Want to get a feel of the authentic Old West? The small town of Durango, Colorado, ticks the box! Located near the New Mexico border, the southwestern town is one of the state’s most underrated destinations. For history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike, no trip to Colorado is complete without checking out all the best things to do in Durango, CO.
From world-class skiing in winter to spectacular hiking in summer, you’ll find year-round activities to enjoy in Durango. Visit ancient ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park and explore the San Juan National Forest. Take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad through breathtaking mountain scenery. Explore the rich history of the town in the charming historic downtown district.
Outdoor adventures & sports, cultural attractions, and a deep-rooted history make Durango one of Colorado’s hottest spots to visit. Plan out your vacation to this exciting town with this detailed guide to the best places to visit in Durango, CO!
Must-see places to visit in Durango, CO
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Your first stop in Durango should be the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum. The Denver & Rio Grande Railway founded Durango in 1879. The museum offers visitors a unique way to learn about the rich history of the town.
Operating out of the original 1882 train depot, the museum boasts an eclectic mix of objects that tell the story of Durango. Stroll around the museum, take in antique cars, and farm equipment, covered wagons, and a solar-powered car. Get an up-close view of the engineer’s cab of a steam engine.
For an extraordinary history lesson, hop on a vintage steam locomotive and take a spectacularly scenic ride through Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Relive Durango’s history as the train steams along the Animas River from Durango to the old mining town of Silverton.
Pinkerton Hot Springs
A visit to the other-worldly wonder of Pinkerton Hot Springs is a must! Located a few miles out of town on Highway 550, the springs seep out of a multi-colored rock pile structure on the side of the road. While the colorful and eye-catching formation makes for an interesting photo op, the history of the springs is just as colorful.
Dairy farmer James Harvey Pinkerton discovered the springs in the 1800s. He decided to transform the natural phenomenon into a travel destination. Pinkerton built a resort with a spring-filled swimming pool that visitors believed had miraculous healing powers.
The resort sadly burned down, and in the 1920s, the remains were used as a speakeasy. Today, the Colorado Timberline Academy occupies the land. All that remains of the Pinkerton Hot Springs is a multi-hued conical rock formation fed by the trickle of water.
Oxbow Park and Preserve
When it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors, there’s no better spot to do this around Durango than Oxbow Park and Preserve. Meandering along the banks of Animas River, the 44-acre park is a beautifully preserved wildlife habitat with scenic views.
The riverfront reserve is home to over 85 bird species and large mammals like bobcats, elk, deer, and foxes. Wander along walking paths wind through the riparian habitat. Keep an eye out for blue heron rookeries and hunting bald eagles.
Relax on the lovely beach or enjoy boating or fishing on the river. You’ll find plenty of parking and picnic tables in shady spots along the banks of the river. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours surrounded by nature.
True to its name, Purgatory Resort is most definitely a place to cleanse your soul. Nestled amongst glaciers in the rugged San Juan Mountains, this beautiful nook of Colorado is an outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise.
Just 25 miles north of Downtown Durango, Purgatory Resort is a year-round playground. Winter offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the state, with over 1,360 acres of skiable terrain for all levels. The plethora of hiking trails is ideal for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
When the snow melts, more hiking trails open for exploring the rocky foothills of the San Juan Mountains. Head to the Mountain Bike Park for some good times in the dirt, or test your skating skills on the half-mile Alpine Slide. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, brave the Inferno Mountain Coaster with over 4,000 feet of heart-stopping twists and turns.
Mesa Verde National Park
Step into the world of the Ancestral Pueblo people at the Mesa Verde National Park, where you can explore the rich cultural heritage of 26 pueblos and tribes. A little over an hour away from Durango, the park is home to well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings that give a fascinating window into the past.
Stop at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum to gain a deeper understanding of the history of the Pueblo people. Learn how they built thriving communities on the cliffs of Mesa Verde for over 700 years. Explore the dwellings at Mesa Verde National PArk on a guided tour and climb right into them via connecting ladders.
