The rugged San Juan Mountains around Durango have long been drawing folks to Southwest Colorado. These mineral-rich hills, located just north of town, began attracting prospectors more than 150 years ago after the discovery of natural deposits of precious metals. Today the mountains draw something even more precious to the local economy: outdoor enthusiasts. The Animas River Valley is a haven for all kinds of activities best enjoyed in the mountains’ shadows: Think fishing, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and more!
Purgatory Mountain, also known as Purgatory Resort, is located just 25 miles from Downtown Durango. No one’s quite sure how the region got the name, but of course you’ll find a few local legends offering up an explanation. According to one local legend, the name Purgatory comes from a centuries-old Spanish expedition led by Silvestre Vélez de Escalante. Several of his men left the group to explore a river, but never made it back to camp. Their bodies were never found and the other explorers believed that the souls of the lost men would be relegated to Purgatory.
Another legend suggests that when miners were trying to get from Durango to the prosperous mines in the Silverton area, they had to pay 50 cents to use the toll road. Unsuccessful miners who couldn’t afford the toll were stuck in the area which became known as Purgatory Flats, because they were trapped in a position of limbo. They couldn’t afford to get up the mountain, but couldn’t see themselves quitting and going down when so close, either. No matter where the name came from, we happen to disagree: The way we see it, Purgatory Mountain might just be heaven on Earth. This rugged adventure center is a true destination to be enjoyed year-round.
Winter Sports Heaven
Today Purgatory Mountain is home to Purgatory Resort, a world-class destination for skiing, snowboarding and other outdoor experiences. Each winter more than 260 inches of snow fall on the mountains, making Purgatory Mountain a heavenly destination for anyone who craves powder and adventure. You’ll find more than 1,300 acres of skiable area on Purgatory Mountain, with nearly 90 trails ranging from beginner-friendly slopes to black diamond runs. The elevation at the summit is reaches 10,822 feet – which is more than two-miles above sea level, with a vertical drop of more than 2,000 feet.
If snowboarding in Durango is more your speed, you’re in luck: In addition to the trails you’ll also find five terrain parks on Purgatory Mountain, each letting you experience true Alpine nirvana! You’ll also find a handful of other winter activities on Durango’s Purgatory Mountain. From alpine snowshoe tours to horse-drawn sleigh rides, cold-weather fun reigns supreme in this icy mountainside kingdom. If you’re craving a new kind of adventure, try your hand at ice climbing. Certified guides will take guests from beginner to advanced abilities ice climbing in nearby Cascade Canyon, a natural ice park just two miles down the mountain.
Even though Purgatory Mountain’s true claim to fame is its winter wonderland, you’ll find many ways to enjoy the outdoors here during milder weather. Spring, summer and fall are all fabulous times to take in Purgatory Mountain’s other great amenities. From May until September, you’ll have a chance to explore Purgatory Mountain on your mountain bike. Take your ride to the top of the mountain via chairlift, then access miles of trails for bikers of all ability levels.
From scenic loops for novices to the challenging 1990 World Mt. Bike Championship Trail, Purgatory is perfect for picturesque exploring the or even getting in some screaming while racing downhill.
Hospitality on the Mountain
All the adventures to be had on Durango’s Purgatory Mountain can certainly wear you out; thankfully you’ll find lodging options along the trails. From chic hotels to mountainside chalets, you’ll find a place to rest your head that suits your style and budget. You can also explore the trails from Durango’s nearby dude ranches, historic downtown hotels or even from a rustic mountainside campground. You’ll find it’s easy to get around on Purgatory Resort thanks to the well-marked roads and welcoming folks around you. All of that adventure can certainly work up an appetite, and you’ll find all kinds of good eats up the mountain as well. Come down the mountain to explore Durango’s lively food scene, with more restaurants per capita than culinary destinations like San Francisco and even New York City! Experience the magic of the mountains with a true Durango adventure!