Visit Like a Local

Reminder: Make sure to be prepared when planning out your itinerary. Pack layers and get maps and information for any trails you plan on visiting.

For more information on any of the following activities, contact our Welcome Center staff or request a free travel planner.

 

Looking for something specific?
Use these links to navigate to the insider information you want to know!

Locals' Favorites   |   Local Tips   |   Responsible Tourism

 

Experience the Local Favorites

Events   |   Trails   |   Train   |   Restaurants   |   Water Activities   |   Winter Activities

Favorite Events:

No matter the season, there are always events that Durangoans anticipate for. Whether it’s Snowdown in the winter, Taste of Durango in the spring, Fiesta Days and the Fair in the summer, or Oktoberfest in the fall, each season brings locals together to enjoy the wonderful town of Durango. No matter what time of year you visit, you are bound to find an event that suits you!

Check out our full events calendar here, and learn more about some of our local favorites below.

Winter:

The Polar Express Train ride is fun for the entire family and kids of all ages. Everyone is encouraged to dress in PJs, sing favorite carols, and bring the story to life. Enjoy cookies, hot cocoa, and the story written by Chris Van Allsburg, narrated by Santa's helpers, all while on a magical journey to see Santa aboard a historic steam train. The Polar Express generally runs from mid-November to early January. Visit the Durango & Silverton Train's website for more information.

Snowdown, the original “Cabin Fever Reliever,” is a mainstay winter event and the locals’ way to beat those winter blues! Each year features a new and different crazy theme. For a true local experience, don your favorite costume, partake in the hilarious weekday events, and don't miss the light parade, held on the Friday evening of Snowdown. With many events throughout the week, both adults-only and family-friendly, everyone is bound to find something that suits them. Typically held the last weekend of January or first weekend of February. Visit snowdown.org for more information.

Spring:

The Peanuts Easter Beagle Express Train is the biggest kid-friendly event of the spring season. Meet Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang after taking a short train ride. For more information, click here.

A favorite spring event of both locals and visitors alike, the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown features a full weekend of world-class bluegrass music. With a full line-up of different events, including many family-friendly ones, downtown Durango comes alive with music in mid-April. Experience the Meltdown in true local fashion by grabbing a drink at the Diamond Belle Saloon and listening to the impromtu jam sessions taking place in the lobby of the Strater Hotel. 

Indulge in great food, delicious drinks, and lots of fun at the Taste of Durango! This unofficial summer kickoff has long been a top favorite event with the locals. As a visitor, this is the best way to mingle with locals and experience the best of Durango’s culinary scene in one place. Generally held in mid-May.

The Iron Horse Bike Race, which has been running every Memorial Day weekend since 1972, is a true Durango event you won't find anywhere else. You can watch other bikers or you yourself can race the train all the way to Silverton! Take a day trip to greet the cyclists at the finish line in Silverton and enjoy this historic mining town for an afternoon.

Summer:

Durango has long been a water town, and our locals love nothing more than a good day on the river! Animas River Days is a full celebration of our community’s love and appreciation for our local river. Watch as pro and amateur kayakers and rafters alike take on the rapids, or give them a ride yourself! Even if you aren’t into water sports you can watch from the river trail and cheer on your favorite team(s) or person(s) in surf/SUP competitions, raft rodeos, kayak slaloms, and more. Plus don’t miss a true local favorite: the Boat Parade. Typically held in early June; click here for more information.

For a true taste of Durango's Western heritage, don't miss Fiesta Days. This celebration features rodeos and a parade. For over 80 years, Fiesta Days has been an important element of Durango that celebrates Durango's past, while providing fun and entertainment during Durango's present! Generally held in mid-July.

Featuring a carnival, demolition derby, animal and craft exhibits, rodeos, and more, the La Plata County Fair, is a quintessential summer event like none other. The fair takes place for an entire week in mid-August, giving you plenty of time to see all you want (and maybe enough to circle back around for another peak at the bunnies)!

As the kids get ready to head back to school in late August, San Juan Brewfest gives the adults something else to look forward to! This adults-only event showcases the many local breweries in and around Durango. Paired with live local music, this is the perfect chance to try new brews or have more of your favorites!

Fall:

Oktoberfest serves up all of your favorite local brews from six local breweries. With food and activities for all ages, this is a great family-friendly event. Stop by and enjoy your favorite brews or non-alcoholic beverages while enjoying live music and games. Typically held in mid-October. Click here for more information. 

Celebrate the culture and heritage of the American cowboy at an event unlike any other. The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This multi-day event held in early October features evening performances by cowboy poets and songwriters. Plus, take in Durango’s only completely non-motorized parade.

The Peanuts™ Great Pumpkin Patch Express train ride is a go-to for kids of all ages to step into the fall and Halloween season. Take a short train ride to the pumpkin patch and enjoy all sorts of fall fun. You and your family will love the hayrides, pictures with the whole Peanuts™ gang, live music, and a corn maze where you can pick your own pumpkin to take home! Multiple train rides held throughout October. Click here for more information.

