Durango, like Flagstaff, is a town that we could see ourselves living in. Super outdoorsy, with breweries and restaurants and a neat little downtown area. This was another place where we extended our stay a day… then another day…
[Read about our 2020 visit here!]
We stayed at Alpen Rose RV Park, about a 10-minute drive to downtown, and loved it. It’s very dog-friendly, with lots of resident dogs and a huge, grassy 2-acre dog park. The only problem with it being so dog-friendly was that our neighbor came over with treats to make friends with Bugsy, which Bugsy’s not so into. Nice gesture, though. We spent the first night in a shady, private site, but decided to move to a sunnier spot the next day. We recommend spots 71, 81, 91, 80, 90, and 100 if you’re planning to stay there as they have large grassy “yards.”
On the drive to Durango, we stopped for lunch in Cortez, a tiny, quiet town about 45 minutes west of Durango. We ate at Farm Bistro on the main drag, and would end up coming back to Cortez to spend a couple nights there and would eat at Farm Bistro again, we enjoyed it so much. The restaurant focuses on local ingredients, and has a small retail area selling local meats and produce. I wrote more about it on my (mostly defunct) sustainable food blog here.
Heading to a hike, we got quesadillas from a Southwestern food truck close to our campground, Rylee Mac’s. Quesadillas make a tasty and portable picnic lunch, but these were on the bland side.
So far we’ve had good luck with sushi in landlocked towns where you wouldn’t expect to find good sushi. East By Southwest was another happy sushi experience in a questionable location. We got carryout so I can’t comment on the ambience or service, but the food was fresh and tasty.
We drove the ridiculous, windy, steep, shoulderless road from Durango to Silverton and Ouray (pronounced “you-ray” FYI) and had lunch at Ouray Brewing Company. I’ll talk more about that below, but the food was actually really good!
Our last afternoon in town, we visited Animas Brewing Company, which I will also talk more about below, except for this tidbit: we ordered the pretzel sticks to go along with our tasting flight and they were SO GOOD.
And for our final meal in Durango, we got tacos to go from Zia Taqueria, close to the campground. It has a Chipotle-type vibe, except a little slower-moving. You pick your fixins for tacos/burritos/enchiladas/whatever format you want and they make it in front of you. I got–can you guess?–fish tacos, and they were pretty darn good.
Go to James Ranch to buy local, humane meat, eggs, cheese, and sustainable produce from the source. It’s a beautiful farm at the base of the mountains, and on Saturdays they sell burgers made from their own meat. I wrote about our visit over on my ethical eating blog.
J has already written about the breweries we visited, the show-off. I won’t say much about each brewery here since he did such a bang-up job, so go read what J said about the following breweries:
and in Ouray (remember, it’s “you-ray”): Ouray Brewing Co
Animas City Mountain Trail is, as its name implies, a trail on a mountain in the city. It’s ridiculously convenient, and you’d think an in-town hike might be lame, but this one is not. It’s 5.8 miles long, unless you get lost and take the probably even more scenic route along the edge of the mountain back down toward the trailhead (which I recommend). We picnicked on rocks overlooking Durango, saw our first snake of the trip (big, we don’t think poisonous), met some other hikers who were from a faraway place called “Shenandoah Valley, Virginia,” and got our first big snowy mountain views.
Another convenient, in-town hike is Perins Peak, but we weren’t crazy about the route mapped here. It seemed like more of a mountain biking trail than hiking, and we passed trails that seemed to lead to better views. The Overend Mountain Park trail network is extensive, and if we hiked up there again, we’d choose a trail that goes to the Hogsback or to Perins Peak itself.
I love a riverwalk, and Durango has a good one. We saw runners, skateboarders, and bike commuters while walking the dog along a stretch of the Animas.
One of the most famous tourist attractions in Durango is the narrow-gauge railroad trip to Silverton… which wasn’t running yet when we were in town. So we drove to Silverton; almost as scenic as the train, but certainly more exciting/terrifying. And then, since we had a car, we could drive on to Ouray (you-ray, I have to keep reminding myself). The road is nuts: windy, windy (the other windy), with no guardrails and steep dropoffs down the side of the mountain. The views of the surrounding mountains were incredible. Pretty little Silverton was dead when we were there (April is the shoulder season between skiing and hiking), and will be until the train starts up for the summer May 7. The section of the highway from Silverton to Ouray is called Million Dollar Highway, for the views, not for the cost of construction. Ouray was more happening and we were able to stroll the main street, pop into some shops (J went on a jerky shopping spree) (the food, not the adjective), and have a beer and lunch at Ouray Brewing Company. On the way back to Durango, we pulled over on the side of the road to see Bear Creek Falls, which are worth the stop.
[In 2020 we spent more time in Ouray; read about that here!]