Nestled between the San Juan Mountains and the Animas River Valley lies a small southern Colorado town where families can find big adventures and a surprising amount of fun. If exploring ancient ruins, whitewater rafting, and eating farm-to-table meals sounds like a great way to spend your vacation days, then get ready to book your tickets and pack your bags. Durango, Colorado, delivers when it comes to dream family getaways.
With over 30 films shot in and around the area, Durango is referred to as the Hollywood of the Rockies, a reputation reflected in the area’s attractions. Historic downtown Durango is home to streets lined with beautiful hotels, storefronts, and an array of eateries and pubs, some of which have appeared in a film or two. This area is a perfect launching pad for your adventures.
Book a room for your family at the historic Rochester Hotel. Built in 1892 and later renovated, the Rochester offers unique rooms decorated to honor a western movie filmed in the area. Movie posters framed in marquee lights line the hallways, and the atmosphere will have you and your kids making a list of what to see when the next family movie night rolls around.
Each room is charming and cozy, and if you have a family of five or more, consider booking the Rochester’s Loft. This apartment-style suite has two beds, a dining room, a full kitchen, and its own roof-style patio – a perfect place to relax after exploring the surrounding wilderness.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard when you’re traveling. Durango’s farm-to-table options make feeling good about what you are feeding your kids easy. The following choices are perfect for families:
- Durango farmer’s market
Choose from organic fruits, veggies, meat and dairy products, and ready-to-eat meals at Durango’s open-air farmer’s market. It takes place every Saturday morning from May to October and runs from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of First National Bank of Durango. Along with great fresh food, your family can enjoy live music and choose a souvenir from one of the booths selling locally made products.
The chef at this local eatery grows, harvests, and serves her own herbs and vegetables. Chef Alison Dance uses a portion of her home property to grow organic and sustainable food for her restaurants where you can grab tasty bites including a chicken pesto sandwich, Alaskan baked cod, or a slice of lemon pound cake.
Get ready for a fine dining experience Durango-style. This restaurant is one of the area’s most historic eateries and offers a seasonal menu with sustainable meats, wild-caught seafood, locally sourced ingredients, and artisanal beverages. It boasts serving the best steak in town, and many of the locals agree.
If you want a guaranteed casual and fun dining experience, Durango is home to six family-friendly breweries. Check out SKA Brewing, the fourth largest brewery in Colorado. It features a family-friendly outdoor beer garden that doubles as a music venue so you may even catch some tunes.
Carver Brewing is one of Colorado’s first brewpubs and they’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Wake up with cold-pressed coffees on nitro tap. Known for serving the best breakfast in town, make sure to try their cowboy benedict or make the kiddos smile with a breakfast banana split. Either way, you’ll be powered up for a long day of hard play.
Outdoor family adventures
Durango offers families unparalleled outdoor experiences. Whether your troop likes to explore by foot, bike, boat, or zip-line, there’s something available for everyone.
Hit the trails
Over 300 miles of trails lie waiting within 30 minutes of downtown Durango. They give hikers and bikers the opportunity to experience the breathtaking Colorado wilderness in person. Trails range in length and difficulty and each offer their own unique experience. Consider the following:
- Colorado Trail/Junction Creek to Gudy’s Rest: The iconic Colorado Trail runs for 500 miles from Denver to Durango. It traverses the Rocky Mountains and takes explorers through six wilderness areas. This hike is a family-friendly eight mile out-and-back excursion that is just four miles from downtown. The rolling path takes your family on a winding trip that eventually ends at Gudy’s Rest. Here you can take in stunning views of Durango and the San Juan Mountains. If eight miles is more than your family is ready for, a great turnaround spot is the wooden bridge, which is both beautiful and cuts the distance to five miles.
- Horse Gulch and Telegraph Hill: Located less than one mile from downtown, you will find over 100 acres of open space dedicated to a trail system that is perfect for hikers and bikers of all levels. Expect to pass through stunning meadows, catch spectacular views, and come across lazy creeks and beautiful rock features. You can spend as much or as little time here as you’d like with a choice of trails that range in length and duration.
- You can find more trails to explore online at Durango Trails 2000.
Another great way to explore the area is by raft. Mild to Wild offers whitewater rafting adventures that range in length and intensity. There are a variety of options to choose from based on your family members’ ages and preferences. Children as young as four are invited to experience the white waters of the Animas River tour and there are excursions more on the wild side on the Piedra River that children 12 or 16 and up can join for some serious high adventure. Remember to bring plenty of sun block and river-friendly shoes. The guides are not only highly experienced, they are fun, funny, and dedicated to giving you a trip your family will never forget.
Zip-line through the trees
Get a birds-eye view of the San Juan Mountains on the longest zip-line course in the US. Soaring Tree Top Adventures will take your family on a full-day trip that starts with a scenic train ride from Durango to Silverton. When you get home, you can relive your locomotive experience with a movie night viewing of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which features the views you caught along the way.
Once you’ve arrived at the remote Alpine location, Sky Ranger guides suit you up and get you ready to soar through the trees. Your tour lasts approximately five-and-a-half hours and includes a gourmet meal that keeps your energy up for the trek. Children as young as four can fly with the family and the lines can accommodate grandma and grandpa should they join you on your holiday.
Get ready to give that train-lover in the family a ride of a lifetime. The Denver & Rio Grande Railway was founded Durango in 1880. By 1882, tracks had been laid to Silverton and trains began transporting passengers and freight. The railroad remains an essential part of the Durango community.
Today you can take your family back in time with a historic ride on a coal-fired, steam-operated vintage locomotive (included in the zip-line tour). Your family has the choice of sitting inside and enjoying the sites as they whiz by, or relaxing outside in an open gondola car where you can take in panoramic views of the area. Tour packages are available to choose from, and bathrooms and concessions are available on board so everyone can stay comfortable and happy.
Spend an afternoon exploring well-preserved ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings with your family at Mesa Verde National Park. Just 40 minutes from Durango, this National Park is home to 600 cliff dwellings that were inhabited from 600 to 1300 AD. The drive into the park is spectacular, offering an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the local wildlife. Some ruins are only accessible via guided tour and others allow visitors to explore unattended. Get oriented in advance at the visitor’s center where you can purchase tickets for tours to the Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House and grab a map to help you along the way.
Durango offers families more to do than they can possibly fit in in one visit. This is a location you will want to come back to time and time again. With Moab, Utah, less than three hours away, consider a road trip to Arches National Park on one of your visits. Whatever you do while in Durango, you’re guaranteed to have a treasure trove of memories to savor with your loved ones once you’ve returned home.