Embarking on a quest to uncover the best things to do in Durango, Colorado?
In this comprehensive guide, we've melded insights from locals and travelers to present you with a mosaic of experiences that define this remarkable place. While we've highlighted some must-visit spots, it's imperative to understand that these recommendations are shaped by personal opinions and experiences.
There are countless other wonderful places awaiting your discovery. Our goal isn't just to point you to the well-trodden paths, but to inspire you to explore and truly immerse yourself in the city's essence.
Go Paddling at the Upper Lemon Access of San Juan National Forest
I can never get enough of the quiet beauty of the Upper Lemon Access of San Juan National Forest.
It's one of those places that just invites you to breathe deeply, relax, and take in the beauty of undisturbed nature.
The first time I happened upon it, I was out for a day of kayaking, and it's been my favorite spot ever since.
You wouldn't believe how refreshing it is to kayak across Lemon Lake.
It's full again after the rains, and the water is as calm and as clear as ever.
You can see the fish darting below the surface.
The crowds are light, probably because not many people know about this gem yet.
The fishing is on point, too. Easy access to the lake means you can get right to the water's edge, bait your hook, and cast your line with little effort.
It's a peaceful pastime that never gets old.
But it's not just about the water activities at the Upper Lemon Access of San Juan National Forest. The surrounding scenery is just as enticing.
Pine trees line the reservoir, their fragrance mixing with the crisp mountain air.
There's a day-use parking area close to the northern end of the reservoir and the Florida River inlet, making it convenient for quick visits or whole-day trips.
Go Bouldering at the Thrills of Dalla Mountain Park
Every day in Durango is an adventure.
Dalla Mountain Park is among my favorite spots to explore in the area.
Imagine a labyrinth of trails stretching for miles, each one leading to new discoveries.
From bouldering and climbing areas to stunning panoramas at every turn, it's a paradise for those who thrive in the great outdoors.
I often take my dog with me - the park is very pet-friendly.
We love to wander around, the trails are clear and well-marked, so there's no fear of getting lost.
Dalla Mountain Park also connects to other notable hikes, including Animas Mountain.
Trust me, the breathtaking views are worth every step!
Apart from hiking, I often partake in mountain biking here.
I have to tell you, it has some of the best mountain bike trails around.
If you're new to the park, I recommend stopping by the visitor center in Durango for a Dalla Mountain Park trail map and other useful information.
You won't regret it!
And, if you're not much of an adventurer, just hanging out in the parking area is quiet and peaceful, offering a tranquil getaway from the city's hustle and bustle.
See the City in a Stunning Perspective at Scenic Aperture
It's hard to capture the beauty of the landscapes that surround our city of Durango, but one place that gets it right is Scenic Aperture.
It feels like a snug little secret, every corner filled with mesmerizing photographs of our regional landscapes, courtesy of our very own Frank Comisar.
My journey with Scenic Aperture started with one of their workshops - a whole new world opened up for me!
From the basics of photography to the nitty-gritty details of photo editing software, they guided me through it all.
What's more, their work at the gallery is not just limited to workshops.
There's a diverse range of stunning images to suit every budget.
Wildlife shots, landscapes of mountains and deserts, and even our city's beloved train - most of which were shot within an hour of Durango!
See Ancient Durango during Mesa Verde Tours
Whenever my out-of-town friends visit, my first recommendation is always Mesa Verde Tours.
And why wouldn't it be? We have these incredible cliff dwellings that are nothing short of breathtaking.
On a personal note, I remember a time when we had a summer storm rolling in.
The skies turned dark, and thunder rumbled in the distance.
Many folks might've turned back, but not us.
We decided to stick around, and the views were astonishing.
The rain slightly misting on the ancient structures gave it an ethereal, almost magical feel.
Although it's not a dog-friendly place, don't worry, you can still catch sight of the natural beauty from close by the road.
My partner and I used to take turns looking after our pup while the other would explore.
I'd suggest not skipping the Cliff Palace tour.
Seeing these ancient structures up close is a unique experience.
It's like stepping back in time and getting a glimpse of how the Ancestral Pueblo people lived hundreds of years ago.
The visitor center is also worth a mention.
It's well-maintained, and the bathrooms are always clean.
So, even if you're not here for the history, you'll certainly appreciate the facilities.
Hike Gudy's Rest
I've been living in Durango for the better part of my life, and Gudy's Rest has become my go-to place for escape.
Just under 4 miles from the trailhead, this place offers an astounding hiking experience that we locals cherish.
The path to Gudy's Rest is one of the most popular and heavily traveled sections of the Colorado Trail.
