The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad founded the town of Durango, Colorado in 1880. The Old West heritage of the town is apparent in Downtown Durango, a National Historic District, which features hotels, shops, and restaurants restored to 19th Century charm. This is a fantastic town to learn a bit of Colorado history and enjoy the many things to do in Durango with kids.
Along with history, Durango offers incredible sights and activities to explore. A best-kept secret of the West, this family friendly town is open year-round with almost unlimited activities available. This is one of our favorite Colorado mountain towns.
Hiking and Biking
Animas River Trail is a hard surface paved trail for walkers and bikers alike. This 7.1-mile beginner path stretches along the Animas River, through town, and never crosses a street, so it’s perfect for the whole family.
The San Juan National Forest covers about 1.8 million acres in southwest Colorado. With hundreds of miles of trails, gorgeous scenic byways, and historic sites (some of which offer guided tours), you are sure to find some incredible views and amazing places to explore throughout your stay.
Ride the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Book a train ride in any season with the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum, located in historic downtown Durango. Different seasons offer different destinations, so be sure to check them all out before planning your trip. If in Durango over the holidays, be sure to check out the Polar Express.
The museum has free admission and pre-arranged guided tours, so you can learn all about the history of railroading, transportation, and mining from the perspective of the Durango & Silverton Railroad.
Go Zip Lining
Soaring Treetop Adventures offers 27 different zip lines through the San Juan Mountains. The lines are anywhere from 56 to 1,400 feet in length (the longest zip line course in the United States) and are some of the safest zip lines you’ll find anywhere. For ages 4-94, the cool mountain air will entice you, the first-class train ride (on a Durango and Silverton train, no less) will entertain you, and the views of the Animas River, Old Growth Ponderosa Pines, and Aspen Groves will leave you breathless.
Play at Purgatory Resort
Visit Purgatory Resort and enjoy a large variety of activities using a day pass. The available activities include the Inferno Mountain Coaster, Bike Park, Alpine Slide, Scenic Chairlift, Bungee Trampoline, Ropes Course, Zip Line, Bounce House, Mini Golf, and either Boats and Boards, Kids Track, or Treasure Panning. You may end up purchasing more than one day pass, as there are so many amazing activities, many of which allow for incredible views of the area.
Explore The Powerhouse Science Center
Learn something about a fascinating part of history at The Powerhouse; a science center that was a very early alternating current power plant, built-in 1892. According to Wikipedia, Durango had AC powered street lights before several other towns in the East! Learn more about the history of Durango’s power plant at this interactive museum.
Go River Rafting
Whether you love adventure or a leisurely day on the water, Flexible Flyers Rafting offers everything from a few hours to full days in rafts, inflatable kayaks, or tubes on multiple rivers. This family-owned and operated whitewater raft company is one of the most trusted companies for a rafting trip with “Durango’s most experienced and qualified guides.”
I recently discovered a love of paddle boarding. There is something peaceful about being out on the water with just a board and paddle.
Just 18 miles from Durango, the beautiful, secluded Vallecito Lake is the perfect place to paddle board. There’s a lodge, as well as a variety of vacation rentals. So you could spend the night or make a weekend of it. Boating, camping, and fishing to hiking and horseback riding is also available in this beautiful spot.
Insider Tip: Colorado is full of stunning lakes. Be sure to check out our guide to find the perfect one for your vacation, or day trip.
Explore Mesa Verde
I have always loved traveling Europe because of the rich history. And had not thought of my own country as a place to find this history until visiting Mesa Verde. It is amazing that the Pueblo people flourished here approximately 1400 years ago. Building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls.
The park boasts over 4700 archeological sites, 600 of which are cliff dwellings offering a unique glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people. In 1978, Mesa Verde National Park was named a World Heritage Site.
Mesa Verde is one of Colorado’s four national parks, all with diverse features, views, geology and history. It is located about a 40 minute drive from Durango.
Kids are sure to enjoy practicing tricks on their skateboard, scooter or BMX bike at the Durango Skate Park. There’s a shaded area and water fountain to get some relief from the strong Colorado sun.
Durango Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum
The Durango Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum is a fantastic place to see what a fish hatchery is and learn about the wildlife in the area. You will want to be sure to bring quarters for fish food, and sunscreen up.
Durango offers so many opportunities to explore the great outdoors or learn more about the history of the area. It is a diverse tourist town that can keep you busy for your entire stay. Be sure to do your research, check the weather, and enjoy everything southwest Colorado has to offer.