Gosh – it’s so good to be back! It took me a couple of weeks to get used to being offline but I caught on quick. Like the Lexus commercial’s tagline – “I could get used to this.” Hehe.
Now that summer is here it’s time to plan family vacations and today, Carol is going to tell you about seven family friendly summer adventures in and around Durango, Colorado. After reading this and looking at Carol’s pics – I so want to go! Keep on reading and you’ll see what I mean…
Established in 1880, the quaint, quirky southwestern Colorado town of Durango has long been a year-round mecca for outdoor adventurers of all ages. Well known for its plethora of snowy winter activities, Durango is also a fab summer vacation destination. With so much adventure, so much action, so much incredible scenery, combined with its laid back, chill atmosphere, it’s no wonder why Durango is an excellent choice for a family summer vacation.
From Durango, one can explore incredible national parks and historic sites, take an old-fashioned train ride, hike or bike adventurous trails, go 4-wheeling, get wet on a river raft ride, and so much more! Not to mention all the drop-dead gorgeous scenery around every turn of the road. Need more inspiration? Here are seven favorite reasons to enjoy a western-style family vacation here in Durango Colorado. Happy travels!
1. Historic Downtown Durango
Durango is the quintessential Colorado frontier town, filled with quaint, quirky, old fashioned western fun. It’s also an ideal base for a family summer vacation in southwestern Colorado. With live music and entertaining shows most summer evenings, great eats of all kinds to satiate a family’s hunger, and plenty of options for outdoor action, Durango is a great place to begin the day, and end the day!
Central to all this action is the historic Strater Hotel. Arrive early to grab a curb-side view of the evening showdown between the town sheriff and the town villain. End the evening entertained at the world renowned Henry Strater Theatre. There’s no shortage of action at the Strater Hotel, and in downtown Durango all summer long!
2. Experience Mesa Verde National Park
With it’s close proximity to Durango, Mesa Verde National Park is a cultural and historical experience not to be missed. Contained within this World Heritage Site are some of the best preserved ancestral Puebloan archeological sites anywhere in the world.
From meager pit-style homes to substantial cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde provides visitors a window into life long ago along these mesas. It’s hard to imagine that ancient people have been traversing these lands for thousands of years, and that nearby settlements date as far back as the late 600’s.
Today, Mesa Verde National Park is home to 600 cliff dwellings and countless archeological sites. Hike alongside these very sites. Enter 1000 year old ancient cliff dwellings. Let the ancient world take hold of your thoughts, your imagination. It will be a day your family will long remember.
3. Ride the Durango and Silverton Railroad
Nothing says Durango more than the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad! Still operating out of it’s original 1882 depot in the heart of Durango, riding the Durango is another worthwhile experience, especially if there’s a young train aficionado in your family. So go on! Climb aboard this most unique, historic train for a ride on an original coal-fired, steam powered locomotive.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train still consists of original equipment. This train is the real deal, not a replica! Step back into the wild wild west as the train winds its way into breathtaking canyons, past waterfalls, and through the gorgeous mountain wilderness of the San Juan National Forest. This is an experience you won’t soon forget. Learn more about this historic railroad at Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum.
4. Explore the Animus Forks Ghost Town
This next adventure takes us north and on up into the San Juan Mountains. Our destination? Animus Forks, once a robust, thriving mining community, today reduced to a ghost town, no longer thriving, no longer robust. The nearby mines have long been shut down, the town long ago abandoned. All that remains today are a few dilapidated buildings, and gorgeous high altitude scenery.
Who doesn’t love a ghost town? Especially a ghost town where getting there is half the adventure! Though the last few miles leading into Animus Forks can be treacherous, is not for the feint of heart, and a high clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicle is a must, the rewards at the end of the road are stellar mountain vistas and the experience of this historic former mining town turned ghost town. Go for it!
5. Hike in the San Juan National Forest
Animus Forks isn’t the only adventure in the San Juan National Forest! This snow-capped mountainous region simply begs you to park the car and explore on foot. Whether it’s a short hike or a several hour trek along an adventurous trail, you’ll be glad you did.
Follow a creek up, up, up, to where you feel as if standing eye to eye with the clouds. Experience that incredibly fresh Colorado mountain air. Enjoy expansive panoramic views of the snow-capped San Juan Mountain range set in a backdrop of evergreen trees reaching for the sky. This is what it’s all about!
6. Raft the Lower Animus River
Hot summer weather steaming up the day? Get on board for a refreshingly cool raft adventure down the Lower Animus River. Soak in yet another stunning visual of the surrounding rugged southwestern Colorado landscape. Oh, and have loads of family fun along the way!
Lower Animus River rafting opportunities are available for nearly all skill levels. So whether you want a family friendly, slow and steady float, or a more thrilling high adventure ride through rapids, there is a rafting experience to suit your style. Check out Durango Rafting and see for yourself!
7. Chill Out at Durango Mountain Resort
Head on over to the Durango Mountain Resort for an afternoon of casual, relaxed family fun. Come summer, this well known ski resort converts itself into a family friendly summer playground. Pick up a day pass and enjoy experiences like a scenic chairlift ride, panning for treasure and miniature golf, as well as more high adventures like ziplining, mechanical bull riding and mountain biking.
Durango Mountain Resort is just the place for a leisurely summer afternoon. So grab a picnic table and sample the local fare while the kids tackle the nearby rock wall, or challenge themselves on the family ropes course. Our favorite was the Alpine Mountain Slide! Explore your options for adventure at Durango Mountain Resort Summer Activities.
Have you been to Durango in the Summer?
This was our first adventure in Durango. It won’t be our last! Whether your style is high adventure thrill seeking experiences, or simply a laid back, chill experience, Durango somehow accomplishes both, and so much more. It’s easy to see why people fall in love with this charming western Colorado town and the area surrounding it.
How about you? Have you been to Durango, Colorado? Did you enjoy your adventures here as much as our family did? What was your favorite experience in Durango? Do share!
Read more about our other adventures in Durango and the Four Corners region of Colorado and Utah at Road Tripping in Colorado and Utah – Photos of a Family Adventure.
Images by C.Biederman and AllanEnglish via Flicker (Durango Mountain Resort).