Durango is found in the Animas Valley, located in the southwestern part of Colorado and is surrounded by the San Juan Mountains which is part of the Rocky Mountains. Not only is Durango surrounded by some of most beautifully dramatic mountains in Colorado, the majority of the mountains and forests are on public land as part of the San Juan Nation Forest which covers almost 2 million acres of land! We also have semi-arid desert a few hours drive to both the south and the west of Durango. These areas are full of Native American ruins including the Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients. Within Durango and the surrounding mountains, remnants of the not so distant mining history can be found including old ghost-towns, abandoned mines, and Durango's very own Narrow Gauge Train that is a historic steam locomotive. As far as water sports go, the Animas River runs through the heart of town attracting, kayaking, rafting, and fly fishermen with it's gold-medal waters. The winter months are dominated with downhill skiing and snowboarding at resorts that routinely see more inches of snowfall than the rest of the state. So if you enjoy outdoor adventures Durango is the perfect playground!
Durango, Colorado: The Basics•Elevation: 6,512 feet•Population: Over 15,000 people•Major Highways in DurangooUS Highway 550▪North to Silverton, Colorado▪South to Farmington, New MexicooUS Highway 160▪East to Pagosa Springs, Colorado▪West to Cortez, Colorado•Denver to Durango = 340 miles or 7 hours•Important Phone NumbersoDurango Police: (970)-385-2900oRoad Conditions: (822)-315-7623oDurango Airport: (970)-382-6050oRegional Hospital: (970)-247-4311oCo. Parks & Wildlife: (970)-247-0855oPublic Land Center: (970)-247-4874
from the CAIC
San Juan National Forest“In my humble opinion the greatest thing about this area happens to be the vast amount of public land offered from the San Juan National Forest (Kelly S.).” Finding an area with THIS much open land, that is available for public enjoyment, is an extremely rare thing anywhere on the planet. Not to mention, it is also in part of the Rockies that contains some of the most breath-taking and steep mountains in the United States! “A land of endless mountains... NO other range in the contiguous United States contains as much land above 10,00 feet as do the San Juan Mountains (Borneman and Lyndon1992).” Located in the southwest corner of Colorado, San Juan National Forest covers over 1.8 million acres of land. Almost any outdoor activity you can think of can be done through the majority of the Forest, from bicycling to camping to fishing to skiing and much much more!!!
Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge RailroadThe Durango to Silverton Railroad is responsible for putting Durango on the map in Colorado, quite literally. The Denver and Rio Grande Railway is responsible for the founding of Durango in 1880. The steam locomotive started hauling freight and passengers only 2 short years later (1882). The railway was constructed for the primary purpose of transporting mining ores such as gold and silver. But even then, at its birth, the Narrow Gauge Train was also valued and promoted as a scenic route for passengers. Today the Durango to Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad offers passengers a spectacular scenic ride through the San Juan Mountains from Durango to Silverton, providing year-round trips. Not only can one marvel at the breath-taking scenery, but they can also embellish a trip into the not so distant past on this historical train. “The locomotives used to pull today’s train remain 100% coal-fired, steam-operated. The locomotives are 1923-25 vintage and are maintained in original condition (Durango & Silverton, 2012).” The train can also be use to access 14ers for hiking and the Animas river for rafting and kayaking.
Durango Mountain ResortLocated 26 miles north of Durango on Highway 550, Durango Mountain Resort is a four-season resort and is still known as “Purgatory” to the locals. During the peak season of the winter months this ski resort draws all skill levels for the downhill sports of both skiing and snowboarding. The resort has a total of 10 lifts and 1,360 acres of skiable terrain. The base elevation at Durango Mountain is at 8,793 feet and the summit is at 10,822 feet. This is a great resort for learning how to ski, over 20% of the runs are for beginners and over 50% of the runs are for intermediate. As skills advance the resort also offers some challenging runs with over 20% of them for advanced and the final 5% for experts. The annual snowfall is 260 inches (over 21 feet). For ticket information, opening and closing dates, rentals and much more visit Durango Mountain Resort. And don’t forget that there is a shuttle from Durango to the Resort for ease of transpiration.