 

Favorite Hiking and Biking Trails:

Hiking, biking, and even horseback riding are more than just forms of transportation in Durango; they’re lifestyles! Enjoy these favorite activities of locals on any one of our number of trails.

Durango offers many stores to buy or rent gear, as well as designated places for bikers and trails filled with beautiful scenery. Even if something mellow is more your speed, the river trail is an easy, paved trail stretching seven miles right through town.

For other local trails, check out any of these options or visit Trails 2000 for interactive maps and more information.

  • Animas River Trail: Easy
    Spanning nearly 7 miles, this paved trail provides easy access to a variety of places in Durango.
  • Colorado Trail: Easy to Difficult
    Stretching almost 500 miles from Denver to Durango, the local section of this trail allows hikers to experience the beautiful scenery in a different way.
  • Engineer Mountain Trail: Moderate
    A popular hiking spot in the summertime, this trail is around 4 and a half miles round trip. Offering spectacular views of the Needles Mountains and Animas Valley, this trail has long been a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
  • Fort Lewis/Rim Drive Trail: Easy to Moderate
    Extending around 6 miles, this trail offers a great view of Durango, and is easy to access from right downtown.
  • Horse Gulch/Telegraph Trail: Easy to Difficult
    Varying in length, this trail system is great for people of all levels of experience. Users can also enjoy 360 views and open spaces at the top of the mesa.

The Train:

Ask a local if they have ever been on the train and chances are most of them will say they’ve rode it at least once (after all, how could you not?!).

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad travels from Durango to Silverton in the summer, and from Durango to Cascade Canyon in the winter. On the train ride you’ll see stunning scenery and mountains, some of which are only accessible by train.

Experience the trip of a lifetime onboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and be sure to read up on how to take a train into the heart of some of Colorado's most stunning mountains!

 

Favorite Restaurants:

To visit like a local, you’ll have to eat like a local! Which, in Durango, means enjoying delicious, unique food at any of our amazing restaurants. Not to mention all of the coffee shops in town. It's like the town runs on it (spoiler- it does!).

Most local favorites can be found on Main Avenue and even in the most hidden places, like the Steaming Bean Coffee Shop, tucked below the Irish Embassy bar. So when in Durango, make sure to visit some local restaurants and taste some really great, award-winning food.

Look for locals’ favorites specials, such as Burger Nights at The Palace Restaurant and Olde Tymers, or Taco Tuesday at Gazpachos, or any number of daily happy hour specials throughout town. See our tips of how and where to dine like a local in Durango, our most celebrated brunch destinations, or even our own Durango cocktail bucket list.
 

Favorite Lake & River Activities:

Durango locals spend a lot of time outside, particularly on the river and the various lakes that surround the area. In the late spring/early summer you’ll find locals readying their rafts and kayaks for spring runoff-- the time of year when snow melts and makes the river surge. Rafting at this time of year is fast and adrenaline-pumping, with exciting whitewater rapids. As the summer continues on, days will get hotter and the water will get lower, making for perfect tubing conditions! Look for many tubers and stand-up paddle boarders to dot the river in late July and early August; rent your own equipment and join in!

Our large number of flat water lakes also provide great avenues to enjoy the sun and water. Rent a boat or paddleboard at Vallecito LakeLemon Reservoir, or Durango's newest body of water, Lake Nighthorse, for a day on the water, or hike to any number of high-altitude lakes for clear, blue water and unparalleled views!

Winter Activities:

Besides all of the fun spring, summer, and fall bring to Durango, winter season is a perfect time to break out your skis and snowboards and head up to the mountains.

Durango has several different options for winter sports, including skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or sledding. If you don’t have gear or can’t bring it along, you can rent or buy gear from several stores in town. You can go to Purgatory Resort (or Purg, as the locals affectionately call it!), Hesperus, Wolf Creek, or Chapman Hill.



 

Follow These Locals’ Tips

Mind the Parking Meters

  • Parking meters are enforced Monday-Friday, from 8am to 6pm
  • Parking is free at meters on weekends and on most holidays
  • Failure to pay your meter will result in a $25 parking ticket
  • No on-street parking is allowed in the Central Business District (downtown Durango) between 2am and 5am, and vehicles parked there between those hours will be towed at the owner's expense
  • Overnight parking is available at any of the municipal parking lots (Transit Center or along 2nd Avenue). Day parking passes are also available for these lots, and can be purchased at the Durango Transit Center.

Local Lingo

Things are pronounced a little differently around here. Speak like the locals speak by following these easy guidelines!

  • We pronounce Florida (as in the river or road) as “Flor-EE-da,” not “Flor-id-UH”
  • Vallecito is pronounced  “Vigh-SEE-do,” not “VAL-uh-sit-oh”
  • The Strater Hotel is pronounced “STRAY-tuhr,” not “Strah-DER” or “STRAT-Ler”
  • Our neighbor to the north, Ouray, is pronounced “YOUR-ray” not “OO-ray”

Dress Like a Local

  • Be prepared for drastic changes in weather. Always, and during any month.
  • Dress in layers and no matter what month or season it is, and always pack for both warm and cold weather (this applies to all outdoor activities you plan on doing).
  • It’s not unusual for us to have 70 degree days in March and 40 degree days in late May. Even in the summer, when things are predictably warm everyday, temperatures can dip 20-30 degrees at night.
  • Be prepared to see locals wearing shorts, flip flops, and a heavy fleece sweater!

