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hiking death in durango
Durango, Colorado

Things to do in Durango

The town of Durango is found where the mighty Animas River spills out of the San Juan Mountains. It’s a tourist destination, college town, and all-around great place to live for those who enjoy the outdoors, great restaurants, and a thriving craft beer scene. The town is surrounded by bluffs and mesas that offer convenient hiking and biking trails, and the Animas River runs through the heart of town, a popular waterway for fishing and floating through town after the spring melt-off has subsided. Try the Animas River Trail, Chapman Hill Trail, and Animas Mountain Trail for hiking and biking right from town. Visitors can also explore the desert attractions to the southwest, including Mesa Verde National Park, with its famous cliffside ruins that are more than 1,000 years old.

But it’s the San Juan National Forest, 1.8 million acres of some of Colorado’s most rugged and remote mountains, that attracts most visitors. And there are many ways to enjoy it. Passenger car drivers can travel U.S. Highway 550 north to Silverton and Ouray through the “American Alps.” Or you can take the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a historic steam train that penetrates the mountains where no cars can go, stopping in Silverton before returning to Durango.

On foot or horseback is the only way to explore the area’s greatest natural attraction, the Weminuche Wilderness. A hiker’s ticket from the train to get dropped off is the easiest way to access Colorado’s largest wilderness. Or you can start your hike at Vallecito Reservoir, a worthy camping, fishing and boating destination of its own about 25 miles northwest of town. Emerald Lake, the second-largest natural lake in Colorado, is 10 miles up the trail from here, a perfect overnight backpacking destination.

The mountains hold deep, deep snow in winter, and the area’s two ski areas help visitors enjoy that snow. Purgatory Resort, located 27 miles north of town, has terrain for every level of skier and rider, and tiny Hesperus Ski Area just outside of town is perfect for those just learning the sport. Durango is truly the town where you can choose your own adventure.