Story by Anne Klein; photos courtesy of Durango Area Tourism Office
1. Ride the Train. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, in operation for more than a century, is one of the most unique and intimate ways to explore the area. Daily rides to Cascade Canyon reveal blooming spring trees and flowers and then the beauty of the majestic San Juan’s as the train climbs out of the valley. For the family, on April 4th, Peanuts™ The Easter Beagle Express offers Easter-themed crafts, stories, music, games and refreshments. For the adults, the 2015 Blues Train, May 29th and 30th is the chance to enjoy the blues, your favorite beer or wine and the beautiful scenery of the San Juan National Forest as the train winds onto “The Highline,” a world-famous section of railroad crawling along cliffs high above the Animas River. Regular service to Silverton begins on May 2, 2015.
2. Go for a Hike. Trails 2000, a local non-profit, has a mission to plan, build and maintain trails, educate trail users and encourage connectivity on road, path and trail. Trails 2000 works on trails year ‘round and the website has detailed descriptions of trails and trail conditions. More than 300 miles of trails exist within 30 minutes of Durango and less than an hour south, you can also find desert hikes with ancient Anasazi ruins.
3. Take a Drive. The San Juan Skyway, a Scenic and Historic Byway, loops from Durango to Telluride to Mesa Verde National Park and back to Durango. This 236 mile loop, snakes through the woods in the shadow of 14,000 foot peaks, contains the “Million Dollar Highway” segment from Ouray to Silverton and is referred to as one of the most scenic drives in America.
4. Liquid Entrepreneurs. Durango is home to more than six craft breweries; the latest addition to the Durango craft brewing family, The Animas Brewing Company, opened its doors in January. Situated on the Animas River, the Brewing Company offers a variety of flavorful craft beer and complements it with a spin on comfort food. Try Durango’s other award-winning breweries that feature unique beers complemented by great food in festive settings. Ska features a 100% wind-powered brewery and Container Restaurant. Carver Brewing Company is one of the pioneers of craft brewing in the area. Brew Pub and Kitchen won Durango’s People’s Choice Award for a Brewery and Restaurant. The Durango Brewing Company is one of the oldest breweries in Durango and the third oldest microbrewery in Colorado. And finally, Steamworks, the town meeting place, features regionally raised meats and sustainable seafood paired with award-winning ales and lagers in a family friendly environment.
5. Wine-ing Welcomed. The Southwest is quickly becoming a destination wine country of Colorado. Fox Fire Farms is home to “wines of distinction”. Growing their own French-American hybrid varieties of grapes that have been cultivated to withstand low temperatures, producing moderately priced wines. Starting May 29, every Friday night is an evening of music, food and wine at Fox Fire Farms. Regionally, Sutcliffe Vineyards named in “America’s 500 Best Wine Producers” by Food and Wine Magazine, has 36 beautiful acres of Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot grapes nestled at the foot of the Sleeping Ute Mountain in Southwestern Colorado. In downtown Durango, Four Leaves Winery will create a blend of wine to suit your personal palate and then customize the label at a bottling party. The ultimate wine and culinary adventure this spring is in downtown Durango. The 9th Annual Durango Wine Experience, April 23-25, is three days of educational seminars, wine dinners and unique tastings featuring hundreds of wineries, artisan spirits and craft beers.
6. New “Spirits” of the West. Durango’s first grain-to-glass distillery since Prohibition, Durango Craft Spirits Distillery & Tasting Room brings Durango’s vibrant history into the tasting room. Cocktails featuring “Soiled Dove” Vodka. The Soiled Doves of Durango, aka known as Ladies of the Night, contributed greatly to the founding of Durango. This new mainstay on Main Avenue brings new light to the great history of the area through cocktails with a historic twist.
7. Two-wheeled Fun. Cycle-centric Durango is a two-wheeled Mecca. The warm southern climate allows many of the mountain bike trails to open in early spring. Road cycling junkies find miles of county roads winding though the valley floor or up steep mountain passes. The 44th Annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is a weekend packed with two-wheeled entertainment. This western cycling classic draws cyclists from near and far to race the train to Silverton for the main event. Criterions, circuit races, tours, BMX races and mountain bike races make Memorial Day weekend cycle-centric.
8. Celebrate the Animas River. Animas River Days is in its 33rd year of weekend river fun, May 28-31. One of Colorado’s premier whitewater festivals boasts a full-length world-class slalom course, kayak and inflatable rodeos, SUP Slalom, Boatercross, Dog Fetching contests (on land and in the river), Dog Trick contest, tug-o-war, the Smelter Smackdown raft spring, the River Parade (complete with costumes), Ska beer garden, live music and much, much more.
9. Drop a Line. Spring fishing in Durango begins with the Duranglers Fly Fishing Festival April 3-4. From May through July the Gold Medal Waters of the Animas River are a haven for the caddis hatch. The emergence of caddis flies provides a spring bonus of protein for brown and rainbow trout that have wintered in a state of near hibernation and awaken with a ravenous appetite. For anglers, the hatch, on one of the last free-flowing undiverted rivers of the West, brings some of the first dry fly fishing of the spring.
10. Giddy-up! Explore the real west on horseback. Rapp Corral named “Top Trail Ride” by True West Magazine offers all levels of riding in the labyrinth of trails within the San Juan National Forest. Rivers, creeks, lupine meadows, natural water caves or historic mines and old wagon roads all open up in springtime. The ultimate Western adventure in Durango is the Train and Trail Ride with San Juan Sky Outfitters. Leave Durango on the steam train bound for Silverton with a lunch stop at Elk Park in the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Experience views of more than 20 different mountain peaks and a 60-foot waterfall as you ride to the top of Molas Pass. A shuttle transports you into Silverton to board the last train back to Durango.
11. Whitewater Adventures and then Some. Colorado rafting season begins in mid-April with the highest and swiftest whitewater occurring May through June. Melting snowpack makes for adrenaline-filled rafting adventures like ziplining and kayaking with outfitters like Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Trail Tours. You can even try to walk on water with a stand up paddleboard (SUP).
.12. Spring Meltdown. April 17-19, the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown rocks in downtown Durango. The national line-up includes Balsam Range, Shawn Camp, the Special Consensus and more. Enjoy bluegrass jam sessions or an old-time family barn dance. Local bars, restaurants, breweries and coffee shops host musicians from all over the country.
13. Shop Main. Clustered on Main Avenue in Downtown Durango, you’ll find the bulk of the more than 500 stores in the Durango area; chic boutiques, Western hats, Southwestern jewelry, t-shirts, housewares, sporting equipment, antiques, art galleries, bookstores and much more.
14. Eat Local. May 9th is the first Saturday for the season of the Durango Farmers Market. This vibrant community market features healthy local produce along with wellness products including herbs, candles, honey, wool, farm-stand cheese and much more. All products at the market have been made or grown in the Four Corners region. Durango’s food scene is built on continues to set new standards using local and regionally raised ingredients including beef.
15. History is our Backyard. Spring is a great time to retrace the footsteps of the Ancestral Puebloans in nearby Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Newly designated Chimney Rock National Monument, Four Corners National Monument, Southern Ute Cultural Center and Hovenweep National Monument are all easily accessible from Durango.
Want more details?
The Durango Area Tourism Office promotes Durango and La Plata County’s tourism attractions, events and services. Call 800-525-8855, email www.durango.org and Like Us at “visitdurango” on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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