If you prefer your feet to be on the ground, you can view the dwellings from nearby lookouts. Drive along the Mesa Top Loop Road to see an array of archaeological sites and breathtaking views over the canyon. Stretch your legs with a short hike on the Petroglyph Point Trail to see some amazing rock carvings.
San Juan National Forest
Another one of Durango’s natural playgrounds is the magnificent San Juan National Forest. Located just north of the city, the 1.8 million square miles of forested terrain offers an array of outdoor adventures year-round.
Fast-flowing rivers winding their way through the dense tracts of ponderosa pines are ideal for river rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. Hiking and mountain trails wind through the San Juan National Forest, offering endless opportunities for exploring. Swap your hiking boots for cross-country skis or a snowmobile when the snow begins, and revel in a winter wonderland.
You can also take in the incredible beauty of this wilderness area on a drive along the San Juan Scenic Byway. If you prefer heading off-road, switch into 4×4 mode and hit the many Forest Service Roads that crisscross the woods.
Durango Botanic Gardens
Take some time out at the Durango Botanic Gardens. Surrounding the Durango Public Library just off the River Trail, the Durango Botanic Gardens is a peaceful place to spend a few hours relaxing.
The arboretum features a series of themed gardens, including a Crevice Garden with bare-root plants and a Demonstration Garden with different growing zones. Wander around the Literary Garden with its interesting erudite themes and water conservation ideas.
Enjoy a picnic on the grassy banks of the river and soak up the beauty around you. Enjoy free private volunteer-led tours on Saturdays.
Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa
When it’s time for a bit of pampering, venture over to the Durango Hot Springs Resort + Spa. Situated eight miles north of downtown Durango, the luxury spa resort offers a range of therapeutic treatments.
Soak in one of 26 natural mineral hot springs soaking pools where the water is infused with nanometer and micro-meter oxygen bubbles for added health benefits. Luxuriate in a private Japanese-inspired cedar soaking tub or enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience at the mineral water rain tower.
Other amenities at the Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa include a cold plunge pool, a resort-style swimming pool, and a reflexology walking path. You can also enjoy a full complement of spa treatments. Come out feeling refreshed, revived, and re-energized.
11th Street Station
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience on your Durango getaway, head down to 11th Street Station on Main Avenue. This one-of-a-kind gourmand go-to brings Durango’s diverse food trucks together under one roof. You’ll find a fantastic selection of cuisine, from sliders and salads to Asian fusion and wood-fired pizza.
Once home to auto repair shops and fuel stations, 11th Street Station has been transformed into a foodie haven. In a nod to the past, the original service station now houses Ernie’s Bar, where you can enjoy a variety of drinks from craft brews to coffee.
Several food trucks surround Ernie’s Bar and offer a laid-back and relaxed spot in an industrial-chic setting for a casual meal.
Four Leaves Winery
Sample some of Colorado’s finest wines at the Four Leaves Winery. Located on Main Avenue in the heart of historic downtown Durango, the locally-owned winery offers a new concept in wine production.
The highest quality grapes are imported by the winery, fermented, and blended on-site. On your visit to Four Leaves Winery, you can relax at the bar and watch the wines being blended in front of you. You can try your hand at winemaking and create a custom blend under the guidance of the winery staff.
Personalize your wine with handmade labels and enjoy a bottling party with friends where your creation is the star of the show! Or simply relax in the tasting room and enjoy some of the winery’s finest wines, from classic Pinot Noir to a peach Chardonnay.
Durango Arts Center
Discover the town’s creative side at the Durango Arts Center. The center hosts contemporary visual and performing arts through dynamic exhibits of works by established and emerging artists. The multi-faceted hub for community arts also promotes education of the arts and hosts the annual Durango Autumn Arts Festival.
Enjoy a range of arts and culture at the Durango Arts Center, from exhibits and lectures to film screenings and theatre performances. Explore the center’s several exhibit spaces displaying artworks by local, regional, and national artists. Join a workshop and release your inner creativity.
