Top Reasons to Go to Durango, Colorado

Durango: A Good ‘Ole Western Town

I’m back east now in upstate New York, trying to settle in after a whirlwind two-week trip to Colorado that was filled with lots of travel. During that time, I taped a few interviews for Travel Fun, my talk radio show on KOTO. I had the pleasure of doing one with Steve Gumble, founder of the renowned Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, which takes place every September. This time, however, we chatted about his new baby, the Telluride Jazz Festival, which kicks off tonight in Telluride and runs through Sunday. Had we had more time we would have talked about the Durango Blues Train, another big happening he created a handful of years ago. It is super fun and also one of my top reasons to visit Durango, Colorado. This year, the second Durango Blues Train of the season takes place August 18 & 19. Unfortunately these dates have sold out, too!  You can, however, start planning for next year. (Fortunately tickets are still available for Telluride Blues & Brews and Jazz.)

Yee-Haw

Yippee Ki Yay

A Recent Respite at The Office Spiritorium at the Strater Hotel

And you can still take the train most days. It’s true–Durango is all about the train, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to be exact. Add some blues musicians to that and a bunch of fun-loving people and you have an instant party. Durango is also about historic hotels such as the Strater and the Rochester as well as a whole wagon full of other fabulous sites, establishments and activities that exude the vibrant spirit of the West.

I’ve recently started to write content for Discovery Map, the cheery, hand-drawn maps you can pick up at resort destinations across the United States. They’re developing their website, which is where my destination descriptions can be found. So click Colorado’s Wild Side and Hit the Streets of Durango to read about my top reasons to visit Durango, Colorado. And when you go to visit, be sure to pick up a Discovery Map to help you find your way around this historic gem in southwestern Colorado.

Click here to listen to a previous Travel Fun interview with Steve Gumble where he talks about Telluride Blues & Brews and the Durango Blues Train. You can also read more of my Telluride Blues & Brews stories here.

For more of my stories on Durango and the outlying area, click here.

The Historic Strater Hotel

Strater Hotel: the Grande Dame of Durango, Colorado

Strater Hotel in Durango Backdropped by a Quintessential Colorado Blue Sky

If you’ve read some of my posts on my blog and/or if you’re familiar with my books on France, you likely know by now that I love hotels. Historic hotels in particular move me. I’m a big fan of experiencing these bastions of history and tradition during one’s travels, whether it’s to pop in for a drink or to stay a few nights. No matter how you choose to discover these landmark properties, a visit to them allows you to soak up the spirit of the place for either a brief moment or a more luxurious stay. The world is peppered with such places of lodging, steeped in history, that folks have been enjoying in many cases for more than a century. I encourage my readers to seek them out at every turn because it’s often within their splendiferous interiors that we gain the true essence of the place we’re visiting; it’s here we’re able to peer into the past while embracing the present.

In most cases, these fine establishments serve as the cornerstones of the cities and towns we love to visit. Many were built during the golden era of that destination in an effort to express to the world all that the town had achieved, all that the community was becoming. Erecting a notable place of lodging for business and leisure travelers alike was a sure-bet way of putting a destination on the map in addition to providing the right conditions for welcoming visitors in a more dignified and glorious manner.

Nearly every town and city in Colorado boasts a fine hotel, most of which were built during the boomtown era of the mining days toward the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was one of the most significant ways of saying “we’ve arrived.” Finally an old cow town could receive its potential investors and other movers and shakers of the day in a proper manner. The Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado stands out as one of the finest examples of this necessity to build a handsome place of lodging in emerging towns throughout the West.

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Blue Lake Ranch: A Hidden Gem in Southwest Colorado

Blue Lake Ranch

Blue Lake Ranch

The Iconic Sleeping Ute Mountain in Southwest Colorado

The Iconic Sleeping Ute Mountain in Southwest Colorado

I Love Sunflowers

I Love Sunflowers

I love living in southwest Colorado. Here in Telluride we’re in a high alpine world surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks, yet within an hour’s drive you find yourself in more arid, Western-looking landscapes sporting temperatures almost twenty degrees warmer. That’s a welcome relief this time of year when most people want to extend summer as much as possible.

Blue Lake Ranch

Blue Lake Ranch

About this time last year I discovered a wonderful guest ranch that I didn’t know existed: Blue Lake Ranch. And what a discovery it was!

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Ten Reasons You Should Take the Durango Blues Train

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Blues on Board

Blues on Board

Oh Yeah!

Oh Yeah!

Me Sipping Wine Before Boarding

Me Sipping Wine Before Boarding

1. It’s more fun listening to music when you’re in motion than on solid ground.

2. The Durango Blues Train is put on by Steve Gumble, founder of the renowned Telluride Blues & Brews Festival; he and his staff know how to create memorable events. On the Blues Train, you can hop from car to car and rock on to great music from bands and solo acts from all over the U.S.

3. Not that you need an excuse, but this great train excursion gives you a reason to visit the fun-loving Western town of Durango, Colorado. Be sure to spend the night at either The Rochester Hotel or The Strater.

