Every now and then, you visit a place that seems to have it all: Jaw-droppingly gorgeous surroundings, charming city streets, a fun vibe, and uniquely entertaining activities.
Durango, Colorado is just that kind of town. At a population of only about 17,000, it’s not a large city, but it IS big in so many other ways. Take the San Juan Mountains. The rugged peaks rise all around, making for stunning views in virtually every direction.
And the downtown, which lies at the base of the mountains, is bursting with history. Countless old buildings have been preserved and re-purposed as cool bars, restaurants and shops.
Then there’s the “river runs through it” thing. The lovely Animas River really is the heart of Durango. The rush of its chilly blue-green waters can be heard and seen from patios, trails, and city sidewalks all over town.
And who could forget the feature that is perhaps Durango’s main claim to fame – the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad? With its multiple daily trips to the mountain town of Silverton, the train is ubiquitous in Durango. Its whistle and smoky-steam plume are true symbols of the region.
But more on the train later (See related blog).
On my recent trip to southwestern Colorado, I also had another objective: To see Durango from river level. So, for the introductory blog on my “A Hike and a Bite” series, I give you the Animas River Trail.
What can I say? I love trails. It doesn’t matter if they’re rough single-track passages through the mountains or wide pathways in the prairie, I can’t seem to resist a scenic recreational route.
And Durango makes it easy. The Animas River Trail is about nine miles of mostly concrete path that hugs the winding route of river. It’s never hard to find, and because the route is mostly flat, it makes for a leisurely walk.
Because the trail cuts right through the center of town, it passes by plenty of business districts. Fortunately, that includes bars and restaurants. One of my favorites was the quaint Animas Brewing Co., which sits near the banks of the Animas River, and also is directly on the route of the Silverton Train.
I sat on the patio for a beer and a snack, and right on cue, the train whistled past, just steps from my table – a truly impressive sight. After taking in the stream-powered locomotive from the grassy area that separates the brewery from the train tracks, I returned to my table, and watched as the passenger cars continued on their trip back to the station. Not a bad example of “a dinner and a show.”
The brewery is on the northern edge of downtown Durango, and the stretch of trail that passes it is dotted with pretty bridges, public art, parks and underpasses. It’s a popular spot. I talked with visitors and locals who were all out enjoying the trail. I also spotted a number of fishermen out trying their luck.
And just outside the brewery, not far from the bandstand at Rotary Park, the trail continues along the picturesque train tracks on their way north to Silverton.
Continue south on the trail, and you will cut through the downtown, and ultimately reach a stretch of river that can feel like the middle of nowhere, although it’s not far from the highways that intersect Durango.
I loved this part of the trail for its leafy terrain and great views of the river. I also came across the riverside location of Serious Texas B-B-Q, which features a huge patio that fronts the river trail, and overlooks the river. After walking miles along the trail, the delicious smoked turkey-breast sandwich and ice-cold Zuberfizz root beer – a local favorite – really hit the spot.
Durango lies in the southwestern corner of Colorado, in the Four-Corners area. As the regional name implies, it is not far from Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. I drove the seven-hour trip from my home in northern Arizona, but I really didn’t use my car much after I arrived. The river trail makes Durango a great walking town – just perfect for a “hike and a bite.
While I thoroughly enjoyed all that Durango had to offer, mostly, I couldn’t get enough of the river that runs right through the center of town and continues through the rugged canyons that surround it. Take a look:
(This blog is a part of an two ongoing series – “A Hike and a Bite” and a “Hike and a Brew” – meant to showcase beautiful walks and the stellar cafes and breweries located along the way).