In addition to contacting the various companies listed below, you can get additional information and even book some activities through the Durango Area Tourism Office.
Durango is surrounded by public land, with numerous opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and winter sports. For information, contact the San Juan Public Lands Center, at 15 Burnett Court ([tel] 970/247-4874), off U.S. 160 in the Durango Tech Center, offering information from the San Juan National Forest (www.fs.fusda.gov/sanjuan) and the Bureau of Land Management (www.blm.gov/co). The center is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm.
The Durango Parks and Recreation Department ([tel] 970/375-7321; www.durangogov.org) operates about 20 parks throughout the city, where you’ll find picnic areas, free tennis courts, swimming pools, and other facilities.
Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, some 25 miles north of Durango on U.S. 550 ([tel] 970/247-9000; www.durangomountainresort.com), doesn’t close down—or even slow down—after the winter’s snows are gone. Summer activities here include running on water in a human-sized hamster ball, a zipline, scenic chairlift rides, a climbing wall, miniature golf, disc golf, and bungee trampolines. Individual activities cost from $7 for a round of mini golf to $15 for the zipline, alpine slide, or bungee trampoline, but the best deal is the Total Adventure Ticket—a 5-ride pass for $45. Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort also offers free guided naturalist hikes; call [tel] 970/385-1210 for times and registration.
Fishing -- Six-mile-long Vallecito Lake, 23 miles northeast of Durango via C.R. 240 and C.R. 501, is a prime spot for rainbow trout, brown trout, kokanee salmon, and northern pike; for information, contact the Vallecito Lake Chamber of Commerce ([tel] 970/247-1573; www.vallecitolakechamber.com). There are also numerous rivers and streams in the Durango area. For licenses, supplies, and advice, or to arrange for a guided fly-fishing trip, stop in at Duranglers, 923 Main Ave. ([tel] 888/347-4346 or 970/385-4081; www.duranglers.com). Full-day float trips for two people cost $375 to $475; wading trips for two cost $375.
Glider Rides -- For a quiet, airborne look at Durango and the San Juan Mountains, take a glider ride with Durango Soaring Club (tel. 970/247-9037; www.soardurango.com), located 3 miles north of Durango on U.S. 550. Rides are conducted daily from 9am to 6pm from mid-May through mid-October; soaring is smoother in the morning, but there is greater thermal activity, offering the opportunity for longer rides, in the afternoon. Rates for one person are $100 for 10 to 15 minutes and $150 for 30 to 35 minutes, and $170 and $230 for similar trips for two, but the total weight of both passengers must be less than 300 pounds.
Golf -- Two public 18-hole golf courses open in spring, weather permitting. There’s Hillcrest Golf Club, 2300 Rim Dr., adjacent to Fort Lewis College ([tel] 970/247-1499; www.golfhillcrest.com), with fees of $39 for 18 holes, not including cart; and Dalton Ranch Golf Club, 589 Trimble Lane (C.R. 252), north of Durango via U.S. 550 ([tel] 970/247-8774; www.daltonranch.com), charging $65 to $105 for 18 holes, cart included.
Hiking & Backpacking -- The Animas Mountain Trail is a 5-mile loop with terrific views of the entire valley, accessible via a trail head in the northwest corner of town near 32nd Street and 4th Avenue. Durango is at the western end of the 500-mile Colorado Trail (www.coloradotrail.org) to Denver. The trail head is 3 1/2 miles up Junction Creek Road, an extension of 25th Street west of Main Avenue. There are numerous other trails in the Durango area, including several that delve into the Weminuche Wilderness Area via the Durango & Silverton railroad. For information on area trails, contact the San Juan Public Lands Center .
Horseback Riding & Cattle Drives -- My choice for a licensed outfitter here is Rapp Corral, located on the east side of U.S. 550 about 20 miles north of Durango at 51 Haviland Lake Rd. ([tel] 970/247-8454; www.rappcorral.com). Riders go into the San Juan National Forest, and rides start at $48 for a 1-hour ride. A 2-hour ride to a natural cave costs $80, and a 4- to 5-hour trip into southern Colorado’s high country costs $175 to $200. Overnight trips and winter sleigh rides are also available.
Llama Trekking -- Guided llama trips, overnight pack trips, and llama leasing are the specialty of Buckhorn Llama Co. ([tel] 970/667-7411; www.llamapack.com). Guided pack trips in the Weminuche Wilderness Area for one to three people cost $400 per person per day and include all meals and equipment, except sleeping bags.
Mountain Biking -- The varied terrain and myriad trails of San Juan National Forest have made Durango a nationally known mountain-biking center. The Hermosa Creek Trail (11 miles north of Durango off U.S. 550) and the La Plata Canyon Road (11 miles west of Durango off U.S. 160) are among my favorites. For information, contact the Public Lands Center ([tel] 970/247-4874). You can also get information and rent mountain bikes at Hassle Free Sports, 2615 Main Ave. ([tel] 970/259-3874; www.hasslefreesports.com), which rents full suspension mountain bikes for about $50 per day. Bikers can also take their rig up a chairlift at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort ([tel] 970/247-9000; www.durangomountainresort.com) for $10 a trip or $25 all day. Rentals at the resort run $50 a day.
