Colorado Road Trippn’: Day 3 in Durango

Most people know Durango for its famous 19-century Narrow Gauge Railroad steam train. It passes through the mountains and canyons between Durango and Silverton, 50 miles north, and it brings a lot of tourism to town, especially during the summer months.

There are also great nearby ski resorts, like Purgatory, as well as seasonal music festivals and many great places to go camping and hiking. It’s a great vacation spot whether you come with friends or family.

But what really made me fall in love with this town was it’s unique cultural mix and it’s mysterious history. Way before Durango became a mining town serving the San Juan district in 1880, this land in the Southwestern corner of the state was populated by a very complex Native American civilization along the Animas River or El Río de Las Ánimas. Interestingly, by the time the current Ute Indians settled here, these “Puebloans” (Including those living in the nearby Mesa Verde National Park) had mysteriously disappeared. Isn’t that crazy?! After hundreds of years, they just suddenly disappeared. Aliens anyone?...

Then, you also have the influence of the many flocks of migrants coming to Durango from all over the country or from across the border in search of a better life in the Old West. All of them have had a significant impact on the local culture, which is reflected in the local food, the music, the businesses and lifestyle. Here, it’s all about craftsmanship and pride and traditions. 

We started Day 3 in Durango with breakfast at College Drive Cafe, a local favorite. I used to come here for my morning coffee or to hang out with coworkers during their open mic nights. Their breakfast menu is pretty extensive, but if you want to pack on the veggies, I recommend the Durango Scramble. Nabol, on the other hand, couldn’t resist their chorizo scramble made with homemade chorizo. 

Santa Rita Park was next. It’s a great place to walk off a big break breakfast and take great pictures of the beautiful Animas River. There’s a trail that runs seven miles, if you are up for the challenge, but we had a national park to get to so we cut our walk short.

Mesa Verde National Park is about 45 minutes west of Durango and worth every minute of the 7-hour drive from Denver. You’ll be able to see and walk through well-preserved ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and immerse yourself in magical stories. 

What I've forgotten about was that once you get to the visitor’s center, you’ll have to drive another 45 minutes to get to the dwellings. But again, totally worth it! The altitude at Mesa Verde ranges from 6,000 to 8,572 feet, so you get to see a very diverse ecosystem. Lots of picture opportunities. Prepare yourself to spend at least 4 to 5 hours here. 

If you are physically fit and not afraid of heights, definitively pay the $5 for the Balcony House guided tour. It’s the most adventurous cliff dwelling in the park. You’ll have to crawl through a tight dark tunnel, walk through ancient passageways and climb a 32-foot entrance ladder. 

Back in Durango, we desperately needed a beer after the thrilling experience. Ska Brewing was the place to go. They have all sorts of creative brews, including an experimental curry coconut brew that was exquisite. And because it was Monday, all pints were $2 only for happy hour! Score! …Let’s just say we had a fantastic time. Also at Ska Brewing, The Container of Food serves delicious pizzas, salads and sandwiches with fresh, mostly locally sourced ingredients. We had their goat cheese pesto pizza with a spinach, cranberry and walnut salad. Super good.

With a full stomach and a few beers in our system, it was time to call it a night. The next day was going to be another long one.

Don't miss a single day! Here's Day 1, and Day 2.

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