Driving

  • Don’t use your phone while driving. The law prohibits texting and driving in Colorado.
  • If you do need to use your phone, pull over, have a passenger use the phone, or use a hands-free system (available in most newer vehicles)
  • Respect cyclists by giving them 3 feet of space between them and your car. Remember that in Colorado, cyclists sometimes have designated bike zones near car lanes.
  • During bad weather conditions, slow down or pull over.
  • If you’re driving over a mountain pass, remember proper etiquette requires that those going slower stay in the right lane to allow other cars to pass.
  • If you need to take a mountain descent much slower than the speed limit, turn on your hazard lights while you descend.
  • If you see something interesting, pull completely over on the side of the road before stopping to take pictures.
  • Be prepared! Many areas around Durango might have limited or patchy cell phone service.
  • Durango is a small town, and as such can become congested with limited parking. Commute the Durango way, and walk, ride a bike, or ride the trolley to get from place to place in town.

Off-Roading

  • Be prepared for getting stuck or emergencies
  • Pack for overnight (just in case), and make sure to have an emergency kit in the car.
  • A lot of Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management roads don’t have cell service
  • Learn what roads are open or closed for what activity you plan on doing

Travel and Lodging

  • When booking your hotel, make sure to look up events during your stay. During some of the bigger events it can be a little harder to book the room or hotel of your choice.
  • Try traveling during the shoulder seasons (November-April) for the best rooms at the cheapest rates (plus, you'll get to see a new season of Durango!)

 

Practice Responsible Tourism

Hiking & Biking   |   Transportation   |   Camping

Hiking & Biking

1. Leave no trace!

  • Pick up your trash
  • Scoop the poop- don’t leave your dog’s poop on the trail or out in the open. Be sure to use a plastic bag to scoop it up and dispose of it in a trashcan.
  • Leave the trails the same (or better) than they were before you got there.

2. Don’t hike/bike alone

  • Even if you know your way around the area it's best to grab a map and tell a friend where you are going and when you plan to get back.

3. Go in a group

  • If you aren’t good at navigating your way around even with a map, then go with a group. This way, if you get hurt you aren’t stranded alone.
  • Even if you go in a group, still grab a map and tell someone where you are going and when you plan on being back.

4. Stick to the trails

  • Although it is tempting to go off the beaten path, help us keep our beautiful scenery beautiful by staying on the trail.
  • It isn’t safe to go off the trails, even in an area that you are familiar with.
  • Going off-trail can disturb the natural environment for wildlife and plant life.

5. A lot of USFS/BLM roads don’t have cell service

  • So again, make sure to grab a map and tell someone where you are headed and when you plan to be back (this goes for camping as well!)

6. Be sure to pay any applicable use fees at a pay station, or take advantage of free admission days to any National Park/Monument or Forest Service area.

7. Bring snacks, plenty of water, a change of clothes, a first aid kit, and a blanket.

 

Transportation

1. Without a vehicle

  • Biking is popular in Durango, and there are many places to rent a bike for a day or two.
  • Walking gives you an opportunity to see Durango from a different point of view, and also cuts down on traffic and emissions.

2. The Trolley

  • You can park in the Transit Center lot and use the Trolley as a way to get around town
  • You can either pay for a pass or pay a dollar each time you get on (make sure to ask the driver for a transfer token if you are switching from one bus to another at a stop-- this saves on money)

3. Local transportation services

 

Camping

1. Just like hiking and biking, leave no trace.

  • Make sure to pick up trash and scoop the poop.
  • Be sure to follow all posted fire warnings and be aware of any fire restrictions.

2. Be prepared to have limited cell service

3. Bring tarps or canopies

  • These can serve as shade as well as shelter in frequent summer rainstorms.

4. Bring sleeping bags that are rated for low temperatures

5. Bring excess supplies

  • If you plan on 4-wheeling during your camping trip or using a propane grill, bring extra gas or propane just in case
  • Pack enough food, water, and clothes for a couple more days than you plan on staying; it is better to have excess than not enough.

6. Know your area

  • Some campgrounds are designated for RVs or campers and others are just for tents
  • Depending on where you are, you might need a pass or permit. Be sure to pay any applicable use fees at a pay station.
  • Some places could also be restricted at times so always check ahead of time to make sure your campground is open and accessible.
  • If you are camping in a dispersed area, be sure to use an impacted campsite.

7. Register at fee stations and campgrounds

8. Know current restrictions

  • Be sure to check current fire danger and always keep your fire in a fire pit or ring.
  • Forest fires can start quickly in dry conditions; be safe and smart with your fire!
  • Make sure certain areas are open to the public or to RVs or off road vehicles