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Visit Durango, Colorado

There are bucket list travel hopes and then there are dream destinations... places that you've wanted to visit since the first time you heard that they existed. For us, Durango, Colorado and its historic 1880s Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad were at the top of the list of our dream destinations.

So this week we are excited to take you along for our first visit to amazing, beautiful and historic Durango, Colorado.

Buckle up, y'all... there's a lot more to Durango than we ever expected!

Hearthside Grove

A Brief History of Durango CO

Like nearby Mesa Verde National Park and neighboring Cortez, Colorado, the Durango area and La Plata County was home to Ancestral Puebloan people until their migration south somewhere around 1300 AD.

Two hundred years later, the hunter-gatherer Utes arrived. They were likely attracted to the area by the natural resources of the surrounding mountains and fertile Animas River Valley, as well as the elk, deer and other game that came here for the same reasons.

The first Anglo-American settlement in what is now the Durango area was slightly north of modern-day downtown Durango. Animas City was founded on the banks of the Animas River in 1876 (the same year that Colorado achieved statehood) as a basecamp town for prospecting gold and silver miners. The fertile land gave rise to successful agriculture and the town looked primed to boom until the railroad skipped Animas City to build the town of Durango just 2 miles south.

1880 saw the establishment of the town of Durango as the new town to support local mining operations. It is said that the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Company bought plots of land under different names to avoid paying higher prices that may have been charged if land owners had realized that they were planning to build a railroad town. The railroad was built to transport gold, silver and other minerals from the mining operations in the San Juan Mountains.

Watching the Durango Train
The Train! The Train!

The Durango Silverton train began operations in 1881, completely bypassing Animas City. Industry and tourism followed by the turn of the twentieth century. And in 1948 Animas City was officially annexed into Durango.

How Did Durango, Colorado Get Its Name?

The former territorial governor of Colorado, AC Hunt, happened to be traveling through Durango, Mexico around the time that the railroad was establishing the new town and history reports that the topography of the Mexican town reminded him of the landscapes the new town in Colorado.

By the way, Durango is based on a word meaning "town by the water", which is appropriate since the Animas River flows through here.

Fun Things to Do in Durango, Colorado

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - The number one tourist attraction in Durango and the reason for our visit. The Durango and Silverton railroad has been a popular passenger train experience since the completion of the rail line between Durango and Silverton in 1882! No trip to Durango is complete without a ride on this historic railroad.

Mesa Verde National Park - While this fascinating historical, cultural national park is not IN Durango, it sits only 36 miles west of the town. This makes Durango (along with Cortez CO to the west of the park) a perfect basecamp for exploring the hikes, museums, scenic drives and ranger programs in the national park.

The Durango Farmers Market - This seasonal weekly market is a fantastic source of local produce and meat. As back in the 1800s, this area is still an agricultural power house producing amazing fresh local food. You'll find the farmers market just a block or so off of Main Avenue in historic downtown Durango.

Old Hundred Gold Mine - Unfortunately, we missed this during our visit in October (it had just closed for the season during our stay). This 1872 Silverton mine welcomes visitors during the summer.

Bar D Chuckwagon Supper - A seasonal Old West chuckwagon supper with an outdoor music and comedy show. This is another attraction we hope to catch on our next visit to Durango.

Checking the Train Schedule
Checking the Train Schedule

Have a drink, meal or snack at one of the many unique restaurants, breweries or historic hotels (we're looking at you Strater Hotel and General Palmer Hotel!) in downtown Durango.

Enjoy a rafting tour of the Animas River or a Jeep Tour of the San Juan National Forest or the ghost towns of La Plata Canyon via one of several local outfitters.

Relax in the natural hot springs of the Durango Hot Springs Resort.

Free Things to Do in Durango CO

Animas Museum - This free community museum is housed in the early 1900s schoolhouse from the town of Animas City. Be sure to set aside several hours to explore all three stories of this very well done historical tour.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum - Another free museum that shares local history, you'll find the Durango and Silverton railroad museum in the back of the Durango train depot. It is home to not only railroad exhibits and history, but also military, automobile, and local stories plus, the first airplane in Durango.

Durango State Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Museum - Colorado's oldest state-owned fish hatchery is open to the public year round. The accompanying wildlife museum is open seasonally during the summer.