The Durango Arts Center Theatre program presents several major productions annually, ranging from family and holiday shows to adult contemporary plays. If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss the children’s follies event during the annual Snowdown Festival.
Steamworks Brewing Company
Colorado is famous for its craft brew creations, and there’s no better place to sample some of the state’s top tipple than at the Steamworks Brewing Company. Established years ago, the iconic brewpub produces a variety of high-quality beer styles, from Pale Ale to Pilsner.
Housed in a hip, warehouse-like space on East 2nd Avenue, Steamworks Brewing Company has something for every beer drinker on the spectrum. Try the classic Flagship IPA and the whimsical Killer Cucumber Ale for something different!
Enjoy a tour of the microbrewery followed by a tasting in the laid-back tasting room. Pair your brews with plates of comfort pub-grub and Southwestern fare while you watch a game with the locals.
Durango Adventures and Zipline Tours
Zipping through the sky, splashing in white water waves, and scrambling in the dirt are just some of the exhilarating adventures offered by Durango Adventures and Zipline Tours.
A mile west of downtown Durango, the adventure center boasts 12 ziplines stretching through the Ponderosa Pines with majestic mountain views. Hit the 45-foot-tall adventure tower for a climbing challenge, or try your hand at axe-throwing.
The park is crisscrossed with hiking and mountain biking trails and rough-riding off-road ATV tracks if you want to get down and dirty.
Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen
For a hearty, delicious meal in a cozy, laid-back setting, head to Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen on Main Avenue. Set in a beautiful old 19th-century building, the contemporary restaurant serves made-from-scratch Southwestern and Mediterranean cuisine.
Book a curved designer booth for a romantic meal for two, or sit at the community Chef’s counter and enjoy your meal in the company of fellow diners. Reserve a table on the outdoor patio for an alfresco-dining experience under the stars.
Enjoy a handcrafted specialty cocktail or a glass of bubbles at the elegant 35-foot curved bar before or after dinner.
The Powerhouse Science Center & TinkerLab
Spend a day with the family exploring and discovering the power of science at The Powerhouse Science Center & TinkerLab. Housed in a historical old power plant, the center is packed with fascinating exhibits and interactive displays, immersive activities, and educational programs for all ages.
Once the Durango Light and Power Company building, a former steam-driven power plant dating back to 1892, is an exhibit and wondrous to walk around. Check out the life-sized solar-powered tree that’s connected to a 20-inch 3-D globe.
Explore the evolution of the guitar and a rare glimpse inside the lives of wolves at the Living with Wolves photographic exhibit. Gear up with the Science of Bikes and discover how bikes work and discover what living, breathing dinosaurs were really like at Dinosaur Discoveries: Ancient Fossils, New Ideas.
Soak up the spectacular beauty of the San Juan Mountains and the historic towns that call the region home on the San Juan Skyway. The famous 235-mile loop drive winds its way through spectacular mountain scenery and past old mining towns with exhilarating twists and turns and steep drop-offs.
A loop byway, the San Juan Skyway passes through precipitous mountain passes and sheer gorges, historic mountain towns, and breathtaking scenery. Stop in the old mining town of Silverton and take a tour of the Old Hundred Gold Mine.
Soak in the natural hot springs in Ouray, the ‘Little Switzerland of America,’ and marvel at the 365-foot waterfall overlooking Telluride. Explore ancient archaeological sites in the Canyons of the Ancients near Cortez.
Durango Joes Coffee
Before heading off on the San Juan Skyway, get your morning java kick at Durango Joes Coffee. The locally owned coffee chain serves freshly roasted fair-trade coffee and specialty sips like the decadent Toasted Macadamia Nut Latte.
Choose from an array of delicious breakfast bites like fresh pastries, Danishes, and scones to pair with your coffee, or grab a sandwich or breakfast burrito to fill the gap.
Need your java to go? Head to the North Drive Thru café on Main Avenue for a super-fast fix.