Best of the West in Durango, Colorado

Durango offers an amazing downtown, great food and a ride on a steam train.

Voted a finalist in Outside Magazine’s 2016 “Best Towns” category, Durango really lives up to its stellar reputation. Perched at 6,512 feet, this charming historic town has six craft breweries, one distillery and more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. It also has fantastic mountain biking and hiking trails.

But at its heart is the railroad. Founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Co. in 1880, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad attracts approximately 200,000 passengers per year. Find out why this is such a popular attraction by taking the nine-hour round-trip train excursion from Durango to the tiny, historic mining town of Silverton. Or if you have limited time, opt for the Skyway Tour, in which you ride the train one way and a bus the other.

Durango’s best-kept secret? You can access the longest zip line in North America by riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad with Soaring Tree Top Adventures based in Durango.

Get Special Mesa Verde Tickets in Durango

While in Durango, don’t miss driving to Mesa Verde National Park. To really see Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings, you need to buy tickets in person for the park’s ranger-led tours to Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House. Tickets are available up to 48 hours in advance. Skip park lines and buy your tickets at the Durango Welcome Center at 802 Main Avenue before you head to the park. Tickets are also available at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center located at the park.

Durango & Silverton Railroad by the Numbers

135Years of service
$300,000,000Worth of precious metals has been hauled by the train
10,000Gallons of water is used each trip
12,000Pounds of hand-shoveled coal used each trip
1882Year tracks to Silverton were completed

Source: Durango Area Tourism Office; Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce

Train Destination: Silverton

A mix of artisans, outdoor enthusiasts and athletes, Silverton is home to North America’s most extreme, ungroomed, guided heli-skiing area.

But in the late 1800s, it was a booming mining town. Experience what it was like to be a miner by riding a vintage electric-powered mining train one-third of a mile into the heart of 13,000-foot-high Galena Mountain. Not for the claustrophobic, the tour lasts 50 minutes. Afterwards, pan for copper, silver and gold outside.

Silverton is the only surviving town in San Juan County. As mining towns died, “we literally picked up houses and buildings and brought them to Silverton, including my home,” says DeAnne Gallegos of the town’s chamber of commerce.

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