The vision that unfolds before your eyes as you ascend through the forested hills is beyond description.
The lush greenery spanning the landscape, especially during the third week of June after a few rainstorms, is a sight to behold.
The first half of the hike is a breeze, a joy for both seasoned hikers and beginners.
The trail becomes slightly more challenging after crossing a quaint bridge over a creek, but the slight difficulty only adds to the adventure.
And oh, the reward that awaits you at the end!
The panorama from Gudy's Rest is absolutely delicious.
The bench there is a perfect spot just to sit back and soak up the incredible views.
Whether you want to unwind after a busy week or seek a short yet fulfilling hiking adventure, Gudy's Rest is a solid recommendation.
What's more, it's a friendly spot for dogs too!
My canine companion loves the freedom of being off-leash here.
In all these years, we've never had any issues.
My dog and I can complete the hike in under 4 hours, including a few short breaks and a longer one at the top to admire the view.
Go Wine Tasting at Four Leaves Winery
Every now and then, I find myself drawn toward the allure of the Four Leaves Winery.
The charming bar seating and the inviting ambiance of this place have a unique way of making you feel like you've stepped into a different world.
One of the things I love about Four Leaves Winery is its array of various wines, including their custom batches.
Each sip is a journey that takes you across the different vineyards from where they source their grapes.
It's indeed fascinating how they transform these little orbs into a delightful concoction right on-site.
But there's more to this place than just the wine.
It is owned by a delightful couple who exude a warm, welcoming aura that makes you feel right at home.
It's like the cherry on top of the whole experience!
Embark on Exhilarating Adventures at Tico Time Adventure Tours and Zipline
Sometimes you just need to let go, spread your wings, and fly—and that’s exactly what you get to do at the Tico Time Adventure Tours and Zipline.
As someone who's been living here for years, I can attest to the fact that it's one of the best ways to experience the heart-stopping beauty of our city.
The day at Tico Time Adventure Tours and Zipline begins with the friendly staff helping you gear up for your epic adventure.
They're always on hand to ensure everything is secure and you feel comfortable before you take off.
And then you're catapulted into the air, zipping over the crystalline lake at thrilling speeds.
It's a rush of adrenaline that's hard to replicate.
The feeling of weightlessness, coupled with the stunning view below, is nothing short of breathtaking.
Once you touch down, there's more fun to be had.
The lake is the perfect spot for a refreshing dip or some water sports.
For those who want to keep their feet firmly on the ground, there's also plenty of space for a picnic or a leisurely walk along the shoreline.
It's a complete day out and perfect for families, friends, and solo adventurers alike.
In case you're worried about finding the place, don't be.
Have a Date Night at Durango Arts Center
I often find myself thinking, what would life be like without a dash of arts and culture?
Fortunately, I don't have to imagine that scenario, thanks to the Durango Arts Center.
Recently, I had the joy of attending a performance titled "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged."
The flyer caught my eye while dining out one evening, enticing me with the promise of an entertaining evening.
And it was no empty promise!
The performance was a hysterical whirlwind that had me laughing from the first act to the curtain call.
Imagine Shakespeare and football intertwined in a brilliantly comical performance!
The Durango Arts Center has this unique, intimate black box setting that I absolutely love.
It lends a certain charm to the performances, making each one feel personal and engaging.
And let's not forget the snacks and bar – a delightful addition to any evening of theatre!
While the viewing can get a bit crowded, given the smaller size of the venue, the quality of the productions more than makes up for it.
It's a bit like finding a hidden gem in the heart of Durango.
I eagerly look forward to my next visit, and I'm always excited to see what they'll host next.
Take on the Natural Beauty of Durango Botanic Gardens
Imagine taking a leisurely walk next to a calm river, surrounded by a variety of flowers and plants, occasionally spotting a chipmunk or two along the path.
That's my usual Saturday morning routine at the Durango Botanic Gardens.
The beauty of this place is heightened by its location - it wraps around our local library, right next to the Animas River.
Durango Botanic Gardens is a labor of love, with volunteers taking great care in weeding and pruning the plants.
If you're an early riser, you can see them tending to the greenery, their dedication evident in the well-maintained landscape.
What I particularly appreciate about the gardens is how it continues to grow and evolve.
Each section of the garden has its own charm, and I find myself constantly discovering something new.
The literary garden, for instance, is a delightful combination of nature and literature, with book quotes strewn around. It's like walking through a storybook.
Cycle through the Durango Trails
I have to tell you about the thrill of biking on Durango Trails.
It is my go-to for a quick escape into nature.
The trails offer a perfect blend of challenges for all levels of riders.
