Explore the Southwest Region of Colorado
While visiting the over 40 independent crafted beverage producers in our area, be sure to take some time to explore the diverse scenery and rich attractions of this beautiful part of the state.
Durango: The Base Camp for Thirsty Travelers
Durango is nestled in the Southwestern foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the Animas River Valley, surrounded by the San Juan National Forest. The Animas River runs through Durango and was originally named El Rio de las Animas Perdidas, or River of Lost Souls. The Animas River boasts gold medal fly fishing waters, and is very popular for whitewater rafting, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding. Durango is also popular for outdoor recreation including hiking, mountain biking, road biking, backpacking, rock climbing, hunting, off-roading, golf and more.
With more than 200 restaurants, shops and galleries, downtown Durango is brimming with character and vitality. Where Victorian architecture meets Old West charm, visitors will find the vibe of downtown Durango to be friendly and comfortable. Check out the several historic hotels, award-winning independent restaurants, and nationally acclaimed art galleries. Live entertainment and special events rock downtown Durango almost every weekend. From film festivals, to Celtic and bluegrass music festivals, downtown Durango is a hub of artistic, music, retail and dining activity. Be prepared to spend each moment of your evenings entertained!
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Whether in Silverton or Durango, board the famous coal-fired, steam-powered Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and take a ride back in history. The railroad was first built primarily to haul both gold and silver mine ores from the San Juan Mountains, although passengers have long since been the only cargo to enjoy this beautiful journey. The trip follows the Animas River through deep canyons boasting spectacular scenery only visible from the train.
While in the area, consider a stop at Purgatory Resort, approximately 30 minutes north of Durango. Purgatory, or “Purg” as the locals affectionately call it, offers extensive winter ski and snow experiences from November to April, and numerous summer activities from May through September. A drive up to Purgatory puts you in the center of breathtaking scenery and mountain vistas, no matter the season. From Purgatory, you can continue on to the mountain passes of Coal Bank and Molas.
Million Dollar Highway
Head north from Purgatory and pause at the roadside rest area on top of Molas Pass to take in the scenery. From here you can see the vast Weminuche Wilderness, the largest wilderness in Colorado at 499,771 acres, where three fourteeners of the San Juan Mountains (Mount Eolus, Sunlight Peak & Windom Peak) can be seen. The air in this impressive area has earned the distinction of being the cleanest in the nation, and the area includes many lakes and hiking trails. From here, you can continue on to the secluded former mining town of Silverton.
The section of highway between Silverton and Ouray is known as the Million Dollar Highway and is one of the most scenic and spectacular mountain drives in North America. This famous section of the San Juan Skyway winds through the iron-colored Red Mountains, along the sheer sides of the Uncompahgre Gorge, through tunnels and past cascading waterfalls. Expect a drive time of about 45 minutes from Silverton to Ouray, and a total drive time of nearly two hours from Durango to Ouray.
Durango is the perfect gateway to the three World Heritage sites of Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon and Aztec Ruins. The Mesa Verde Visitor Center is a 35-minute drive west on Hwy 160 from Durango. Mesa Verde protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. Its well-preserved sites give a rare glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived here from AD 600 to 1300.
Located approximately 2 ½ hours from Durango in Northwestern New Mexico, Chaco Canyon features a number of impressive Ancestral Pueblo structures. Take a guided tour or explore this International Dark Sky Park via hiking or biking trails.
Aztec Ruins, just a short 45 minute drive south of Durango, features a 900 year old Ancestral Pueblo Great House with over 400 rooms. Explore the ruins, where you can even see the original timbers holding up the roof.
Surrounded by beautiful National Forest lands, Vallecito Lake is a secluded mountain lake located just 18 miles from Durango. In the summer enjoy boating, fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, and horseback riding, and in the winter a groomed Nordic trail system provides a great place to cross country ski.
Trimble Hot Springs
Take a quick 10 minute drive north to Trimble Spa & Natural Hot Springs for some rest and relaxation! Soak in their mineral-rich, naturally heated waters with a beautiful view of the surrounding Animas Valley, or enjoy a massage or spa treatment, complete with all day access to the hot springs.
