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    Durango: what to see between western atmospheres and historic trains

    Who I am
    Lluis Enric Mayans
    @lluisenricmayans
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    We are in the southwest corner of Colorado, a state whose name evokes the epic of the West, caravans that grind kilometers through more or less inaccessible areas, Indians in pursuit, but also natural beauty, forests, alpine lakes and mountains. Here we are at Durango, at an altitude of about 2000 meters, surrounded by the San Juan National Forest, prelude to the majesty of Rockies which dominate the north and the center of the state. Let's find out all the surprises that this town has to reserve for us!



    Index

    • Where it is and how to reach it
    • Durango climate
    • What to see in Durango
      • Main Avenue
      • Museums, historical ranches and hot springs
      • The ski resorts and natural parks in the surrounding area
    • The events of the city
    • Shopping tips
    • Where to eat
    • Where sleeping in Durango

    Where it is and how to reach it

    We arrived here from Arizona, the Grand Canyon State, and the Four Corners Monument (140 km away), the geographical point of the States where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet perpendicularly and where we all take pictures of rite with hands and feet on the four states at the same time. It will be nonsense, but it is a satisfaction to say: I was there too!

    Our destination is very close to the meeting point of two of the main arteries in the area: the US160 (east-west direction) and the US550 (North South). Let's talk about scenic US roads in the truest sense of the word, without exaggerating.

    You can reach it Durango even using his small airport which has connections with international stopovers di Denver (8500 Pena Blvd.), Dallas-Fort Worth (2400 Aviation Dr.) e Phoenix (3400 E. Sky Harbor Blvd.), but the most fascinating way is certainly to reach it by car and enjoy the views that the route offers. Durango, a stop that cannot be missed, where you can breathe the atmosphere of the west and enjoy the charm of nature.



    Durango climate

    Choosing the period in which to visit Durango depends on what you want to appreciate the most; the summer they are hot and the winters very cold while the so-called "shoulder seasons" (between high and low season) with reasonable temperatures still give great emotions, less crowding and the red-golden colors of autumn should not be forgotten. In any case, all seasons are fascinating.

    Did you know that? In 1880, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company started Durango in support of the San Juan mining district. The city developed along the banks of theAnimas River, a river along whose scenic course you can practice rafting and fish for trout. We also meet the Animas river inside the Schneider Park (from W9th Street to the north).

    What to see in Durango

    Durango is appreciated for his western atmosphere and even if over time it has become a tourist resort, it has not done it in a tacky way because the most modern aspect is minimal, not exaggerated, and we like it.

    Main Avenue

    Our attention is captured by the San Juan mountains near the city and its pleasant Main Avenue; no wonder Hollywood continues to make films in this corner of paradise. Naturally in this main street we find numerous activities, restaurants, shops and bars but the impression is that of a city with a strong personality and we like to imagine it taking a step back in time when it was the land of Spanish conquerors, then of hunters and traders.


    We enter the Strater Hotel (699 Main Ave.), four floors of red brick Victorian style, and in a split second the ceilings, walnut furniture and antiques transport us to the late 1800s. it is run by the third generation of the Barker family who bought it in 1926. The rooms are sumptuous, not all alike, also with walnut furniture and Victorian style back in time, of great visual impact. On the other hand, the combination of red and white in the stairs and corridors leading to them is very pleasant. This complex also houses a refined and expensive restaurant, the Mahogany Grid and the namesake theater, they tell us one of the most prestigious in Colorado, operating for 47 years with great musical performances.


    In reality here in Durango it is not only spaces, nature and history that stand out; the city boasts an excellent artistic streak and this is evident in the dozen galleries in the center. At 567 Main Avenue another historic building makes us look up, it is the General Palmer Hotel in Victorian style, also dating back to the end of the 800th century and more operational than ever. The decorations of the entrance, the living room, the reading area and all the corners where you can relax or have conversation, lead to that historical period.

    The corridors are a succession of plants and sofas, the rooms are refined and pleasant not only for those who like the Victorian style. The receptionist, certainly a bit biased, tells us that staying here is an experience. The hotel is named after General Palmer who bought the railroad to the mining towns of Silverton and Durango.


    Il Visitor Center (802 Main Ave.) is the ideal place to get valuable information or make reservations if you are not already fully organized from home.

    Museums, historical ranches and hot springs

    The Main Avenue ends in the square in front of the ancient station and the plunge into the past that you feel while walking inside the building continues by embarking on one of the historic steam trains of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum (479 Main Ave.): a journey through time in the midst of the harmony of the landscape. The route winds through spectacular canyons in the remote wilderness of the great San Juan National Forest.

    Experiencing the adventure of traveling in historic carriages pulled by a coal-fired steam locomotive on the same tracks as miners, cowboys and settlers of the Old West is the best we could ask for on this tour that takes us to the mining town of Silverton after a journey of just over 70 kilometers with unforgettable sceneries.


    Between May and October you can take a full day excursion to and from Silverton by purchasing a return ticket, or you can choose to buy one way and not return to the starting point if you have other plans. You can also choose tours that include rafting, ziplining and horse riding. The proposals are many and it is advisable to check them according to your tastes from the official website or at the Visitor Center.

    For sure the day at James Ranch (33846 Highway 550) gave us the opportunity to live an experience in direct contact with the family that runs it; we made the acquaintance of an everyday life that was unusual for us in a fascinating setting among hills, valleys, lots of greenery and farm animals. For those who wish, guided tours cost $ 25 for ages 6 and up. The official site keeps up to date on all the events organized by the family. It is absolutely recommended to have dinner here.

    The Historic Main Avenue, the mountain views and the ranch life have led us to the dimension we were looking for and we like to be in, but we just get away from it all and follow the advice to visit the Powerhouse Science Center (1333 Camino del Rio). In an ancient building now restored (near a bike path) robotic challenges, flight simulator, experiments and other interactive activities make us as passionate and entertained as and perhaps more than the kids present. It is definitely a place to spend a couple of hours with a minimal expense: $ 7,50 for adults, $ 6,50 for seniors and $ 6 for kids ages 3-17.

    Having fun outdoors can be tiring. No problem, you can relax with beneficial massages and immerse yourself in the geothermal waters of the nearby San Juan mountains. Let's talk about Trimble Hot Springs (6475 Country Rd.), A location with hot springs, a real wellness corner in which to appreciate a large swimming pool and another with warmer water, a lawn for further moments of relaxation, picnics, yoga or simply rest. The entrance ticket costs $ 19.

    The ski resorts and natural parks in the surrounding area

    It should be known that Durango is an important ski area which in its various locations is between 40 and 50 kilometers from the city center. One of the most popular places among ski enthusiasts is Purgatory Resort, a hotel complex considered one of the best destinations in North America. But beyond the ratings and rankings, this location has an enchanting position, among ideal slopes along the snows of the San Juan Mountains, is a structure equipped with all the services for accommodation with 3 types of ski-pass from which to choose the one that best suits your needs.

    At the north end of Durango, the big one San Juan National Forest (7600 square km) is a perfect place for all nature lovers; here you can practice trekking, horse riding, rafting, mountain biking and mountaineering. Inside we find one of the most scenic routes in America; the complete loop is 370 kilometers long and from Durango the succession of road segments is as follows: Rt.550N, 62W, 145S, 160E.

    In the area named High Desert, among the points of interest not far from here that we do not want to miss, there is certainly Mesa Verde National Park, between the towns of Mancos and Cortez, 90 kilometers from Durango, heading west. We have actually already touched the Mesa Verde along Route 160 when we arrived in the city coming from the south but now is the time to give this site due time. The charm of the highlands (mesas) with breathtaking views increases as you enter this vast area until you reveal one of the few places in America where the remains of the abodes of the natives, the Anasazi, are still visible and can be visited.

    Villages were built within the recesses of the rock; the best known, perhaps because it is also the largest, is the Cliff Palace. Take advantage of the presence of the rangers to hear the history of these extraordinary and very well organized urban agglomerations. To find out more, take a look at our guide on how to visit Mesa Verde National Park.

    Another very interesting destination that offers the possibility of visiting the ruins of the Anasazi and at the same time enjoying splendid views is Canyon of the Ancients, approximately 1:15 drive from Durango. To find out more, you can read our TOP 10 on what to see in Colorado.

    Weminuche Wilderness is a significant area of ​​the San Juan Mountains with rugged areas, jagged peaks and a deep gorge of the Animas River. Nowhere else in Colorado do the mountains feature such wilderness, it's a wonderful alpine adventure. For example, theEmerald Lake, a must-see stop, is less than 25 kilometers north-east from Durango.

    Chimney Rock (3179 State Hwy 151, 3 miles south of Hwy 160) is located between the small town of Pagosa Springs and Durango (approximately 35 minutes) in the San Juan National Forest and includes an archaeological site through 21-year-old trails with ruins of ancient pueblos that inhabited the Chaco Canyon. This area undoubtedly needed to be protected and on 2012 September 15, former President Obama officially proclaimed this area Chimney Rock National Monument, thus guaranteeing it the attention it deserves. (area accessible from 5/30 to 9/9 from 16.30 to 14. Tour $ 7 for adults and $ 5 for 12 to XNUMX years).

    You can find excellent proposals for further insights with tours and excursions throughout the area surrounding Durango by clicking on the link below.

    Activities and excursions in Durango

    The events of the city

    We are also here to grasp the essence of the place, to get to know the people who live in this town and it is nice to do so even during the Events because on those occasions the true spirit is lived more.

    Il True West Rodeo (La Plata County Fairgrounds - 2500 Main Ave.) comes to life every Wednesday from June to August to celebrate and honor western roots. Competitions, shows, music, market and food intertwine for a “wild west” style event, pure emotion. Admission is $ 15 for adults, $ 10 for those over 62 and also for children aged 5 to 17. Still in the same area (La Plata County Fairgrounds - 2500 Main Ave.), in August takes place La Plata County Fair, an old-fashioned country fair, with animals, agricultural products, “grandma's cakes” and wonderful quilts, the splendid blankets and centerpieces created by skilled hands in many colors and designs.

    On the weekend of Labor Day, at the beginning of September (sometimes on horseback with the end of August), the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally (Durango Harley Davidson - 750 S. Camino del Rio) with the gathering of enthusiasts who exhibit their choppers, the parade of motorcycles, live music, street vendors and all the passion for two wheels.

    In the middle September, in the tree lined East 2nd Avenue in downtown, il Durango Autumn Arts Festival showcases the excellence of artistic and artisanal production. More than 100 artists from all over the area meet and exhibit their creations in a pleasant setting accompanied by live music. Horses, wagons and many people on foot give life to the parade that kicks off at the beginning October at 10 at Train Depot (479 Main Ave.) proceed north along Main Avenue. And the Cowboy Parade, the parade much felt by the locals that also attracts many visitors present ready to capture the western spirit of Durango and the shots are countless!

    We also like to report other initiatives, particularly attractive, which take place on Wednesday. From 17.30 to 19 a green space for the Summer Yoga is available on the lawn of the Smiley Building at 1309 E. 3rd Ave, while at the Irish Embassy Pub (900 Main Ave.) the notes of the Blue Grass Music they fill the place for a special evening dedicated to this genre, from 18 to 21 pm and we do not miss it.

    Shopping tips

    Lo Shopping in Durango it is pleasant and 360 °. There are many shops: clothing, gift items, for the home and for those who live outdoors. We then take a break from all that is exploration and knowledge in favor of the activity that some here call "retail therapy" and we do it along the main street, the historic hub with buildings from the late 19th, 20th and Victorian. .