Whether you're a novice trying to get a handle on your new bike or an expert seeking an adrenaline rush on an enduro trail, Durango Trails has got you covered.
What I love about these trails is the gradual climbs that take you through beautiful scenery, followed by a fun flow trail that gives you an exhilarating ride down.
It's a fantastic way to enjoy a weekend or even an after-work ride.
And let's not forget about the incredible work done by Trails 2000.
This organization takes care of our local trails and regularly updates the trail conditions on their website.
It's not just about riding, though.
As a community member, it's amazing to see the effort put into keeping our trails in pristine condition.
And to be a part of something that contributes to the growth and vibrancy of Durango is a truly rewarding experience.
Volunteering some time to offer a helping hand in maintaining these trails is a great way to give back to the community and the trail system we all love and enjoy.
By keeping an eye on usage surveys, Trails 2000 ensures they understand the economic and strategic impact their work has on our area, thus contributing towards Durango's future growth.
Learn Local History at the Animas Museum
One sunny afternoon, I found myself walking down the familiar streets of my city towards a place I've always held dear - the Animas Museum.
As I stepped inside the grand building, formerly an early 20th-century city school, I was instantly immersed in an ocean of local history.
The intricate exhibits, ranging from antique artifacts to historical documents, provided a profound insight into our city's past that no textbook could ever rival.
The museum is not just a visual delight; it's a treasure trove of knowledge.
The staff, always eager to share, seemed like walking encyclopedias with a fascinating wealth of information about every exhibit.
They never failed to add depth and context to the subjects at hand, enhancing my understanding and appreciation of our local heritage.
A particular highlight of my visit was the research library.
It's an invaluable resource for anyone, whether you are a history enthusiast, a student doing a school project, or just someone with a curious mind.
It houses an extensive collection of books, documents, and photographs that serve as a testament to our city's evolution and the people who have shaped it.
My visit to the Animas Museum was more than just a casual stroll down memory lane; it was an immersive and enriching experience that brought me closer to the roots of my city.
Even after spending over an hour there, I found myself yearning to return and explore more of what it has to offer.
The museum is not just a place to visit; it's a place to experience, learn, and appreciate our collective past.
Delve into History and Culture at the Center of Southwest Studies
Ever have one of those afternoons where you just want to lose yourself in a bit of history and culture? Well, I often have, and the best place to do so is right on our doorstep.
The Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College is my sanctuary.
The Center might not be the biggest museum you've ever seen, but its compact size is part of its charm.
It's like a treasure box brimming with exceptional pieces, each one spotlighting a unique aspect of our Southwest culture and history.
The exhibits evolve throughout the year, ensuring there's always something new to explore or learn about.
One of my favorite things to do is to visit between classes with my partner. It's our little escape from the hustle and bustle of college life. The rotating exhibits always pique our interest and spark in-depth discussions, and the best part is, it's absolutely free!
Tucked away on the north end of Fort Lewis College, the Center is a peaceful retreat away from the crowded downtown Durango.
Center of Southwest Studies is more than just a museum; it's a window providing panoramic views of our beautiful Durango and the mountains.
A perfect spot for families or anyone who appreciates a good view paired with a good learning experience.
Have Fun Getting Fit at Durango Community Recreation Center
Living in Durango, there's one place I frequently visit to break a sweat and have some fun: the Durango Community Recreation Center.
It's my go-to spot for keeping myself fit and entertained. I've always been a fan of their fitness classes, they're simply fantastic!
With a wide array of different classes to choose from, there's something for everyone, no matter what your fitness level is.
The daily pass is an affordable $7.5, which is well worth the price considering the top-notch services they provide.
The center has every facility you could ever wish for in a gym.
From a swimming pool to a climbing wall, cardio, and weights, they have it all.
I often think this kind of recreation center should be available in every city, promoting fitness and fun, all in one place.
One of the highlights of Durango Community Recreation Center is undoubtedly their aquatic center.
They recently added new play equipment for kids, which is absolutely wonderful.
The water is just the right temperature, and there's a lazy river for those who want to relax.
The water slide is a real thrill, and not just for youngsters, I must admit I enjoy it too!
They even have a sizable hot tub that feels heavenly after a long day.
The family changing rooms equipped with showers make the center even more family-friendly.
When my boys were younger, I used to appreciate the life jackets they provided for kids, which is a safety feature not all places consider.
Even now, with my boys at 5 and 7, it's our favorite place to be, especially in winter.
The pool area at the Durango recreation center is a paradise for kids.
It has not only two diving boards and a three-story water slide but also a water play area, a lazy river, a grand indoor hot tub, and a splash zone outside.
Paying $6 to get in feels like a bargain for the fun-packed day it offers.
