Fall in Durango is in full swing. Our San Juan National Forest has transformed into a fortress of red, yellow, orange, and gold. If you’re not here already, now is the perfect time to hop in the car and explore the fairytale world of southwestern Colorado and Durango.
Plan to make your visit the experience of a lifetime by venturing beyond the beaten path. Between the hikes and bicycle rides, trust a local to provide the ultimate unique perspective on how to see our beautiful slice of southwestern paradise.
Here are eight unique ways to explore Colorado's fall colors this year:
#8 Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Gain a bird’s-eye view of the golden aspens hugging the Animas River from the basket of a hot air balloon. Soaring Sports in Durango offers shared, private, and tethered balloon rides for guests of all ages. Since the best conditions for flying are usually in the quiet morning and evening hours, prepare to bundle up and settle in for a magical hour high above the city lights.
Don’t forget your camera, because your journey to a maximum altitude of 3,000 feet can be spent with all of your closest family and friends. The largest basket will hold up to 16 guests, while the 4-person basket offers a more romantic, intimate experience.
Every year, this three-day event paints the skies above Durango with a rainbow of balloon colors. There will be a mass ascensions each morning, as well as balloon glows every night. These oversized lanterns light up the town and always bring our little community even closer together. It will truly be a remarkable sight to see!
#7 Hop Aboard the Historic Durango Train to the Pumpkin Patch
As if there is ever a wrong time to travel by historic train, fall season provides the perfect excuse to experience Durango as it was 100 years ago. Your trip will pass through Hermosa Valley, a haven for elk activity, and climb up into the higher regions of the National Forest around the Cascade Canyon, where you’re guaranteed the best of the best fall colors.
For an even more fun experience the entire family can enjoy, hop aboard the train to the one and only Pumpkin Patch to meet Charlie Brown and the Gang. The Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch Express is an ongoing adventure this fall and a well-established Durango tradition. Ranked as one of the top #5 things to do in fall, make our favorite tradition part of your own family.
3. Let the Dogs Lead the Way
Even our four-legged locals know the most direct routes to the aspen groves. There’s no need to wait for snow to mush through the San Juan National Forest. Thanks to Gretchen and Gregg at the Durango Dog Ranch, their professional sled dog team has been outfitted for fall. From Purgatory, Hesperus, or Silverton, you and your friends can ride a dog-driven scooter or ATV through the trails. Expect a fast, exciting pace and prepare for lots of howls, belly laughs and ear-to-ear smiles.
4. Join a Team of Local Photographers
If it’s your job to capture the best of the best fall colors, you better believe you know the most stunning, winding roads, spectacular mountain backdrops, and autumnal aspen groves. If you’ve toured any of the art galleries in town, chances are there is a scene that caught your eye. Ask your favorite photographer about their workshop schedule and plan for an early-morning adventure. Scenic Aperture, Nature Revealed, and even Mesa Verde National Park each offer workshops to enjoy a unique perspective on nature.
5. Follow the Horse Trail
There’s nothing like the smell of a working ranch in fall. The crisp, calm air and the the foggy breath of a horse is therapeutic to the soul. From the back of a horse, you can spend all day exploring every corner and crevice of our National Forest. Trot through the aspens and climb above the treeline with reliable two-legged and four-legged guides.
If the saddle isn’t your style, you’ll find romantic carriage rides in town, at Purgatory Mountain, and at many of the working ranches around Durango. Looking for a thrill to complement the spooky halloween season? Join the Haunted Horseman in town for a 45-minute historical carriage ride around town.
6. Ride the Inferno Mountain Coaster
Purgatory Mountain Resort’s newest attraction, the Inferno Mountain Coaster, can reach speeds up to 25 miles per hour, if you’re prepared. Buckle up on this 4,000 ft long stomach-dropping adventure that features 9 switchbacks, one 360-degree loop, and a 300 ft vertical drop. Strap that GoPro to your helmet to capture lake views, our soon-to-be snow-capped peaks and of course, those beautiful fall colors.
7. Zip Through the Trees
After floating through the sky and blazing through the forest, plan to zip through the trees with Zipline Durango. You can take 6 or 12 ziplines, depending on which tour you choose, flying from tower to tower with new, exotic views at every turn.
8. Celebrate Colors at Your Table
What better way to enjoy fall colors than to present them at your table? Visit the Fall Farmers Market to collect a bounty of fresh, in-season, local produce. Collect pumpkins, squash, bell peppers, and spices to create your own warm, hyggeligt dish at home. Even if you don’t want to work in the kitchen, you can still plan to join a local Harvest Dinner around town. While the 3rd Annual Harvest Dinner has passed, James Ranch will continue to host Harvest Grill events as long as the season permits.