Durango, founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1880 as a stop on a westward journey, enjoys its current reputation as a vacation destination. Its rich past and picture-perfect scenery attract visitors year-round to a historic downtown and neighboring ski resorts.
With nearly 7 square miles of area at over 6,500 feet in elevation, Durango’s Main Avenue includes the town’s oldest hotels, The General Palmer and The Strater Hotel, as well as a variety of shops, restaurants and bars. Durango visitors can enjoy strolling down the streets, stopping to enjoy food and drink at local eateries and viewing historic buildings. Durango attractions such as the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, which offers free tours, and the Ska Brewery, which hosts scheduled free weekend barbeques, offer tastes of the city’s distinctive flavors. Designated as a Nationally Registered Historic District, Downtown Durango offers glimpses of the past alongside modern conveniences.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a must-see Durango attraction. Originally constructed for transporting workers and supplies to the San Juan Mountain mines and hauling silver and gold to buyers, the rails now provide Durango visitors spectacular sightseeing in the San Juan Mountains National Forest. The rail line between Silverton and Durango has been in continuous use since 1881.
Durango’s proximity to the soaring San Juan Mountains draws winter sports enthusiasts to area ski resorts. Best known is Durango Mountain Resort, located 26 miles north of town. Formerly known as Purgatory Mountain, this resort offers 85 ski trails and 11 lifts, with a whopping average annual snowfall of 260 feet. Other nearby resorts include Cascade Village, Ski Hesperus, St. Paul Ski Lodge and Silverton Mountain. Durango visitors who are novice skiers can enjoy spending time working on skills and technique at Chapman Hill, the city's municipal ski area which includes an ice rink. Ski season runs from November through April. Those in Durango during the Snowdon Festival, annually held the last Friday in January or the first Friday in February, can watch a parade and nighttime fireworks.
During warm weather months, Durango becomes a mecca for cycling enthusiasts. More than 1,000 miles of bicycle trails loop in and around the city limits, making it a natural host for numerous cycling events including The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, an annual race that originated in 1973 and is now world-famous. Water enthusiasts can enjoy rafting, kayaking and fishing on the Animas River. Those who want to explore the expansive fields and try to spot local wildlife can purchase a ticket for a jeep tour.
Many Durango visitors travel just over 50 miles west to Mesa Verde National Park where the Anasazi civilization flourished for 700 years, from roughly 600 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Mesa Verde is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was designated as a national park in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. With more than 4,000 archaeological sites and over 600 cliff dwellings, it is home to some of the United States’ best-preserved artifacts.