The 24 Best Mountain Towns in the U.S.
― Outside Magazine
Southwest Colorado is home to unique mountain towns with limitless outdoor adventure and vibrant, welcoming communities. La Plata County’s population is around 56,000, with the town of Durango home to roughly 18,000 residents. Durango has a small mountain-town feel but has the amenities often associated with larger population areas, including an airport serving the entire Four Corners region with daily nonstop flights to Denver, Salt Lake City, and other metropolitan hubs.
Additionally, Durango is home to Fort Lewis College, Colorado’s “campus in the sky.” Fort Lewis is a small liberal arts college with close to 4,000 students and cultural draws such as the Community Concert Hall, Southwest Colorado’s premier performing arts venue, and the Center of Southwest Studies, a museum, library, and archive specializing in the history and cultures of the Southwest. Downtown Durango is full of art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, local businesses, and community organizations. The Durango Famers’ Market provides a venue for area farmers, food vendors, craftspeople, and local musicians every Saturday morning from May through October.
The town is also known for several annual celebrations, including the uniquely-Durango Snowdown: a week-long, lively winter carnival festival with over 100 events for all ages.
Every May, thousands of road bike riders from all over the country visit the region to take up the challenge of racing the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge train from downtown Durango to Silverton. A 50-mile ride over two mountain passes and with 5,700 feet of elevation gain, the ride is a challenging adventure with spectacular scenery and loads of fun. The Iron Horse Weekend now includes mountain bike and gravel events, as well.
Summer in Durango brings Animas River Days, a water-based weekend showcasing kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, river surfing, and rafting events. The highlight of the weekend is the costumed river parade with thousands of local spectators enjoying the fun and bearing witness to some spectacular whitewater stunts.
Open Sky’s home base is located along the Animas River in the town of Durango, Colorado in Southwest Colorado. Situated in the Four Corners region—the area of the Southwest United States where the four states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona meet—Durango is within striking distance of several natural attractions and national parks and monuments, including Mesa Verde National Park, the San Juan National Forest, Monument Valley, Chaco Canyon, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Durango is roughly a two-and-half drive from both Telluride, Colorado and Moab, Utah and less than a five-hour drive from Grand Canyon National Park.
― Outside Magazine
― The Denver Post
Curious about what makes Durango such a great place to live, work, and play? Our team members are here to help! From the most scenic trails to the liveliest events to the tastiest cup of coffee, Open Sky staff weigh in on all their Durango favorites.
One of the best reasons to live in Southwest Colorado is the unlimited opportunities for outdoor experiences. Durango sits nestled on the edge of the San Juan Mountains with abundant peak bagging, backpacking, rock climbing, cycling, and hiking options for every level of adventurer.
The 126-mile Animas River flows through Durango with an 800-meter whitewater park with Class III rapids for kayaking, rafting, and paddle boarding thrills. The Animas River Trail runs roughly 14 miles along the river through Durango, providing a scenic route for bike commuters, walkers, easy family rides, and those wanting to spot the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge train as it passes by. The Animas River also boasts Gold Medal trout fishing and fly-fishing aficionados take to the river from early morning to late dusk.
The Southwest Colorado region is known as a world-class biking mecca. The area has more than 1,000 miles of biking trails and endless road riding options as well. The town of Durango has been designated as a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. The region hosts numerous organized races, tours, and biking events, including the infamous Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, a 50-mile road ride from Durango to Silverton, and the winter Silverton Whiteout, a rowdy 10-hour fat bike relay race with rest stops serving bacon, espresso, and target shooting.
The Durango area is a paradise for those who enjoy exploring the outdoors on foot. With over 300 miles of trails within 30 minutes of downtown Durango, hikers, trail runners, and backpackers have boundless options for discovering the best of the Four Corners region. Popular and iconic trail systems, such as Animas Mountain and the Colorado Trail, which runs 486 miles from Durango to Denver, are easily accessed right from town. Trail lovers can take a drive to get to even more trail opportunities in the high country of the La Plata and San Juan Mountains and nearby areas such as Pagosa Springs, Cortez, and Moab, Utah.
The winter months provide equally adventurous outdoor opportunities with alpine skiing at Durango’s local ski resort, Purgatory Mountain, and Wolf Creek Mountain, located east of Pagosa Springs. Telluride Ski Resort is less than a three hour’s drive from Durango. Nordic skiing can be accessed in town at the Hillcrest Golf Course and further afield at the Durango Nordic Center, Vallecito Reservoir, Molas Pass, Andrews Lake, and Chicken Creek Trails in Montezuma County. Local winter activities also include snowshoeing, fat biking, ice skating, dog sledding, and ice-fishing, to name a few.