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Embracing Colorado Wilderness with Over the Hill Outfitters

The Great Colorado Outdoors:  Where Life is Best Viewed from a Horse

The Great Colorado Outdoors: Where Life is Best Experienced from a Horse

Spring has finally sprung—full-on—here in Colorado and despite the fact that it snowed about ten days ago, this week the thermometer has been registering summertime temps. Roadways over the highest mountain passes are being plowed for passage and outfitters of all sorts are preparing for the influx of summer visitors. There’s still some snow to be cleared from the steep mountain trails, however, with the warmth of our southwestern Colorado sun, all our glorious wilderness will soon be open to locals and vacationers alike.

My fellow ski instructor buddies have taken up their summer posts as guides, landscapers or in my case, as a full-time writer, to name a few. Mother nature and all of us fortunate enough to live in this beautiful country are transitioning nicely into summer. At the end of ski season, I sat down with Dennis Huis, a top ski instructor at Telluride Ski & Snowboard School, to hear about his flip side, the job he’s been doing every summer for about as long as he’s been in ski school world.

Dennis talks about his work as a guide on pack trips with Over the Hill Outfitters in Durango, Colorado in my Travel Fun interview below. Click on the play button  to listen to what he has to say about life on the trail. People from all over the world learn about the true definition of “getting away from it all” on these five-day horse trips into the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in Colorado which encompasses a significant part of the rugged San Juan Mountains, some of the most spectacular peaks in the United States.

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Play

Fall in Colorado: A Beautiful Time for Sightseeing and Winter Travel Planning

Fall in Telluride

Fall in Telluride

Fall in Aspen

Fall in Aspen

As you can see from the photos featured in this post, we are in full fall splendor here in Colorado. The foliage is peaking now, yet there’s still a lot of green on the trees. So it should remain beautiful in the mountains for another few weeks. Now we’ve entered the autumnal phase of white beginning to replace the gold, russet, burnt umber and bronze that currently punctuate our alpine panoramas. Yes, as the snow fills in, this harvest of fall colors fades into the landscape and we’re left increasingly hopeful about the opening of our ski resorts and the promise of the winter season in the Rockies.

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Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: An American Treasure

Durango train

The Durango Train in Southwestern Colorado

Spring has sprung here in southwestern Colorado, although there has been snow on the Peaks these past couple of nights and frost on the ground this morning. These dustings just make for prettier panoramas, something we’re not lacking here in Colorado. The leaves have popped within the past week and the tourists are beginning to arrive from nearby and far flung destinations.

If you’re looking to maximize your sightseeing and experience something real old timey in the process, I recommend you book a trip on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, one of the most exciting train rides in the world. The train rattles and chuffs along tracks as narrow as 36 inches wide (along the mountain passes) from May through October, offering breathtaking views to visitors from all over the world.

The first train arrived in Durango, Colorado during the summer of 1881. Within less than a year, workers managed to lay track all the way to Silverton, an almost unfathomable feat accomplished largely by the quest for gold and silver up in the mountains. Yes, these were the boomtown days of mining and during that time this narrow gauge railroad between Durango and Silverton played a pivotal role.

Once you’re on one of the classic rail cars peering out at towering views over the Animas River Canyon, it feels as though not much has changed since the old days. If you’re in one of the open-air coaches (probably the most fun), you still get covered in soot and can feel the brisk mountain air sweep your face. The train still has to stop to have its water tank filled, a pleasant delay that gives you more time to take in the surrounding nature, much of it punctuated by the mineral-rich waters of the Animas.

Ski In/Ski Out to Great Snow in Colorado

Camel’s Garden Hotel at the Base of the Gondola in Telluride

Great Ski In/Ski Out Access at Mountain Lodge in Telluride

Woo-hoo! It’s been snowing in Colorado—big time. Anyone that’s been following this winter’s weather patterns knows that Colorado has been shortchanged in snowfall this season. Yes, it has been a little tough going but that’s all changed after one humongous storm. And then another biggie.

Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Beaver Creek

Just in the nick of time, over forty inches were dumped on parts of the San Juans, the mighty range of the Rockies that dominates most of southwestern Colorado. Avalanche control work is still being carried out in much of the region but since Saturday, folks have been able to enjoy epic skiing and riding.

It’s no surprise that Wolf Creek racked up the highest number of inches with Silverton and Durango Mountain Resort following closely behind. Here in Telluride, we were extremely happy with almost three feet—yes, people have been hooting and hollering on and off the slopes for the past five days. (I was thrilled to enjoy two stellar days of skiing early in the week and then gladly welcomed a day at my desk after feeling totally whopped and sore after so much fun. Plus, I’m still tired from having succumbed to the flu—yuk.)

Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge report almost two feet of fresh this past week while Aspen has measured a bit less. The latest weather system just blew out of the state and now everyone in Colorado seems to be grinning ear-to-ear. With blue skies all around us, it doesn’t get much better for enjoying all this lovely Colorado champagne powder.

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    This blog is a personal blog written and edited by Maribeth Clemente. This blog sometimes accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content. The owner of this blog is sometimes compensated to provide opinion on products, services, Web sites and various other topics. Even though the owner of this blog receives compensation for certain posts or advertisements, she always gives her honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blogger's own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.
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