Gateway to the Four Corners region, this vibrant Western town lives up to its history.
In 1965, Joan Didion penned perhaps the most famous line ever written about Colorado’s star city of the Four Corners region: “Durango. The very name hallucinates. Man’s country. Out where the West begins.” Though much has changed since Didion’s visit, the spirit of myth and adventure she described 50 years ago still runs through the streets of this historic mountain hamlet, making it a perfect destination for your next in-state getaway. With so much food, drink, outdoor recreation, and historical legend packed into so small a place, this gem of the San Juan Mountains is sure to leave you—like the town’s gold-crazed miners of the 1870s—always feverish for more.
Where to stay
True immersion in Durango’s Old West charm begins with a stay in one of the town’s three historic hotels. The Strater, built in 1887 on Main Avenue, preserves the elegant character of the nineteenth century with hand-printed Bradbury and Bradbury wallpapers, Victorian woodwork, and antique furnishings. The General Palmer (1898), just down the street, was awarded a 2018 AAA Four Diamond Award, the only historic hotel in southwestern Colorado to receive the distinction. And The Rochester Hotel and Leland House (1892), two blocks off Main, pays homage to Durango’s long Hollywood association, with rooms themed after Western films shot in the town—from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Elia Kazan’s Viva Zapata!
What to do
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a 45-mile stretch of track that runs authentic coal-fired steam engines, is the historical crown jewel of the region—registered as both a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Trains have traveled the line continually for more than 130 years, carrying passengers through a breathtaking stretch of the San Juan National Forest on a “narrow-gauge” (three-footwide) track that parallels the Animas River. The journey ends in the 600-resident mining town of Silverton, where the mighty Grand Imperial Hotel (dating to 1883) offers luxury lodging for those who wish to stay overnight, and a saloon for those ramblers just passing through.
Where to eat
The Ore House, established in 1972 and specializing in surf and turf, offers nine different cuts of free-range steak from local ranches and a seafood selection fit for the coast—including dishes of king salmon, lobster tail, and Alaskan crab. If you couldn’t book a room at the Strater, you can still sample some of its ambiance at The Mahogany Grille, the hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant serving dinner seven nights a week. After your meal, stop by the Animas Chocolate Company, where a cheerful staff will greet you with a sample of warm cocoa and guide you through the tasting bar’s menu of artisanal truffles, fudge, and other handmade products.
Where to drink
Durango is home to six craft breweries, including the celebrated Ska Brewing Co., which hosts a blowout anniversary party each September with food, music, and hundreds of beers to sample from across the west. Other taps to try: Steamworks Brewing Co., Animas Brewing Co., Carver Brewing Co., Brew Pub & Kitchen, and of course the Durango Brewing Company, which grew out of the historic Durango Beer and Ice Co. of the late 1800s. If spirits are more your style, make sure to visit Honey House Distillery, the latest venture from the Culhane family, Durango’s oldest clan of beekeepers. The tasting room north of town features honey-infused whiskeys, vodkas, rums, and liqueurs, as well as hundreds of the Culhanes’ beloved honey products. Closer to Main Avenue, Durango Craft Spirits offers handcrafted, grain-to-glass vodka, bourbon, and moonshine.