At 9,318 feet, Silverton lives up to its nickname – the ‘heart of the high country.’
The area is the only incorporated town of San Juan County and houses about 600 year-round residents. Silverton was established in 1874 and rests inside a caldera. Miners locally found an abundance of gold, silver, and other rich minerals that lead to a boom of settlers who often came in via the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. There’s a long list of summer and winter adventures to be had in this town.
Here are some recommendations on what to do, see, and experience in Silverton.
Take your time driving the Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Highway 550) into town to catch some great views along the hairpin curves and steep drop-offs.
When you arrive in Silverton, look for the Ford Model T parked along the main road and swing into Handlebars Saloon. Its one-of-a-kind western décor is unforgettable and the restaurant is praised for its food.
Walk off your meal along the main strip and visit many of the small shops that specialize in antiques, pottery, train trinkets, and outdoor gear. If you’ve got time, visit the Harley Davidson shop.
While in Silverton, don’t miss the train museum, which is free to visit, to learn more about the locomotive that was built in 1882. The train runs just over 45 miles between Durango and Silverton (May through October) through the mountains, following a rushing river for an unforgettable experience. The winter route (November through May) is a little over 26 miles from Durango to the Cascade Station.
To keep the old-time wild-west feel, stay a night at the Grand Imperial Hotel. When it opened in 1883, the entire first floor housed the local Post Office, town bank, Bureau of Mines, General Store, doctor’s office and the Silverton Standard Newspaper. After the town-boom, the hotel was remodeled in 1951 and again in 2015, but still holds its Victorian charm.
The high country of Silverton sees massive amounts of snow each winter and there’s only one chair lift, but that doesn’t mean Silverton Mountain lacks adventure. Opt for a guided ski tour where you’re shown the freshest powder of the backcountry. Take the experience up a notch with a helicopter ride to the top of the mountain and ski back down.
Not in town for the snowy months? Explore the summer slopes with San Juan Backcountry rentals. Follow the old wagon roads in a rental jeep, ATV, or OHV to visit hidden waterfalls, old mining sites, wildflowers, and vast views of the high country.
Popular backcountry excursions are the Alpine Loop and the Ophir/Imogene Loop. You can book guided tours for off-roading, hiking, jeeping, horseback riding, and rafting. Give your Silverton adventure a sweet ending by visiting Smedley’s Ice Cream Parlor, which serves 16 options of flavors.