Hop in the Lift to Enjoy the Breathtaking at Purgatory Resort
Every summer, I find myself drawn to the magnetic charm of the Purgatory Resort.
It's a gem nestled in the surrounding mountains, offering a variety of outdoor activities that never fail to entertain.
One of my favorite summer traditions involves taking the kids for a good old-fashioned fun day.
We try to target the "double" days, where you get to take twice the rides on the Alpine sled and the Alpine roller coaster.
The excitement in the air is palpable, and the kids are always brimming with energy.
Pro tip: always head out in the mornings to dodge any potential afternoon showers.
Trust me; the three-and-a-half-hour window provided by the resort will zoom past you. So, arrive early and knock off the rides first.
That way, you have more time to enjoy the rock panhandling and the go-cart dune buggies, which the kids absolutely love.
And oh, don't forget to take the lift on the left for a breathtaking scenic ride up the mountain.
The view up there is simply mesmerizing!
Last summer, I took my grandkids to Purgatory Resort, and the alpine slide was a big hit. They couldn't stop talking about it!
We even got to enjoy the new alpine coaster. The anticipation is building as we're gearing up to try the go-carts this weekend.
Oh, and another thing, the pizza at Paradise is nothing short of divine!
The hospitality at Purgatory Resort is something that always stands out.
During one visit, the roller coaster was unfortunately down.
But the staff cared enough to provide a partial refund.
The kindness and consideration of the people there made it a great day, despite the hiccup.
Have a Picnic at Animas City Park
There's something special about small-town parks, and Animas City Park in Durango is no exception.
Its charm lies in its simplicity.
A peaceful riverside setting with a playground, picnic tables, and a paved recreation trail; that's all it takes to create a haven for locals and visitors alike.
I vividly remember the day I took my kids there for an impromptu picnic.
We spread a blanket under the shade of the full trees, their leaves whispering stories in the summer breeze.
The kids ran around, their laughter echoing through the park, while we sat back, relaxed, and watched them make memories.
The park is well-kept, and it's not uncommon to spot some wildlife.
On our picnic day, we were lucky enough to see a few deer grazing not too far from us.
It was a beautiful scene, the deer against the backdrop of the playful reflections of the sun on the river.
It's these little surprises that make each visit to the park unique.
And can I just say the grass in Animas City Park is some of the best I've ever sat on.
It's like a natural carpet, soft and inviting. Perfect for sitting down with a good book or just laying back and watching the clouds drift by.
Play Fetch at the Scenic Oxbow Park and Preserve
Life in Durango wouldn't be complete without frequent visits to Oxbow Park and Preserve.
I have spent many weekends at this tranquil 44-acre open space, just soaking in the river access, scenic views, and the occasional wildlife sighting.
It is ideal not just for me but also for my four-legged companions, who absolutely love to play fetch in the spacious park.
One of my favorite things to do is to grab my kayak and head to the park.
The Animas River is just perfect for swimming, kayaking, or rafting.
And the best part?
It's right on the Animas River trail, so it's pretty easy to get there, either by bike or on foot, which makes it convenient.
However, a bit of advice - the parking area can get jam-packed during the warmer months. So if you plan on driving, make sure to get there early!
There's so much more to the park than just water activities.
The walking trails at Oxbow Park and Preserve are something I look forward to.
They are always clean, and there's always a bench waiting for you when you want to take a break and simply enjoy the views.
Not to mention, it's usually full of people, but it never feels crowded or noisy.
It's the perfect place to disconnect and immerse yourself in nature's beauty.
In the hotter months, it's a great spot to cool down.
There are restrooms right by the parking lot, changing rooms, and even a little inflatable-craft launch ramp.
The water can get a bit cold and fast, especially in the middle of the river, but playing at the edges is always a blast.
When I need a spot for lunch, I love nothing more than grabbing one of the picnic tables under the big trees and enjoying an outdoor meal amidst the river's calming sound and birds' chirping.
And if you're a fishing enthusiast like me, you'll find some good spots around the park too.
Learn the Local Wildlife at the Durango Wildlife Museum
I remember the first time I walked into the Durango Wildlife Museum.
It's a fascinating corner to get acquainted with the local fauna.
This quaint museum beautifully illustrates the wildlife of our area.
And the best part? It's free of charge, although they do appreciate a donation if you're inclined.
The museum also hosts a fish hatchery, where you can buy food and feed the fish.
It's quite an experience watching the little ones swoop around to catch the feed.
I love spending my weekends there, watching the hustle and bustle of fish at feeding time.
It's also a wonderful learning experience about the aquatic life cycle for all those curious minds out there.
