Durango, Colorado

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I didn’t have much of a plan for the remainder of Day 3, but after seeing the San Juan Mountains in the distance from Mesa Verde National Park, I knew where I had to go.  I set a course for Durango and Silverton, Colorado — two wild west mountain towns which I had visited before.

From Mesa Verde National Park, take US Hwy. 160 east, through the southern end of the Rocky Mountains (they’re more like big hills along this part of the drive).  Durango is roughly 35 miles away.

You can also review my first visit to Durango (in 2005).

Durango doesn’t hold many surprises, especially if this is your second visit.  It’s a neat little western town, that’s been made very tourist-friendly.  There’s a mural…

… and some old brick buildings with old painted advertisements on the side.  But for the most part, this is a modern town that’s been made to feel historic.  It’s just a little too polished for me.

Yes, there are some historic signs, buildings, and hotels…

… like the town’s centerpiece, the Strater, which is home to the Diamond Belle Saloon.  I spent an hour or so walking the streets, looking for some rough edges.  I didn’t find many.

I did, however, find a good Mexican restaurant (Francisco’s, 2 blocks down from the train station), that served some good salsa and green chile.

The best reason to visit Durango is to take a ride on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (DSNGRR).  As you could guess by the name, the steam-powered train takes visitors to Silverton for a few hours, then returns to Durango.  The railroad follows a different path than US Hwy. 550, so you see different scenery than you will if you drive.  You can check out the DSNGRR here.
In 2005 I spent the night in Durango, but on this trip I purposely avoided staying here.  Durango has plenty of hotels and motels, but most are quite expensive.  You can save money by staying in Cortez or Farmington, NM.  An even better idea would be to drive up to Silverton, and stay in one of several historic hotels on Greene Street (Silverton’s Main Street).

Note: This trip was first published in 2006.

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