If you are looking for train rides in the Rocky Mountains, you must consider a trip on the Durango and Silverton narrow gauge railroad – arguably the most scenic train route in Colorado. If you are not convinced, maybe it’s worth knowing that National Geographic Traveler has named Durango the Number One American Train Trip.
Located in the south of the state at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Durango is a vacation spot that offers some vibes from the old Wild West. These vibes are particularly strong in the historic downtown, where you can enjoy some grand old buildings before or after spending some time in the wild Rockies. The town offers several hotels that can accommodate you. If you decide to stay, you may also have time to meet some of the 16,887 inhabitants.
Why should you care about Durango? Well, some may care because they like the town or the views it offers of the La Plata Mountains and San Juan. While Durango is located at an altitude of 6,512 ft (1,984 m), some peaks of the San Juan Mountains rise to over 14,000 feet (4,267 m). Even those who are not interested in visiting Durango may still find the location valuable given the connections it provides to many hiking trails in the Rockies. Durango is part of the Colorado Trail, a 500-mi-long backcountry route that runs from Denver to Durango. The trail can give you access to Junction Creek, Gudy’s Rest, and other hiking trails.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway is not only one of the town’s main attractions but also the coolest way to leave the town. The town of Durango was actually founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (1880), meaning that the train not only plays a major role in the town’s life today but it has been a key part of the town’s history since its beginnings.
This vintage train offers day trips up the valley, from Durango to Silverton – another old town that is located in the mountains at an altitude of 9,318 ft (2,840 m). The train has several stops from where you can hike different parts of San Juan National Forest – which covers most of the southern areas of the San Juan Mountains. The ride can last for an entire day, as the travel time in each direction is over three hours, and the stopover in Silverton lasts for 2 hours.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge is not nice just for the views; visitors can choose whether to ride in Victorian or open-sided gondola cars. You cannot ride this train without reservations, and it is recommended that you book it in advance in order to avoid hearing or reading “no seats left”, or something similar. The train is also operational during the winter.
There are several nearby locations that are arguably worthy of your attention. One is the Vallecito Lake, which is located in the San Juan National Forest. Another location, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, is more interesting during winter, as it includes a ski area with 10 ski lifts and 88 trails.
For more information about Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge, visit the Durango train website here. You may also want to visit Durango’s tourist website for relevant information here. If you want to book activities in Durango, you can do so on by going here.