Durango, Colorado: Walking Durango in the Summer
If you’re coming to Durango, Colorado in the summer, you probably already know about the major attractions: hiking, fishing, river rafting, and (of course) the train. It’s an outdoorsy place, with the blended charm of being a both Victorian-era mining support town and a college town.
Yes, Durango is less than an hour’s drive away from majestic hikes for everyone from reluctant adventurers to the most hardened mountain goats, but life is not lived on trekking alone! If you’re planning a simple, calm day in town, or if you just want to take a bit of a break from a packed schedule of outdoor activities, downtown Durango is the perfect place to spend a day for tourists and locals alike. The town has local breweries, hundreds of local, independent shops, five book stores, incredible art galleries, a stunning riverside walk, and lots of delicious, delicious food. Word to the wise: Do not stop at McDonald’s when you’re in Durango.
If you love to shop or browse, then Main Ave. is the place for you! It’s the perfect way to while away a day of window shopping and souvenir acquisition.
Walking the loop from 5th St down to Buckley Park at 12th St. and back will take you past tons of local stores and restaurants. Local artists have galleries here as well. The stores mix traditional tourist fare (cheesy message tees and DURANGO! postcards) with boutiques, jewelry, and art stores. The antiques store between 7th and 8th is perfect for looking through local history, and the vintage clothing store will help you find something fabulous to wear. Other great stops are Animas Trading Company, Gallery &, Azul, and Urban Market.
You might be tempted to stop in for the familiar feel of Starbucks, but don’t. Right next door, Chef Michel Poumay serves up delicious crepes in the flower-strewn outdoor eatery Michel’s Corner. It’s a good place to fortify yourself for the shopping to come. Midway through the loop, you’ll hit Carver’s Brewing, the original local brewery, which serves up fantastic lunches and brews to locals and visitors alike. Across the street, you can relieve the heat of the day with ice cream from local creamery Cream Bean Berry. It’s truly hard to go wrong with any of the food offerings on Main, and just about every taste is represented.
If you need to relax or take a load off, there’s plenty of non-‘Bucks coffee in town. Durango Coffee Company offers a great menu and free WiFi, or you could hit up Steaming Bean or Magpie’s Newsstand. Durango Joe’s, which has several locations off Main, is a good stop on the way into or out of town too. Pick up a copy of one of the free weekly papers, The Telegraph or DGO Magazine to see what’s happening in town, or grab a book from Maria’s Bookshop. If you’d prefer, spend some time people-watching; all of the coffee shops have comfy seating and great views.
If shopping is less your speed, the Durango Parks and Recreation department has you covered. The scenic Animas River Trail is a pristine concrete path that follows the edge of the Animas River for almost 7 miles, cutting through several parks, and offering great views of the train, the river, and, if you’re lucky, local wildlife. The path crosses the river several times, and goes past the skate park, the rec center, and the library. The path also goes right past the Powerhouse Science Center museum. You can spend as much or as little time on the riverwalk as you’d like, and it’s suitable for foot traffic, bikes, skateboards, and even roller blades if you’d like to glide past town. Keep an eye out for fleets of rafters and kayakers coming down the river, and bring some water shoes to dip your toes in if the mood strikes.
CJs and Oscar’s are two local breakfast hotspots off of Main that serve big, tasty portions (both offer lunch as well) which will keep your strength up as you walk. Any of the parks along the walk offer places to sit and eat snacks, so long as you remember to pick up your trash. The path cruises right past another local brewery, Animas Brewing Company, that makes some killer soft pretzels if you get peckish later in the day. For dinner, Durango has plenty of great restaurants that aren’t on Main Ave and don’t fill quite as quickly with the out-of-towners. The sunset over the La Platas is not to be missed, so it’s worth it to grab a seat at a restaurant patio or eat at one of the parks with a view.
Along the walk is one of the most picturesque bookstores around, White Rabbit Books and Curiosities. They have seating and chess available outside with a great (and shaded) view of the Animas—plus, they have ice cream and books! It’s a great place to stop and read or take in the scenery. If you love gardens, the Durango Botanical Society maintains a demonstration garden along the path outside of the library, which is a lovely and calming detour. The path has plenty of benches all along its seven miles, so there are lots of spots to stop.
If you’re just plain sick and tired of walking, there are still plenty of options. Durango’s historic neighborhoods are wonderful for just driving around and looking at. Twenty minutes up the valley is the incredible Baker Bridge, where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid jumped for their lives in the 1969 film. Both the bridge and the drive there are picturesque. In fact, there are gorgeous drives all around. Ride up to Lemon Reservoir or Lake Vallecito, where there are frequently small art shows, and always great views. Zip up the river valley, or drive the hour up to Silverton. There are beautiful places to drive to both near and far.
If you’re driving all day, grab a doughnut and breakfast burrito from Durango Doughworks and bring them along or pack a picnic (plus plenty of water—it can get hot!). There’s great pizza for dinner when you get back—Homeslice is one local favorite. If you’re thirsty, there are six breweries in and around town, as well as a distillery on Main Ave with delicious, local-history-themed cocktails.
Whew! After a day of driving around, you’ll want to stretch your legs. Check out one of the many yoga classes available to decompress, or get a massage. If you’re really wound up tight, Trimble Hot Springs outside of town is a worthwhile splurge. During the day, there’s nothing better than a picnic in the mountains (provided you have plenty of sunscreen).
Other Tips and Things to Do:
• Durango is a very dog friendly town. If Spot wants to come shopping, river walking, or touring with you, he’ll feel welcome.
• Bring water and sunscreen everywhere. It can get hot during the day, and the sun is very intense in the summer. Stay hydrated and pay attention to your body’s signals so you don’t get overheated, especially if you live at a lower altitude. The high altitude can mess with you physically, as can the heat and sun, so be safe and smart.
• Many of the buildings on Main St. are very old and lack ADA accessible bathrooms, but the Visitors Center at the corner of 8th St. and Main has them available.
• Saturdays host the Farmers’ Market downtown. If peaches from nearby Palisade or corn from Olathe are in season, get some! They are the best peaches and corn anywhere, ever.
• Sundays, there’s a flea market at the fairgrounds.
• If a menu item at a restaurant says it uses Sunnyside meats, order that menu item; Sunnyside is a local butcher and their meats are second to none.
• The D&SNGR station offers daily tours of the train yard that are both fun and educational. Call ahead so they know you’re coming.
• An escape room recently opened on Main Ave., conveniently located right next to a great burger place in case your dramatic escape works up an appetite.
• There are local theater and melodrama productions all summer long, and bands play in various locations almost every night. Check the Telegraph or DGO for a community calendar, or drop by the Visitor Center on Main Ave for more information.
• There are frequently parades, art festivals, or other town-wide celebrations.