With fewer than 20,000 people, Durango has no business being the Wild West hotspot that it is. And yet this Southern Colorado spot absolutely sings with culture and outdoor adventure. For families looking for a little bit of everything, it’s hard to top this mountain hangout.
From the moment the kids step foot on Durango’s historic Main Street, they’ll feel like they’re in a classic western movie. And they pretty much are—Durango’s known as the “Hollywood of the Rockies,” since a few Wild West classics like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed here. Here’s how to experience the best of this tiny town with your family in three days.
Durango is high-altitude and sunny, so pack layers and sunscreen.
If you only have time for one thing, make it Mesa Verde National Park.
After learning about the mining town’s past at the museum, take a free ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for mountain scenery, trestle bridges, and careening rivers via a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive. It’s easily one of the best train rides in the country. When you land back in Durango, grab dinner somewhere like The Ore House for classic mountain-town cuisine.
You’ve gone 100 years back in time—now it’s time to go 700 years back in time. Travel 45 minutes to Mesa Verde National Park, an ancient Puebloan outpost, to learn about Colorado’s indigenous history and explore incredible cliff dwellings. If journeying by foot is too much for little ones, admire the views by car with a drive around along the 6-mile (10-kilometer) Cliff Palace Loop Road.
Spend the rest of the afternoon high above the ground. Ziplining through the San Juan National Forest is one of the area’s most popular activities. In most cases, ages 5 and up are welcome.
If you have any energy left, spend the morning on the Animas River, well-known for its awesome rafting and paddling opportunities spanning gentle flows to Class II-III rapids. With a pro guide leading the way, you’d be surprised what rapids you and the kids can safely tackle—though you’ll definitely get a bit wet.
Last but not least, take a drive along the Million Dollar Highway, one of Colorado’s most scenic corridors. Majestic peaks surround you while valleys and gorges flow below as you wind from Silverton to Ouray for about 25 miles (40 kilometers). Once in Ouray, kids can easily explore the waterfalls at Cascade Falls Park before grabbing dinner.