Mountaineering & Rock Climbing -- A variety of terrain offers mountaineering and rock-climbing opportunities for beginners as well as advanced climbers. San Juan Mountain Guides ([tel] 800/642-5389; www.mtnguide.net) offers guided climbs in the La Plata and San Juan mountain ranges ($150 and up for 1 day) and instruction ($295 for a 2-day introductory class).
River Rafting -- The three stages of the Animas River provide excitement for rafters of all abilities The churning Class IV and V rapids of the upper Animas mark its rapid descent from the San Juans. The 6 miles from Trimble Hot Springs into downtown Durango are an easy, gently rolling rush. Downstream from Durango, the river is mainly Classes II and III—more relaxing than thrilling. Most outfitters in Durango offer a wide variety of rafting excursions, such as 2- to 4-hour raft trips that cost $30 to $50 for adults and $25 to $40 for kids, and full-day river trips, which include lunch, costing $80 to $110 for adults and $60 to $75 for kids. Recommended outfitters include Durango Rivertrippers ([tel] 970/259-0289; www.durangorivertrippers.com) and Mild to Wild Rafting ([tel] 970/247-4789; www.mild2wildrafting.com).
Rodeo -- From late June through the third weekend in July, the Durango Pro Rodeo series takes place most Friday and Saturday nights starting at 6pm at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, Main Avenue and 25th Street (tel. 970/739-3851). Admission costs $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.
Swimming & Mineral Baths -- Trimble Hot Springs ★, 7 miles north of Durango just off U.S. 550 ([tel] 970/247-0111; www.trimblehotsprings.com), at the junction of C.R. 203 and Trimble Lane, is a National Historic Site more than 100 years old, where you’ll often find mom and dad relaxing in the soothing mineral pools or getting a massage while the kids have fun in the adjacent swimming pool. Facilities include two natural hot-springs therapy pools, a separate Olympic-size swimming pool (heated by the hot springs but not containing hot-springs water), massage and therapy rooms, a snack bar, a picnic area, and gardens. The complex is open daily, and day passes cost $18 for adults and $12 for children 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under, and cover use of the therapy mineral pools and the swimming pool. There is a spa onsite, and lodging is available for $150 to $195 a night.
Winter Sports -- Some 25 miles north of Durango on U.S. 550, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort ([tel] 800/982-6103 or 970/247-9000; www.durangomountainresort.com), has bragging rights to more sunshine than any other Colorado resort. Surprisingly, the sun doesn’t come at the expense of snow—average annual snowfall is 260 inches—so you really get the best of both snow and sun. The resort contains 1,360 acres of skiable terrain, with runs for every skill level. The nearby Durango Nordic Center ([tel] 970/385-2114; www.durangonordic.org) has more than 10 miles of trails, and charges $15 for a trail pass ($8 for kids and seniors).
The village includes lodging, several restaurants and taverns, shops, a ski school, and equipment rentals. All-day lift tickets (2013-14 rates) cost $77 for adults, $66 for seniors, $60 for teenagers up to 17, $46 for children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. The resort is usually open from late November or early December to early April, daily from 9am to 4pm.
There's also dinky Ski Hesperus, 13 miles west of Durango ([tel] 970/259-3711; www.ski-hesperus.com): one lift, one rope tow, night skiing, and $39 adult lift tickets or $26 for children 12 and under ($29 and $18 for night skiing, respectively).
Soaring Tree Top Adventures: A Bird's-Eye View of the Forest
Dubbed a "Canopy Tour," Soaring Tree Top Adventures offers visitors a chance to ride a one-of-a-kind zip-line course through the trees north of Durango. The course is accessible only by the Durango & Silverton train and consists of over a mile of zip-line spans ranging in length from 50 feet to 1,400 feet, many of them crossing over the Animas River. The zip lines connect a number of stainless-steel platforms that grip their host trees without harming them, some of them 100 feet above the forest floor. The attraction opened in 2004 and has won scads of accolades since.
After an exhilarating day confronting acrophobia and learning to keep facing forward, I found it to be well worth the somewhat high price ($339 a person for the full day, lunch and train included) and a great time for all ages. You have to just take a step and let gravity and technology do the rest -- the harnesses are state-of-the-art and the staff make sure you're connected properly every span of the way -- and you're literally flying through the treetops at speeds pushing 30 miles an hour, gliding to a stop thanks to the resort's patented braking system.
For more information, contact Soaring Tree Top Adventures (tel. 970/769-2357; www.soaringcolorado.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.