Enjoy the architecture of the historic buildings, unique shops, art galleries, Mom/Pop restaurants, breweries and more as you stroll through historic downtown Durango.

Take in a parade or festival! We were lucky to be in town during the Durango Cowboy Gathering Parade, the largest non-motorized parade in Colorado.

Enjoy a bike ride or walk on the Animas River Trail, running alongside the Animas River into town.

Take a self-guided walking tour of historic Durango.

Take a drive on the scenic San Juan Skyway.

Scenic Drives Near Durango, Colorado

This entire area is a scenic drive! But if you'd like to spend a day enjoying more of the landscapes, consider these drives...

Places to Eat in Durango CO

During our visit to Durango, we enjoyed meals at...

Serious Texas BBQ (owned by Texans... this is the real deal, y'all!)

Fired Up Pizzeria

Diamond Belle Saloon

Steamworks Brewing Company


Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (their original location!)

Lone Spur Cafe (unfortunately, the Lone Spur has closed)

We would also like to try...

Durango Diner

11th Street Station

Oscar's Cafe

Eating Our Way Through Durango
Eating Our Way Through Durango
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Tips for Visiting Durango, Colorado

Start your visit at the Durango Welcome Center on Main Avenue (Durango's Main Street). This is a great source of information for attractions in the city of Durango and the surrounding area.

Plan for a variety of weather. Our visit during late September / early October brought cool weather with some sunny days and several days of rain. Be prepared with layered clothes and good walking shoes for exploring.

Metered parking is available downtown. We had no trouble finding parking during our visit, but summer might be a bit more challenging. The Durango Silverton train excursion has a parking lot next to the train depot. We recommend paying for parking when you order your train tickets online for faster parking.

If you have children or grandchildren traveling with you, check out the Powerhouse Science Center.

While everything is open during the summer months, we really enjoyed our fall visit to Durango. We did miss a few seasonal attractions, but it was nice to be able to explore without crowds.

In the winter, skiiers may want to check out the Purgatory Ski Resort.

Durango Welcome Center
Durango Welcome Center

Where is Durango, Colorado?

You'll find Durango in Southwest Colorado at the intersections of US Highways 160 and 550. This Western Slope mountain town sits just outside of the Colorado Plateau.

What Makes Durango CO Special?

The scenic beauty and railroad history of Durango is matched by it's love for food. Locals say Durango has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco!

Like Moab UT, Durango CO is a small town and travel destination all rolled into one must-visit location. Outdoorsy adventurers, nature lovers, history buffs, railroad enthusiasts and foodies will love spending time here.

Our Basecamp for This Visit

πŸ“ United Campground of Durango, 1322 Animas View Drive, Durango, CO

For More Information on Visiting Durango, Colorado

Check out the Visit Durango Colorado website for upcoming events and more fun things to do in Durango.

Durango CO Fun Facts

Approximate Population




Year Founded


Average Summer Temperatures

43Β° - 87Β°

Average Winter Temperatures

11Β° - 46Β°

Geographic Area

5.6 square miles

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A Few Photos from Our Visit to Durango

Campground View from the Train
Campground View from the Train
Bike Powered Juice at Farmers Market
Bike Powered Juice at Farmers Market
Cowboy Gathering Parade
Cowboy Gathering Parade
The Animas Museum
The Animas Museum
Real Texas BBQ!
Real Texas BBQ!
Metered Street Parking
Metered Street Parking
Durango Railroad Museum
Durango Railroad Museum
Campground Dust Prevention
Campground Dust Prevention
Double Rainbow Over Durango
Double Rainbow Over Durango
Diamond Belle Saloon
Diamond Belle Saloon
Cowboy Sculpture
Cowboy Sculpture
A Bit of Houston in Durango
A Bit of Houston in Durango

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Tom and Stacie

Tom and Stacie Langland
"RV America Y'all"

Hey y'all! We are Native Texans and (since 2018) Full-Time RVers sharing the adventures, challenges, and joys of RV life as we travel. We love camping and hiking in State and National Parks, discovering history, visiting interesting and quirky places, and exploring small towns. We're on a mission to experience life, not just live it with our dog, Star, and our cat, Astro. You can also find us on our original RV travel website, Thanks for joining us as we RV America Y'all!

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