Located in the southwestern corner of Colorado, Durango’s springtime comes earlier than most of the mountain towns of Colorado. As the skiers and riders take their last turns at Purgatory, the spring brings budding trees, blooming flowers, warm temperatures, fewer tourists and plenty of friendly locals. Here are 15 ideas for a springtime getaway in Durango, Colorado: www.durango.org
1. Ride the Train. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, in operation for more than a century, is one of the most unique and intimate ways to explore the area. Daily rides to Cascade Canyon reveal blooming spring trees and flowers and then the beauty of the majestic San Juan’s as the train climbs out of the valley. For the family, on April 4th, Peanuts™ The Easter Beagle Express offers Easter-themed crafts, stories, music, games and refreshments. For the adults, the 2015 Blues Train, May 29th and 30th is the chance to enjoy the blues, your favorite beer or wine and the beautiful scenery of the San Juan National Forest as the train winds onto “The Highline,” a world-famous section of railroad crawling along cliffs high above the Animas River. Regular service to Silverton begins on May 2, 2015.
2. Go for a Hike. The Durango area harbors thousands of miles of incredible hiking trails with stunning natural beauty. Spring showcases the bright green of the trees and grasses along with the early budding of summer wildflowers on hikes that can be as diverse and magnificent as the landscape around the area. For quick, convenient hikes, there are numerous easy to moderate trails within the town limits of Durango including the Animas River Trail. To the west, the mighty San Juan Mountains feature panoramic views, colorful meadows and bountiful wildlife. Less than an hour south from your base in Durango, you can also find desert hikes with ancient Anasazi ruins. With more than 300 miles of trails within 30 minutes of downtown, Durango is a hub for a multitude of activity styles, skill levels and user types. Trails 2000, a local non-profit, has a mission to plan, build and maintain trails, educate trail users and encourage connectivity on road, path, and trail. Trails 2000 works on trails year ‘round and the website has detailed descriptions of trails and trail conditions.
3. Take a Drive. The San Juan Skyway, a Scenic and Historic Byway, loops from Durango to Telluride to Mesa Verde National Park and back to Durango. This 236-mile loop, snakes through the woods in the shadow of 14,000 foot peaks, contains the “Million Dollar Highway” segment from Ouray to Silverton and is referred to as one of the most scenic drives in America.
4. Liquid Entrepreneurs. Durango is home to more than six craft breweries; the latest addition to the Durango craft brewing family, The Animas Brewing Company, opened its doors in January. Situated on the Animas River, the Brewing Company offers a variety of flavorful craft beer and compliments it with a spin on comfort food. Try Durango’s other award-winning breweries that feature unique beers complemented by great food in festive settings. Ska features a 100% wind-powered brewery and Container Restaurant. Carver Brewing Company is one of the pioneers of craft brewing in the area. Brew Pub and Kitchen won Durango’s People’s Choice Award for a Brewery and Restaurant. The Durango Brewing Company is one of the oldest breweries in Durango and the third oldest microbrewery in Colorado. And finally, Steamworks, the town meeting place, features regionally raised meats and sustainable seafood paired with award-winning ales and lagers in a family friendly environment.
5. Wine-ing Welcomed. The Southwest is quickly becoming a destination wine country of Colorado. Fox Fire Farms is home to “wines of distinction”. Growing their own French-American hybrid varieties of grapes that have been cultivated to withstand low temperatures, producing moderately priced wines. Starting May 29, every Friday night is an evening of music, food and wine at Fox Fire Farms. Regionally, Sutcliffe Vineyards named in “America’s 500 Best Wine Producers” by Food and Wine Magazine, has 36 beautiful acres of Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot grapes nestled at the foot of the Sleeping Ute Mountain in Southwestern Colorado. In downtown Durango, across the street from the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Depot, Four Leaves Winery will create a blend of wine to suit your personal palate and then customize the label at a bottling party.
The ultimate wine and culinary adventure this spring is in downtown Durango. The 9th Annual Durango Wine Experience, April 23-25, is three days of educational seminars, wine dinners and unique tastings featuring hundreds of wineries, artisan spirits and craft beers.
6. New “Spirits” of the West—Durango’s first grain-to-glass distillery since Prohibition, Durango Craft Spirits Distillery & Tasting Room brings Durango’s vibrant history into the tasting room. Cocktails featuring “Soiled Dove” Vodka. The Soiled Doves of Durango, aka known as Ladies of the Night, contributed greatly to the founding of Durango. This new mainstay on Main Avenue brings new light to the great history of the area through cocktails with a historic twist.