While the museum and hatchery are the stars of the show, the location is just as fantastic.
Nestled right next to the river, it's perfect for a leisurely day out.
Take a stroll on the trails or across the bridge, and you'll be rewarded with stunning views of the river.
However, finding the place can be a bit tricky.
It's located right along the river, so keep an eye out for the driveway that leads you to it.
It's not very clearly marked, but once you find it, you'll be glad you did.
The Durango Wildlife Museum may not be grand scale, but it's rich in local wildlife knowledge and is a truly unique experience.
This 15-acre land is filled with unexpected charms and wonderful learning opportunities, from the museum to the hatchery and trails.
Dip Your Toes in the River at Whitewater Park
I often start my weekends with a visit to Whitewater Park, a little paradise nestled by the Animas River in Durango, Colorado.
There's something serene about walking the 7/10ths mile trail from the Albertsons parking lot upstream to the park.
The journey itself is a delight, marked by the crisp morning air and the delightful glimpses of the river.
The park, in itself, is a marvel. It sprawls across a vast area and offers a pleasant respite from the city's hustle and bustle.
Though the shade is a little sparse, it's well compensated by the opportunity to stroll down to the water.
There's nothing that matches the simple joy of dipping my toes into the cool, flowing water.
What I love most about Whitewater Park is its phenomenal play areas.
Whether it's the swings, dizzy spinners, or even the music-making area, Whitewater Park is like a wonderland for my little niece and nephew.
The backdrop of the river and mountains adds to the charm.
Bring Your Favorite Book to Hesperus Peace Park
Ever had one of those days where you just want to sit back, forget your worries, and soak in the tranquility of nature?
Well, I find my solace in the Hesperus Peace Park.
It's a beautifully maintained pocket of calmness nestled in the heart of the vibrant Fort Lewis College campus - a place where you can just be.
The park, although small, is well-appointed and well-kept.
There are no playgrounds, but the lush green grass and plentiful seating options are all you need for a relaxing day out.
The trees offer ample shade, making it the perfect spot to escape the midday heat.
I often find myself just stretched out on the grass, soaking in the sun with a book in my hand.
It's also a great place to get some work or studying done - the serene surroundings make for an excellent study spot.
One of the unique things about Hesperus Peace Park is that it's often visited by local deer.
They generally come out during dusk, and it's a delightful sight to see them roaming freely in their natural habitat.
I've had countless memorable encounters with these gentle creatures - they are surprisingly approachable and add a touch of wilderness to the park's urban setting.
Have a Fun-Filled Learning at The Powerhouse
I've got to tell you, there's nothing like a day at The Powerhouse.
This interactive science center is my family's go-to spot for both education and entertainment.
You'll find it right here in our city, and it's a real gem.
The space itself is not too vast, but it is packed with intriguing exhibits and activities that center on energy.
It's just a small place with a big heart, and the entrance fee is very reasonable, making it easy for families like ours to return time and time again.
On our last trip, we found ourselves absorbed in an incredibly cool dinosaur exhibit at The Powerhouse.
My kids are quite young, yet they were captivated by the hands-on activities.
I'd say the place really comes to life for kids aged four and upwards.
Have a Relaxing Retreat at Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa
If there's one thing we're blessed with here in Durango, it's an abundance of natural beauty.
And there's no better way to enjoy it than from the soothing waters of the Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa.
Strolling into the resort on a cool Monday afternoon is a treat in itself.
It's not too crowded around this time, and the serene atmosphere is an instant mood uplifter.
The spa services here are top-notch, with very professional and friendly staff.
The hot springs, included with the spa service, are a true delight. Soothing and relaxing, time simply flies when you're soaking in them.
Multiple tubs of different sizes and temperatures cater to different preferences, and finding one that's just right can feel like a mini adventure.
The one at the top of the hill is my personal favorite.
With a temperature of 105 degrees, it offers an unbeatable view of the surrounding mountains and the bandshell, where local artists often perform.
There's something incredibly soothing about soaking in warm water, savoring a delicious burger from the food truck, and listening to good music.
Durango Hot Springs Resort also offers fantastic dining options.
I've spent many evenings here, munching on snacks from the full bar and savoring their delicious burgers and tacos.
Durango, Colorado, is brimming with opportunities for the adventurous spirit and the curious mind.
Whether you're marveling at the stunning beauty of the San Juan National Forest or savoring the flavor of a locally-produced wine at Four Leaves Winery, there's no shortage of experiences waiting for you.
It doesn't matter if you're a resident or a visitor; grab every opportunity to experience the magic of Durango - a city that never ceases to amaze you with its natural beauty and vibrant culture.