Don't Forget to Add These Must-See Locations to Your Itinerary
Take the Million Dollar Highway:
Take Highway 550 north out of Durango and into the heart of the San Juan Mountains. As you travel along the San Juan Skyway, don't miss:
- Silverton: One hour from Durango, the town of Silverton was founded in 1874 and is now a National Historic Landmark. Be sure to check out the newly renovated Grand Imperial Hotel, as well as the elaborate Victorian architecture of the town’s former gambling halls and saloons.
- The Million Dollar Highway: This stretch of the San Juan Skyway (Highway 550 North) is one of the most scenic mountain drives in North America. Wind your way through beautiful scenery along sheer mountain cliffs.
- Ouray: Known as the “Switzerland of America,” most of Ouray’s buildings were built between 1880 and 1900, and the entire town is a National Historic District. Here you’ll find spectacular waterfalls and year-round hot springs, first used by the Ute Indians for spiritual and medicinal purposes.
- Ridgway: A quiet Western town at the base of Mt. Sneffels, one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks, Ridgway offers access to the backcountry from Owl Creek Pass and Dallas Divide, as well as a State Park & Reservoir and year-round activities.
Continue along the San Juan Skyway:
Continue to follow the path of the San Juan Skyway via CO Hwy 145, and be sure to check out:
- Telluride: Surrounded by some of Colorado's most rugged peaks, Telluride features endless outdoor activities and world-renowned events. Be sure to stop and take the free gondola ride to Mountain Village, Telluride's cosmopolitan neighbor.
- Dolores: Settlement in the Dolores River Valley began in the 1870s. The Galloping Goose Historical Society Museum in Dolores is located in a replica of the town’s original railroad depot. Be sure to grab a photo of the “Galloping Goose,” which is part train, part bus, and part car. Dolores is also the home to McPhee Reservoir, the second largest body of water in Colorado.
- Cortez: Home to the spring that once provided water for Navajo sheep in this area, Cortez is near the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and just north of the Four Corners Monument, where one can stand in four states at once – Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Visit the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez Cultural Center, and various art galleries.
- Mancos: Nestled in the beautiful Mancos Valley, Mancos is only six miles from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park and offers spectacular mountain views throughout all four seasons. Mancos is an active community for outdoor adventurers, with a diverse arts community and a vibrant downtown, all while retaining its rich Old West heritage.
To the South of Durango:
Take Highway 160 east from Durango, turning south on CO 172. As you pass through beautiful Southwestern Colorado farmlands, be sure to visit:
- Ignacio: Ignacio is a tri-ethnic community of about 800 people nestled in the southeast corner of La Plata County alongside the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The Southern Ute Tribe, a descendant of two of the seven original Ute tribes that inhabited Colorado, is headquartered just north of Ignacio, but its reservation spans more than 680,000 acres.
- Navajo Lake State Park: A short drive from Ignacio is Navajo Lake State Park, Colorado’s answer to Lake Powell. Navajo Reservoir’s surface totals 15,600 acres, 3,000 of which are in Colorado, while the rest lie in New Mexico. Enjoy boating, fishing, camping, sailing, and other water sports at this year-round park.
To the East of Durango:
Take Highway 160 east from Durango, stopping along the way to visit:
- Bayfield: This classic rural Colorado community has a four-season climate that averages some 300 days of sunshine a year. Just off Highway 160 is the original historic downtown Bayfield. Explore Mill Street, featuring Old Western style architecture, friendly locals, and interesting shops.
- Pagosa Springs: Pagosa Springs is located in the Colorado Sunbelt, just 35 miles north of the New Mexico border and along the Western slope of the Continental Divide. The combination of high-desert plateau and Rocky Mountains creates an unusually mild climate. Downtown is walkable, and provides easy access to riverside amenities. Soak in Pagosa’s 23 hot spring pools, fed by the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring. Pagosa Springs has long been touted as the largest and hottest natural mineral outflow in the world, and the “Great Pagosah” hot spring is often coveted for its healing and restorative qualities.
- Chimney Rock National Monument: Recently designated a National Monument, Chimney Rock covers seven square miles and preserves 200 ancient homes and ceremonial buildings. Explore structures such as the Great Kiva and Great House Pueblo, at the highest in elevation of all the Chacoan sites. Open mid-May through September.