Durango, Colorado, is the kind of idyllic Old West town where childhood memories of outdoor adventure are made. You'll find it in the southwest corner of Colorado, not far from Telluride, and anchoring the bottom of the "million dollar highway." Here are 10 of our favorite things to do with kiddos in Durango:
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum
Trains and kids: this is a slam-dunk. These steam locomotives and wooden cars date from the 1880s, when the trains hauled silver and gold ore from Silverton, about 50 miles north of Durango. Today they’re a favorite icon of Durango for both kiddoes and adults alike. Check for special holiday events throughout the year, and learn more about Durango’s fascinating history at the attached museum.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Durango Mountain Resort
This kid-friendly mountain offers skiing and snowboarding classes for youngsters, and even fun-filled daycare and snow play for tikes too young to strap in yet. But the fun doesn’t stop when the snow melts. Check out the new Purgatory Plunge Zip Line, alpine slide, mini-golf and other warm weather activities.
Durango Discovery Museum
This hand-on science museum allows kids (and adults, too) to explore everything from geology to solar energy. A 4 year old asks more than 400 questions a day; this museum can help you out. Check for special programs, and parents should consider finding a sitter and attending Pub and Trivia Science Night every first Friday of the month.
Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, there are plenty of breath-taking hiking trails near town that aren’t too strenuous for little ones. Local outdoor shops can recommend trails to suit your family; our favorite is a section of the 469-mile Colorado Trail at Junction Creek. From Main Street, head west at 25th Street, which turns into Junction Creek Road. Drive about 3 miles; you’ll enter the San Juan National Forest and see parking on your left near the trailhead. Always check weather conditions and other safety factors before heading out.
Durango is known as a biking town, and it’s not uncommon to see tikes ride better than they can walk. The newly extended Animas River Trail is a 7-mile-long paved bike path that parallels the Animas River and leads to parks and downtown. The path is safe, flat and car-free, perfect for the petite pedalers in your life.
With the Animas River flowing right through town, getting on the water to trout fish is quick and easy here. Pick up a Colorado fishing license; kidds 15 and younger don’t need one. Whether you spin or fly fish, check with local shops such as Duranglers.
Bar D Wranglers Chuckwagon Suppers
Cowboy or cowgirl up and join the Bar D Wranglers Chuckwagon Suppers for some real cowboy cooking followed by cowhand humor and music in Durango’s great outdoors.
Durango Recreation Center
All those mountains get you in the mood for some rock climbing? Do it safely at the rock climbing wall at the Durango Recreation Center, where you can also swim, play sports and enjoy other activities and special events.
Shoot the rapids of the Animas River that flows through town with any number of rafting and kayaking tour companies. All offer mild to wild rides, depending on your comfort level.
Durango rafting — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Saddle up for horseback riding adventure through the gorgeous Weminuche Wilderness north of Durango. Several outfitters and dude ranches will have you sitting tall even if you’ve never been on a horse before.
Horseback tour in Durango — Photo courtesy of Richard Larese
Thrill seekers can zip line, paintball, slackline at Full Blast Adventure and Soaring Tree Top Adventures,that has the longest zip line in the World with 27 spans and requires a trip on the train to reach it.
Mesa Verde National Park
Long before trains, cowboys and tourists, Native Americans lived in the area and built magnificent cliff dwelling in the 1400s. Explore these ruins and learn more about these ancestors of the Southwest’s Pueblo Culture at Mesa Verde National Park. Whether you admire these castle-like structures from afar or hike and climb ladders to walk through them, you’ll tap into your inner Indiana Jones and leave with a great appreciation for this fascinating culture that lives on throughout the American Southwest.
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese