Men at Work on the Durango & Silverton Light Gauge Railroad
I spent most of last week in the mountains of Colorado, and got to revisit the charming western town of Durango (my last trip here was when I was 5 years old). I have vague memories of liking Durango in my youth, but going back as an adult who runs a travel blog, I realized just how much Durango has a lot to offer for young & old alike. For a town of just over 17,000- there are a lot of fun things to do in Durango.
Left: Location is Everything at the Wapiti Lodge Right: the blue eyed puppy I met on Main Street
Durango is located in the Four Corners region of Colorado, near Mesa Verde National Park which is one of the coolest National Parks I’ve visited. I didn’t get a chance to revisit Mesa Verde this trip, but I plan to do so on my next trip (yes, I’m already planning on a return trip– hopefully this fall when the leaves are changing colors).
Sunset as seen from Ft. Lewis College in Durango
The town center is meeting point for a ton of outdoor activities from rafting and fly fishing to mountain biking, but the town itself has quiet a bit of charm and extremely friendly locals.
Durango’s Main Avenue is anchored by two historic hotels: Hotel Strater and The General Palmer. The lobby of the Strater was used as a filming location in the 1983 comedy classic National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Exterior of the Strater Hotel
Left: In Durango, you can one stop shop for guns and taxidermy Right: Stuffed goat
Rocky Mountain elk taxidermy at Gardenswartz Sporting Goods
Hotel Strater is also home of the Diamond Belle Saloon— a very cool old time-y watering hole where waitresses in dance hall cocktails serve old west themed cocktails like the Old Fashioned 1910 and the Whisky Sour 1850 for $7.50 along with a deliciously comforting pot pie for $10.
A smiling waitress at the Diamond Belle Saloon
Oddly this place doesn’t feel kitschy because the atmosphere is the real deal–author Louis L’Amour used to write his western novels in the room above the saloon. The Diamond Belle still has live music every day.
Bluegrass musicians at the Diamond Belle Saloon
Perhaps Durango’s biggest claim to fame is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum. The Durango is a steam powered train which has been in continuous use for the past 131 years. The train runs from May through October and the 45 mile route to Cascade Station is highly scenic and takes 3 hours to complete.
Left: A vintage safe at the Silverton Freight Yard Museum Right: Colorado Wildflowers
Model Train at the Silverton Freightyard Museum
If you don’t have time to ride the train, be sure to visit Silverton Freight Yard Museum which has really cool historic artifacts about train travel as well as Colorado history. There is also a fascinating model train as well as a train car which was used as a set piece in the Paul Newman/Robert Redford western film Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. The Durango & Silverton is a great place for kids as well as adults.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway in Black & White