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Your guide to Durango
The Southwest meets Old West in Durango, a former mining town famous for its steam-powered railroad, which is still operational. Tucked into the banks of the Animas River — a whitewater rafters’ dream — and claiming the 1.8 million acre San Juan National Forest as its backyard, Durango draws its fair share of adventurers. But this city is more than its rambunctious side: Downtown Durango, dotted with brewpubs and galleries, is lined with brick buildings erected in the 1800s, including an ornate Victorian hotel and many former saloons. Venture out of town and you’ll find yourself surrounded by important archeological sites, including Mesa Verde National Park, studded with astounding cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloans, an ancient Native American people who lived here for over 700 years.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Durango
Durango enjoys temperate summers, with temperatures typically topping out in the high 80s Fahrenheit. Fall is cool and dry, and if you’re staying in one of the area’s cabins during spring, plan ahead for rain showers. It frequently snows in winter, and temperatures then can range from a brisk 50 degrees Fahrenheit to a chillier 10 degrees. As a rule, pack for a variety of temperatures, as Durango’s mountain elevation means that nights tend to be cooler year round.
Top things to do in Durango
San Juan National Forest
This jaw-dropping wilderness encompasses high-desert mesas as well as the staggering alpine peaks of the San Juan Mountains, which feature a handful of imposing fourteeners — mountains at least 14,000 feet tall. With hundreds of miles of trails ideal for hiking and biking, you can choose your own adventure here. For maximum sight-seeing, drive the San Juan Skyway, a breathtaking route that will thread you through mountain passes and historic Western towns and along the Million Dollar Highway, a legendarily gorgeous stretch of road connecting Colorado and New Mexico.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Travel back in time on this historic coal-powered steam locomotive, which has run continuously since 1881. The train originally transported gold and silver, but now ferries sightseers on a seven-hour loop (with a two-hour stop in the town of Silverton) through postcard-pretty mountains and forests. All manner of accommodations are on offer, from a luxurious Presidential Car to open-air gondola seating, plus one wheelchair-accessible car each day. Check the official website for events throughout the year, such as an annual Cowboy Poetry reading.
Durango isn’t stingy about venues for viewing mountain scenery: You can see it from a trail, a train, and a scenic byway, as well as from the 126-mile Animas River, which courses through the middle of Durango. Whitewater rafters of all skill levels seek thrills here, but getting a jolt as you navigate rapids is not the price of admission — more sedate options such as kayaking, tubing, and paddleboarding are available, too. You can rent everything you need at local outfitters, who also offer leisurely tubers a lift back to town at the end of the day.