14 Cool and Unique Things To Do in Durango Colorado

If you’re looking for a great place to go any time of year, look no further than Durango, Colorado. This great town in southwestern Colorado near the New Mexico border has something to offer everyone, no matter what season it is.

You can enjoy snowboarding and skiing in the winter at the nearby slopes. In the summer, you can explore the beautiful mountains and rivers that Durango is known for. There are many great restaurants and shops in town, so you’ll never run out of things to do in Durango.

#1 Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is one of the fun things to do in DurangoPin
Source: Paddle About

The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a historic train line from Durango to Silverton, Colorado. The line was built in 1882 and was initially used to transport silver and gold miners to and from the mines in Silverton.

Today, the train is used by tourists who want to see the beautiful scenery of the San Juan Mountains.

Various train routes span all seasons, so there are opportunities all year. You will see snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, and towering bridges.

The historic train makes its way through the spectacular scenery of the Animas River Gorge, providing passengers with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, including deer, elk, and even bighorn sheep.

The popular Scenic Round Trip Silverton Train route is about 9 hours long with a 2-hour layover in Silverton for sightseeing.

The Narrow Gauge Railroad is a unique thing to do in Durango and is a great way to see the surrounding area from a different perspective.

#2 Visit Purgatory Resort

Nestled in the mountains just outside of Durango, Purgatory Resort is the perfect place to enjoy some summer or winter fun.

In the summer, you can take chairlift rides or experience the Alpine Slide and Inferno Mountain Coaster, which winds through the forest, providing great views and a fantastic, fun ride.

For mountain bikers, the Purgatory Bike Park has lift-served mountain biking trails with miles and miles of trails to explore.

Purgatory transforms into a winter wonderland when the snow starts to fall and is an excellent place to ski or snowboard with family and friends. With 105 trails, there are trails for all skill levels.

For those looking for a little extra excitement, try your hand at snowmobiling with one of the many

tour operators in the area.

No matter what time of year you visit, Purgatory Resort has something fun to do.

#3 Durango Wildlife Museum and Fish Hatchery

The Durango Wildlife Museum is a great place to learn about the local wildlife. The museum has various exhibits showcasing the different animals that call Durango home.

The museum offers various educational programs that teach visitors the importance of conservation. The Durango Wildlife Museum is a great place to learn about the local wildlife and how to protect it.

#4 Go Ziplining

Ziplining is an excellent option for those looking for an exciting way to spend some time in Durango.

There are several zipline tours in the area that will take you through the stunning scenery of Durango. You can experience the excitement of zipping through the trees at high speeds while getting great views of the surrounding mountains.

There are plenty of zipline operators in the area. Durango Adventures and Zipline Tours or Soaring Tree Top Adventures are great options.

#5 Animas River Activities

Kayakers on the Animas River In Durango ColoradoPin
Source: Paddle About

Durango is a mecca for outdoor activities, and the Animas River is at the heart of it all. The Animas River is a great spot to enjoy a day or a weekend.

The river runs right through the heart of Durango and is a great place to cool off in the summer. There’s plenty to do, whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or just want to relax.

You can float down the river on a tube or raft, or if you’re feeling adventurous, try stand up paddle boarding (SUP) or kayaking. The river is also a great place to fish, and there’s nothing quite like casting a line in the early morning with the mountains in the background.

The cool thing is you can rent equipment from many local shops, or if you have your own SUP, kayak, or tube, you can launch from tons of different launch spots on the river.

If you’re looking to take it easy, there are plenty of spots along the river where you can sit back, relax, and take in the scenery.

#6 White Water Rafting

Whitewater rafting on the Lower Animas River in Durango, ColoradoPin
Source: Paddle About

Durango, Colorado, is home to some of the best white water rafting in the country. The Animas River offers both upper and lower sections, each with its own unique challenges.

The Upper Animas is more turbulent, making it an excellent choice for experienced rafters. The Lower Animas River is more family-friendly, with calm sections interspersed with mild rapids.

The Lower Animas River cuts right through the heart of Durango, and it’s a great way to see the town from a different perspective.

There are plenty of rafting companies in Durango, including Mountain Waters Rafting. They have affordable prices and experienced guides.

#7 Visit Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National ParkPin
Source: Paddle About

Mesa Verde National Park, located about 35 miles west of Durango, Colorado, is home to some incredible cliff dwellings. These cliff dwellings were built by the ancestral pueblo people and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.

The park offers a unique opportunity to see how these people lived and worked and to learn about their culture and traditions. Visitors can explore the cliff dwellings, hike through 30 miles of trails, and participate in ranger-led programs.

There is also an on-site museum (Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum) with exhibits about the history and archaeology of Mesa Verde.

If you are looking for cool things to do in Durango, Mesa Verde National Park is definitely worth a visit.

