Plan your vacation with this suggested Durango history itinerary. Experience the amazing history of this unique city and the surrounding area. Durango is a top destination for people who enjoy ancient history and cliff dwellings. Below is an itinerary for experiencing the modern and ancient history surrounding Durango, Colorado.
Discover some fascinating history in a majestic setting on a visit to Durango, Colorado. Turn back the clock by visiting Durango’s downtown central business district which features many old west Victorian buildings from a time in the late 1800s when Americans rapidly settled into the southwestern region of Colorado. Drive to the nearby Mesa Verde National Park to discover ancient ruins and cliff dwellings. This itinerary, based out of Durango, Colorado, provides a glimpse into the original landscape and lives of the people in the San Juan Mountain region of Southwest Colorado.
Get your time in Durango started right in the middle of historic downtown at the Diamond Belle Saloon in the Historic Strater Hotel. Wet your whistle with a few drinks at the saloon and hang around until time for the gunfight.
Gunfight at the Diamond Belle Saloon. The gunfight will start at 7:00 p.m., but be sure to get there early so you’re sure to see this awesome gunfight in the middle of Downtown Durango at 7th and Main Ave.
Walk down to one of Durango’s oldest and finest restaurants, the Ore House, for dinner. This downtown restaurant was voted the #1 steakhouse by Durango locals and tourists alike! The Ore House has been serving the finest steaks, lobster and spirits in town since 1972.
Breakfast at Brickhouse Café and Coffee Bar. Brickhouse is located in a beautiful old Victorian home that serves up some of the best breakfast in town. Fuel up and have some coffee to get ready for a day exploring the Mesa Verde National Park.
Drive out to the Mesa Verde National Park the drive is about an hour and a half but definitely worth it and you’ll want to get there early before the crowds start rolling in. You can spend the entire day exploring the amazing ruins and cliff dwellings. Make a stop at the Far View Visitor Center on your way in to purchase your Twilight Tours in Cliff Palace tickets. Also, if you’re traveling with kids, be sure to pick up a Junior Ranger activity sheet. The kids can complete the activity sheet then take it to a ranger at either the Far View Visitor Center or the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum to receive a Junior Ranger Badge.
Drive the Mesa Top Loop Road Auto Tour – This 6-mile tour allows visitors to pass by over 600 years of Mesa Verde historical artifacts. Paved trails allow you to easily access twelve surface villages and cliff dwelling overlooks along this route.
For lunch, stop at Spruce Tree Terrace Café, located in the heart of the park, for favorite American classics and Southwest specialties.
Spend the afternoon exploring the rest of the Mesa Verde National Park at your leisure. There are plenty of Cliff Dwellings to tour that are only $3 for a ranger guided tour, where a park ranger will give you lots of background and history about the dwellings and nature information. You might want to go at your own pace and explore the park on your own so be sure to be on the lookout for hiking trails you might want to explore.
– Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde’s largest cliff dwelling. This is a one-hour, ranger-guided tour that involves climbing five, 8-10ft ladders, on a 100ft vertical climb.
Total walking distance is about 1/4-mile, round-trip. The tour begins at Cliff Palace Overlook, an 8-mile, 20-minute drive from the Visitor Center.
– Balcony House is fun and adventurous cliff dwelling tour. This one-hour, ranger-guided tour involves climbing a 32 ft. ladder, crawling through a 12ft.-long tunnel, and climbing up a 60ft open rock face with two 10ft ladders to exit the site. The tour begins at the Balcony House parking area, a 10-mile, 25-minute drivefrom the Visitor Center.
Have dinner at the Mesa Verde Metate Room Restaurant
Twilight Tours in Cliff Palace
Join historical figures from Mesa Verde’s past for a 90-minute tour of the park’s most popular cliff dwelling, Cliff Palace. These characters, locked in their own time period, will give a fascinating perspective of their Mesa Verde experience.
- Tour is limited to 20 people
- $10.00 per person
Enjoy a tasty breakfast at Carver Brewing Co. who has been awarded “Durango’s Best Breakfast” more times than they can count. As you can tell from the name, Carver’s is one of Durango’s four local breweries, and their food is just as tasty as their unique beer.
Head downtown for a morning at the Animas Museum. The Animas Museum offers plenty of interesting exhibits about the history of Durango, La Plata County and southwest Colorado.
Have lunch at the Diamond Belle Saloon. The Diamond Belle is such a fun lunch stop where you will be taken back into one of the piano bars from the old west. They have a great selection of lunch items where you can sit back, enjoy your lunch and be taken back into a setting of an old Western novel.
Take a drive over to Cortez, Colorado where you can check out the Cortez Cultural Center. This museum is known to be a home for artists, cowboy poets, archaeologists and musicians. They have lots of demonstrations, events and fun programs that are sure to fill your afternoon with history and excitement.
Head back to Durango for a big dinner at a local favorite, Ken and Sue’s.
Gear up for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Trails and Rails 4×4 Tours and Train Package with a quick breakfast at The Durango Bagel, right nearby the train station – This package is an awesome combo the D&SNGRR offers that combines a ride on the Durango train with a jeep ride with Mild 2 Wild. The jeep tour will take you down the roads and trails to California Gulch and the old mining ghost town of Animas Forks.
Trails and Rails Package
Park your car at the Railroad parking lot located west of McDonalds on College Drive, cost $7.00. (You might want to park before your breakfast at the Durango Bagel since it’s within walking distance to the train station.)
Board Mild to Wild vehicle at Railroad parking lot for 8:30 am departure.
Arrive in Silverton and meet your Jeep Trail tour guide at the Shady Lady Restaurant on Blair Street.
Return to Silverton and enjoy shops and lunch on your own at one of the fun restaurants!
Board train for 3:00 train return to Durango.
Arrive in Durango.
After a day of fun with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Mild 2 Wild, take a short walk down to the Palace for a casual but nice dinner. It is a Durango restaurant featuring great pastas, seafood, specialty items, burgers and just about anything you could ask for.
Sunday + extended day trip to Ouray
If you haven’t had enough of Durango we highly suggest adding on a 5th day to this historic Durango trip. The drive from Durango to Oury is beautiful, and once you’re there don’t miss out on a tour of the historic mining camps in Ouray, you won’t regret it! Drivers will not be able to resist stopping to enjoy the awesome views. Just be sure to remember to bring the camera!
At the height of the mining in the late 1800s, Ouray had more than 30 active mines. Today, Ouray bills itself as the “Switzerland of America” because of its setting nestled in a valley enclosed on three and a half sides by steep mountains. Main St. in Ouray is registered as a National Historic District.