7. Two-wheeled Fun. Whether you like the mountains or the road, cycle-centric Durango is a two-wheeled capitol. The warm southern climate allows many of the mountain bike trails to open in early spring. Road cycling junkies find miles of county roads winding though the valley floor or up steep mountain passes. The 44th Annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is a weekend packed with two-wheeled entertainment. This western cycling classic draws cyclists from near and far to race the train to Silverton for the main event. Criterions, circuit races, tours, BMX races and mountain bike races make Memorial Day weekend cycle-centric.
8. Celebrate the Animas River. Animas River Days is in its 33rd year of weekend river fun, May 28-31. One of Colorado’s premier whitewater festival boasts a full-length world-class slalom course, kayak and inflatable rodeos, SUP Slalom, Boatercross, Dog Fetching contests (on land and in the river), Dog Trick contest, tug-o-war, the Smelter Smackdown raft spring, the River Parade (complete with costumes), Ska beer garden, live music and much, much more. Local whitewater films kick off this annual summer kickoff event.
9. Drop a Line. Spring fishing in Durango begins with the Duranglers Fly Fishing Festival April 3-4. From May through July the Gold Medal Waters of the Animas River are a haven for the caddis hatch. The emergence of caddis flies provides a spring bonus of protein for brown and rainbow trout that have wintered in a state of near hibernation and awaken with a ravenous appetite. For anglers, the hatch, on one of the last free-flowing undiverted rivers of the West, brings some of the first dry fly fishing of the spring.
10. Giddy-up! Explore the real west on horseback. Rapp Corral named “Top Trail Ride” by True West Magazine offers all levels of riding in the labyrinth of trails within the San Juan National Forest. Rivers, creeks, lupine meadows, natural water caves or historic mines and old wagon roads all open up in springtime. There is no better way to experience Colorado. The ultimate western adventure in Durango is the Train and Trail ride with San Juan Sky Outfitters. Leave Durango on the steam train bound for Silverton with a lunch stop at Elk Park in the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Views of more than 20 different mountain peaks and a 60-foot waterfall as you ride to the top of Molas Pass. A shuttle will then take you into Silverton to board the last train back to Durango. Check this off of your bucket list this spring!!
11. Whitewater Adventures and then Some. Colorado rafting season begins in mid-April with the highest and swiftest whitewater occurring May through June. Melting snowpack makes for adrenaline-filled rafting adventures. Raft trips can be combined with jeep tours, ziplining, train rides or kayaking with outfitters like Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Trail Tours. Or try to walk on water with a stand up paddleboard (SUP). The possibilities are endless!
12. Spring Meltdown. April 17-19, the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown rocks in downtown Durango. The national line-up includes Balsam Range, Shawn Camp, the Special Consensus and more. Enjoy bluegrass jam sessions or an old-time family barn dance. Every night in Durango, throughout the spring, the streets are alive with the sound of music! Local bars, restaurants, breweries and coffee shops host musicians from all over the country.
13. Shop ‘til You Drop. With more than 550 stores in the Durango area; chic boutiques, Western hats, southwestern jewelry, t-shirts, housewares, sporting equipment, antiques, art galleries, bookstores and much more. The specialty stores and boutiques are clustered on Main Avenue in the downtown area.
14. Eat Local. Durango’s food scene continues to set new standards. The unique and independently owned establishments embrace the “Old West” and Victorian heritage, as well as contemporary culinary trends and techniques. Using local and regionally raised and grown ingredients, many menus tell exactly where your meal came from. From locally raised beef to produce grown in the restaurant’s own gardens, the award-winning and diverse restaurants have something for every palate. May 9th is the first Saturday for the season of the Durango Farmers Market. From 8 am until noon in the First National Bank parking lot on 8th Street, this vibrant community market features healthy local produce along with wellness products including herbs, candles, honey, wool, farm-stand cheese and much more. All products at the market have been made or grown in the Four Corners region.
15. History is our Backyard. Spring is a great time to retrace the footsteps of the Ancestral Puebloans in nearby Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Newly designated Chimney Rock National Monument, Four Corners National Monument, Southern Ute Cultural Center and Hovenweep National Monument are all easily accessible from Durango.
About the Durango Area Tourism Office
The Durango Area Tourism Office is a not for profit organization operating with the mission to promote Durango and La Plata County’s multitude of tourism attractions, events and services. 1-800-525-8855, www.durango.org Like us at “visitdurango” on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.