Durango Mountain Resort
Historic Downtown DurangoThe roots of historic downtown Durango were originally established by Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company in 1881. The management of this company actually developed and laid out downtown Durango creating much of the structure you see today. Since the town of Durango originated due to the need for transporting mined gold and silver, the original economy revolved around the mining and agriculture. Durango grew with the mining boom of that era. By the late 1880s to early 1890s progress was becoming evident with an electric trolley for transportation on main street, electric street lights and the telephone. A 3 story sky scraper with an electric elevator was created in 1892, know as the Newman Building (800 Main) and a new 4 story grand hotel known as the Strater Hotel (699 Main) both of which are still major center pieces to the downtown scene today.
Mesa Verde National Park & More Ancient Ruins Mesa Verde is a National Park and World Heritage Site found in Southwestern Colorado protecting some of the best-preserved cliff dwelling ruins in the world. The park contains over 600 cliff dwellings and 4,000 archaeological sites. These ancient ruins were created by the Ancestral Pueblo people inhabiting the area over a thousand years ago. The park is 56 miles from Durango, making it roughly an 1 1/2 hour drive. Mesa Verde National Park attracts visitors on a global scale that come and marvel at the astonishing ancient architecture of the cliff dwellings including the well-known cliff palace. Mesa Verde is far from the only place to find ruins near Durango, in fact the oldest preserved mummy in all of North American was actually discovered only a few short miles from the city of Durango itself, along Falls Creek Trail. To the east of Durango, the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area has just become the nation’s newest national monument designated on September 12, 2012. Chimney Rock was also inhabited roughly a 1,000 years ago by the Ancestral Pueblo People. The ruins include over 200 buildings many of which line up perfectly with the natural rock formation for lunar events of the solstices and equinoxes. Canyons of the Ancients is another National Monument found near Durango, Colorado west of Mesa Verde. The park is managed by the BLM and covers an extremely large stretch of land (164,00 acres) with over 6,000 archaeological sites. The majority of the monument is free to access by hiking trail, see our Canyons of the Ancients Trail for more information. Because this monument covers a vast amount of land, first stopping at the Anasazi Heritage Center can be helpful for more information and maps.
Iron Horse Bicycle ClassicBoth bicycling and the Narrow Gauge train are both BIG deals in Durango, Colorado and have been for well over 100 years! The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is an event where cyclists race the Narrow Gauge Train from Durango to Siverton. This event began in 1972 when a group of 36 riders decided to race the train from Durango to Silverton to celebrate the train’s opening day for the season. Since that first race the Iron Horse has developed into an extremely popular spring event with several different types of bicycle races and events. If you enjoy bicycling in any way shape or form, this event has something to offer all! For registration to one of the many events and more information visit the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.
Music In the MountainsA classical music festival that lasts 3-weeks occurring every summer in July. This event draws musicians world-wide to preform and educate in the areas of orchestra, chamber, world music and conservatory. With an awe-inspiring natural setting, performances are found outside in the middle of the San Juan Mountain just North of Durango, Colorado at the Durango Mountain Resort. This one-of-a-kind event was born in 1987 thanks to Maestro Mischa Semanitzky who envisioned a classical music festival in Durango. Since it’s birth, the Music in the Mountains festival has grown every year. Many local and world renown musicians gather for this fantastic event, in fact Durango’s very own Katzin Music is involved with this event every year featuring their teacher’s in performances during the festival. For more information on the event and ticket information visit Music in the Mountains.
SnowdownWintertime in Durango is celebrated with an annual event called “Snowdown” and it has become very popular drawing people from all over the United States. Started in 1979 the theme-based celebration includes a parade, follies, and competitions that border on the insane. In the past there have been kayak races down ski slopes, mountain bike races down ski slopes, broom ball, slalom races, competitions between fire and police departments and much more. And don’t forget the silver bullet challenge! It’s an entertaining blast and now attracts people in the thousands. The theme for the coming year of 2013 is “Get Your Geek On.” For more information and registration please visit Snowdown.
Durango OktoberfestOktoberfest is an event that originated in Germany. There it is a 16-day festival celebrating beer held in late September through to the 1st Sunday in October and has been celebrated in Germany since 1810. The whole thing was first started over a wedding between King Ludwig I who was marrying Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12 of 1810 in Munich, Germany. Having several different breweries right here in Durango the concept of having a Durango Oktoberfest began in 2002 and has grown in popularity ever since. The Durango Oktoberfest occurs yearly in the month of September for a weekend of fun relaxation and of coarse don’t forget the BEER!!! For more information visit Durango Oktoberfest.For more outdoor events in the Durango, Colorado area please visit our events calendar!