    For obvious reasons it is not possible to take large objects home but fortunately we can buy valuable items, such as glass and decorative objects by Get Fused (600 Main Ave.), but also of jewelry with local stones, something that will remind us of Durango over time; in this regard we quote Sticks and Stones Handmade (734 main Ave.) e Diane West Jewelry Art (820 Main Ave.).

    On the other hand, it is of a completely different kind Durango T-shirt Co. (816 Main Ave.), an inviting gift shop where you want to stop and explore. Our "therapy" ends atOverland Sheepskin Co. (546 Main Ave.), a real western-style emporium where we find so many things we would like to buy and what we couldn't buy we enjoyed wearing it, especially jackets and hats.

    Where to eat

    Speaking restaurants here in Durango we enjoyed ending the experience at James Ranch (33846 Highway 550) at their restaurant Harvest Grill & Greens. Here the burgers are excellent, as well as the cheese and vegetables that are offered. You feel that the products are "zero km" and then the view is spectacular with the tables facing the valley between the hills, all in the company of birds and some farmyard animals. Before leaving this property we stop at the ranch market to buy the products of the family and local farmers without forgetting the excellent ice cream.

    It seems that here in Durango we are spoiled for choice, we would like to stop everywhere. Outside the downtown we opt for the College Drive Cafe (666 E. College Ave.) at the suggestion of a small shop manager, and as always, advice is invaluable. In this casual place, with the warm welcome of the wood paneling, tortillas, beans, omelettes and eggs Benedict make us feel in the Old West.

    Il Lone Spur Coffee (619 Main Ave.) is a mid-priced main street spot that offers cowboy charm and good food in a family atmosphere. The restaurant, open from 6.30am to 14.30pm, offers omelettes, meat and eggs, burgers, sandwiches, ribs and a salad with crispy chicken. Not far away, the restaurant Ken & Sue’s (633 Main Ave.) has a pleasant interior and a very nice patio. The menu is varied, the beef and chicken are excellent but also the fish, cheeses and vegetables such as mashed potatoes and asparagus, not to mention the cheesecake.

    It's nice to go from one atmosphere to another and here we are Derailed Pour House (725 Main Ave.), a place with an immediately pleasing impact. We are in a historic building with railway-themed furnishings. The room with good music and TV is crowded so we move to the outside area. Here not only meat is good but also cheese, vegetables and beer; a great mix of good food, ambiance and service.

    Da El Moro Spirits & Tavern (945 Main Ave.) Colorado's “old west” and Victorian heritage blend with contemporary culinary trends and techniques, the inviting interior is part of Durango's family of upscale restaurants. El Moro is capitalizing on the growth of organic ranches and farms in the area and uses most of the locally grown ingredients for the dishes on its menu, original proposals, reinterpretations of American, Western recipes and this makes you want to return.

    Beers, live music and good food prepared with the richness of what grows close to home, this is what we are keen to say here in Durango and we believe in it by virtue of what we have seen with our own eyes and tasted in person.

    Where sleeping in Durango

    Strater Hotel

    It is a pleasure stay overnight here in Durango. The choice is wide, you can stay in the aforementioned historic hotels

    • Strater
    • General Palmer
    • Purgatory Resort

    Or you can choose for a slightly cheaper but equally excellent solution.

    Al Wapiti Lodge (21625 Highway 160) rooms have mountain or garden views. They are spacious, equipped with wi-fi, a small refrigerator, a coffee machine and some of them have a larger surface area that includes a sofa and a kitchen. The property has a parking area.

    Il Best Western Mountain Shadow (3255 Main Ave.) is on the main thoroughfare and is just a little north of the heart of the city. The rooms are equipped with whirlpool tubs, microwaves, refrigerators and coffeemakers. A hot breakfast is included in the rate and there is also an indoor pool. Parking available and wi-fi. Really recommended!

    THEAdobe Inn Durango (2178 Main Ave.) is simple on the outside like all the real adobe buildings but the rooms on the inside are large and good looking in their New Mexico style, with cable TV, coffeemaker, microwave, wi -fi and parking area. The hotel is located near the city tram stop.

    All accommodations available in Durango

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