So you can bet there’s much recreation and nature to be savored there whether you’re biking, hiking, fishing, camping or leading in a pack animal. Yes, that’s what you do in this wonderful Western environment. There’s also a host of other trails from which to choose.
Durango, in fact, is one of the most Western-looking towns in Colorado. Many western movies were filmed here. Pop into The Rochester Hotel and saunter through their common areas to check out old movie posters and other memorabilia that illustrate the western-movie making history of the Four Corners area. In the summer, this charming hotel also puts on outdoor concerts in their courtyard.
Right about now you’re probably thinking you’d like to hop on a horse. Know that there’s a whole corral of outfitters that can arrange for you to do just that but please leave your cellphone at home–or at least on vibrate. Or, you can just sit back and take in the gorgeous scenery from a jeep tour.
Maybe you prefer bike riding. Whether you’re into mountain bike riding, road riding, or just a pedal on a cruiser around town, know that Durango, a cycling mecca, has everything you need to suit up for some great rides.
Coming in the winter? Boy, are you in for some epic skiing. Purgatory, a beloved family friendly resort, provides lots of kicks and giggles with their rolling terrain year-round. Those in search of a more rad skiing adventure must head up the road to Silverton. The region offers a bluster of possibilities for back country skiing, snow shoeing and nordic skiing. Be careful though because the mountains, which are part of the San Juan Range, rank among the steepest and most avalanche-prone in the world.
Those looking for a more gentle outdoor wintertime excursion, however, should be happy to learn that the D&SNGRR runs The Polar Express Train Ride during an extended holiday period. All aboard!