When you think of visiting mountain towns in Colorado the first ones that come to mind are Breckenridge, Vail, Estes Park and Aspen. These popular destinations are busy all year long so a leisurely getaway might not be on the agenda if you hit those locations. Visiting a more remote mountain town gets you out of the throngs of people and allows you to experience more of the local charm. One of our favorite mountain town options is Durango, Colorado.
While it’s possible to fly into the Durango regional airport, the more affordable and scenic option is driving the 6 hour route from Denver. Highway 285 takes you through some of the most picturesque areas of Colorado. During the winter months Durango is a prime ski destination but the route to get up there is a bit of a scary drive. During the summer Durango is one of the hidden gems of the mountains.
Once you’ve made it to the 18,000 person mountain town a wide variety of summer activities abound. As you plan out your next family vacation, we’ve picked out a few of our favorite things to do in Durango during the summer.
1. Visit Purgatory
During the summer month’s Purgatory Mountain Resort turns on the ski lifts and creates a summer playground for kids and adults alike. Take the lift up to the top of the mountain where you’ll see fields of rolling wildflowers and breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains before flying down the alpine slide back to the base.
Back in Village Plaza a giant bungee trampoline, zipline, and ropes course await adventure seekers looking to defy gravity. If you aren’t a fan of heights, mini golf and a bound house are the perfect alternative before retiring to a cocktail and lunch at one of the resort restaurants.
Read more: The Ultimate Vermont Summer Vacation
2. Stroll Historic Downtown Durango
Back in the city, an afternoon walk around historic Downtown Durango is the perfect way to enjoy the iconic mountain town. Developed in the late 1800’s as a hub for the gold and silver mining throughout the area, the railroad used the destination to move precious metals from the town of Silverton.
As you walk through historic downtown, many of the original pioneer buildings remain, including the Strater Hotel built in 1890. Restaurants, bars and shopping options make for the perfect afternoon out of the heat of the mountain sun. If you want to step back in time, check out The Diamond Belle Saloon in the Strater Hotel. Iconic saloon girls serve drinks while ragtime piano plays in the background.
3. Hike the Raider Ridge Overlook
If you’ve never hiked in the Rocky Mountains the Raider Ridge Overlook is the perfect primer. Make sure to pack plenty of water as elevation sickness at this altitude is no joke and comes on easily. Raider Ridge Overlook is an easy mile long hike that provides views of the city and Fort Lewis College Campus from the summit.
4. Ride the Narrow Gauge Railroad
In a town built by the railroad, you would be missing out on one of the most historic parts of the city if you didn’t take a ride on the train. The line was constructed to bring silver and gold from the San Juan Mountains. Today the historic Narrow Gauge Railroad is simply offered for enjoyment using a vintage steam locomotive to pull the cars.
As you ride you’ll experience views not available from the Colorado highways and will feel almost as if you’ve been transported back in time 200 years.
5. Go Mountain Biking
No matter your level of skill, the Horse Gulch trail system is perfect for enjoying a scenic mountain bike ride. Similar to hiking, you’ll want to pack along plenty of water for throughout the day. For beginners the Telegraph Trail is one of the most popular routes and provides a climb through a scenic meadow to the top of the mesa. The upwards climb is the most difficult part of the ride but there is no better way to enjoy the fresh mountain air.
Colorado is a prime summertime destination and there is truly no better time of year to enjoy this majestic state. No matter where you visit the smell of fresh pine flows through the trees. Hot days and cool evenings make for the perfect day out and allow you to enjoy any area in the state!
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Interested in other Colorado destinations and activities? Check out why the Grand Valley is a perfect destination for families.