#8 Animas River Trail

Animas River TrailPin
Source: Paddle About

The Animas River Trail is a fantastic way to see the city and get some exercise all at the same time. The 9+ mile trail runs along the banks of the Animas River, so you can take in the scenic views while you walk, run, or ride your bike.

Walking or riding a bike on the trail and watching people fishing, tubing, and white water rafting on the river is fun. The trail is also a great place to spot wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and birds of prey. The Animas River Trail is open year-round.

There are access points throughout the town of Durango, so finding your way onto the trail is easy. You can also use the trail to explore different parts of the city.

If you’re looking for a great place to walk your dog, go for a jog, or just enjoy some fresh air, The Animas River Trail is an excellent way to experience Durango.

#9 San Juan Skyway Day Trips

Lake on the San Juan SkywayPin
Source: Paddle About

The San Juan Skyway is a true Colorado gem. This awe-inspiring stretch of road takes you through some of the most picturesque scenery in the state, with towering mountains (over 10,000 feet high), pristine streams, and fields of wildflowers. 

The highway is a roughly 230-mile long scenic route that winds through the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The drive offers incredible views of some of the most beautiful scenery in the state, and it is a popular destination for day trips and longer excursions.

Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride are all within easy reach and are worth exploring. The journey between them is an adventure in itself. I highly recommend taking the San Juan Skyway if you have the time. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

#10 Take a Trip to the Hot Springs

Durango is a great hot springs destination. Two locations in the area include Durango Hot Springs Resort and Spa, located a short drive north of Durango, and Pagosa Springs Hot Springs, located about an hour east of Durango.

Both hot springs offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and are perfect for relaxing after a long day of hiking or skiing. Durango Hot Springs also offers a variety of amenities, including spa services with massage options.

Located on the banks of the San Juan River, Pagosa Hot Springs is more developed, with hotel accommodations and spa and massage services.

If you’re looking for a unique way to relax and unwind, hot springs are definitely worth checking out, and Durango is the perfect place to do it.

A day at the local hot springs is the perfect place to unwind and soak up the magnificent scenery of southwest Colorado.

#11 Explore Fort Lewis College

As the only college in Durango, Colorado, Fort Lewis College is an obvious choice for those looking to explore everything the city offers. The college sits on a bluff overlooking downtown Durango, providing great views of the city and surrounding mountains.

With a variety of degree programs available, as well as a strong focus on outdoor recreation and adventure, Fort Lewis College is an ideal choice for those looking for an immersive collegiate experience.

The steep windy road leading up to the college is an experience in itself. If you are looking for something cool to do in Durango, Fort Lewis College is definitely worth a visit.

#12 Mountain Biking Trails

The San Juan Mountains offer some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, and there’s no better way to experience it than on two wheels.

Durango, Colorado, is a mecca for mountain bikers, with countless trails to explore. The singletrack routes wind through forests and open meadows, offering challenges for riders of all levels.

For those looking for a true adventure, the Colorado Trail at Junction Creek is a great spot for beginners and experienced riders.

Purgatory Resort and Horse Gulch have miles of trails for every skill level, making Durango a fantastic place for mountain biking.

#13 San Juan National Forest

River in the San Juan National ForestPin
Source: Paddle About

The San Juan National Forest is a wonderland for outdoor lovers, and Durango is the perfect base camp for exploring all it has to offer. Hiking trails wind through forests of aspen and pine, past waterfalls and wildflowers, providing incredible views of the surrounding mountains.

Campgrounds are tucked away in quiet corners of the forest, providing a perfect spot to relax after a long day of exploring. For those who want to cast a line, there are plenty of opportunities for fishing in the rivers and lakes in the forest.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Durango when the leaves change color, you’ll be treated to one of the most magnificent displays of nature’s beauty imaginable.

San Juan National Forest is a great place to explore if you are looking for fun things to do in Durango.

#14 Historic Downtown Durango

Historic Downtown Durango is an excellent place to explore, whether you’re looking for a new book, a bite to eat, or some new gear for your next adventure.

Gardenswartz Sporting Goods has been outfitting adventurers in the Four Corners area for years, and they’ve got everything you need for your next hiking, hunting, fishing, climbing, or camping trip.

Maria’s Bookshop is a local institution, and it’s the perfect place to browse for your next read. If you’re looking for a place to grab a bite, Steamworks Brewing Company is a must-visit. With an extensive menu of both beer and food, Steamworks has something for everyone. 

The thing that is really cool about downtown Durango is the number of cool specialty shops. It’s not filled with chain stores and all the typical stuff. So if you are looking for something unique, Durango is the place to find it.

One of the best things about downtown is the friendly folks from the Durango Welcome Center. Next time you visit Durango, don’t be spooked if you are approached by someone who offers to help you navigate. Seriously, this is the coolest thing. They gave us a map of downtown and didn’t even try to sell me anything :).

Conclusion

There are plenty of things to do in Durango, Colorado, no matter what time of year. So whether you’re a local or just visiting, check out some of these great attractions. You won’t be disappointed!

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.