Winter In Durango- The Ultimate Itinerary

This post may contain affiliate links.

Durango, Colorado is an adorable town in southwest Colorado, close to the New Mexico border. With a population of just 17,000 people and gorgeous weather, Durango is a top-rated travel destination in the southwest.

There’s so much to do in Durango year-round! We chose to visit in winter to take advantage of the snow, and we were not disappointed.

When you visit Durango, expect to find some of the friendliest and most hard-working people around. The food is incredible and the views of the mountains are beyond spectacular. We spent 4 nights and 5 days exploring Durango, and this was our itinerary. It was perfect- I wouldn’t change a thing!

Day 1- Arrival

Durango is located about a 6.5-hour drive from where we live in Denver, and during the winter, you never know how the roads will be. So we flew into the Durango-La Plata airport on a direct flight operated by United Airlines.

I was super surprised at how inexpensive the flights were and the flight was only 40 minutes. We arrived in Durango for an incredible sunset. We grabbed our rental car and headed to downtown Durango. We stayed right downtown so we could walk to lots of restaurants- I’d recommend booking a downtown hotel for your visit.

We ate our first meal at Fired Up! Pizzeria which I would highly recommend. The ingredients used to make our pizzas were high quality, and my salad was huge and delicious. With a full bar and friendly bartenders, you’ll leave full and happy.

Day 2- Ski Purgatory

The closest ski resort to Durango is Purgatory- it’s located about 25 minutes away. My girls had never been skiing, and we wanted to take them for the first time at a resort that was super family-friendly. Purgatory delivers as kids 18 and under ski free with an adult lift ticket purchase.

We chose to rent skis and take lessons right at the base. The lifts open at 9, but the ticket office and rental office open right at 8. Allow yourself plenty of time to get your lift ticket and rentals because you need to take a shuttle down to the lesson area if you don’t know how to ski down.

Purgatory has an extensive beginners’ area with both a magic carpet and two lifts. Lessons are half or full-day, and the teachers are excellent. In just a few hours my daughter was ready to use the ski lift and ski down the mountain on her own. She had so much fun, and I had fun watching her.

After the half-day lessons we enjoyed lunch at the Lodge, and I had a well-deserved beer in the sun on “The Beach.” We skied the afternoon away and headed back downtown for a delicious dinner.

We chose to dine at The Roost where we enjoyed delicious prime rib and shrimp. The menu is comfort food to the max- perfect after a day of skiing.

Day 3 – Dog Sledding

The Durango Dog Ranch offers dog sled rides near Silverton at the Molas Lake campground.

We decided to road trip into Silverton before the dog sledding. Silverton is a historic mining town located about halfway between Durango and Ouray. It’s the gateway to the Million Dollar Highway- one of the most scenic highways in the United States.

We explored the historic buildings downtown- there are interesting shops and a great visitor’s center to visit. We then enjoyed an amazing lunch at the Golden Block.

We had some extra time so we headed partway up the Million Dollar Highway to Red Mountain to enjoy the scenic views of the San Juan mountains. The road is a bit treacherous, but the views are totally worth it.

Next up dog sledding! All I can say is: dress warm! When you arrive you’ll greet the dogs on your sled team, and go through the quick safety demo where your sled driver (called a musher) will go over each part of the dog sled and the commands for the dogs.

Then you are off! There is a rider and a driver, the rider is in front in a seated position and the driver is behind the musher in a standing position. You’ll ride through the campground and then across the lake before enjoying hot chocolate and more time with the dogs. I highly recommend this tour!

We then headed back downtown to Ska Brewing. Visiting Ska was on my bucket list, and it didn’t disappoint.

Continuing our trend with breweries, we chose to eat dinner at one of the original breweries in Colorado- Carver Brewing Company. They have an excellent kid’s menu and an extensive dinner menu for adults. Plus, they had some of the best beer I’ve ever tasted.

Day 4- Downtown Durango, the Durango Hot Springs and the Polar Express

Downtown Durango

This is a packed day that feels leisurely. We spent the morning exploring the shops in downtown Durango. My daughter was enthralled with the candy store and locally-owned Twilight Toys. We also visited Maria’s Bookstore which is one of the top bookstores in the country. We found some local fiction for my daughter, and I filled my library queue with amazing recommendations from their displays.

Durango Hot Springs

It was super cold during our visit to Durango so we chose to soak in the hot springs in the heat of the day. We headed out about 20 minutes to the Durango Hot Springs. You’ll need to make a reservation for your visit, and we found the sweet spot was a 1 pm arrival.

Popular with locals and tourists alike, the Durango Hot Springs boasts 41 mineral water features, including an adults-only zone and a cold plunge pool. The nice thing was that you could see the all-ages area from the adults-only zone so kids would feel independent dipping in and out of the pools on the other side while mom and dad enjoyed some quiet time.

There’s a bar with great cocktails and beers on tap, and food trucks on the weekends. Make sure to bring your own towels to the hot springs, and drink lots of water to combat dehydration. This experience was one of the highlights of our trip.

The Polar Express

It’s not a visit to Durango without some sort of trip on the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge railroad. The railway itself is a National Historic Landmark and has been delighting passengers year-round since the 1800s.

At Christmas time, the railway is converted into a magical Polar Express experience that delights kids and adults alike. You’ll head to the train station about 20 minutes before departure time to see a bit of a show. Then the train chugs into the station.

You’ll greet your chef as you board the train. once you find your seats you’ll be given your Golden Ticket. Then, prepare to be delighted with the music from the movie. Hot chocolate is served on the way to the North Pole.

Santa is at the North Pole, as well as a light show. On the way back Santa greets everyone in the car and gives each rider their silver bell. We were lucky that Santa also left cookies which we enjoyed during a sing-along with our favorite Christmas carols.

When we arrived at the station we were delighted to see reindeer, and then walk through the Train Museum. Photos with Santa are offered at an additional fee, and they looked like the best Santa photos ever.

The entire experience takes bout 90 minutes, and there are several train rides each night so you can choose your time.

After the Polar Express enjoy a late dinner at Steamworks Brewing. This is one of the most popular places to eat in Durango with locals and visitors alike and we expected to have to wait for our table. Luckily they have an online waitlist, so when the Polar Express was pulling into the station I added our names to the list. By the time we finished the Polar Express and walked over our table was ready!

Day 5- Mesa Verde National Park

The park entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is located just 40 minutes from downtown Durango, and we felt we’d be remiss if we didn’t head over to see it. My 4th-grade daughter had recently studied the park in school, and she really wanted to see the pueblos.

One thing to note is that the pueblos are located about 45 minutes away from the visitors center, so you’ll want ot allow about 5 hours total for the trip. Our flight didn’t leave until 6 pm so we spent the day visiting Mesa Verde.

Mesa Verde in winter is absolutely divine. There are no people! This meant we could walk up to the vistas of the Pueblos and see everything without waiting in lines. The roads were empty, which meant we could pull off and on the road at our own pace. I highly highly highly recommend this park in the winter. There are a few hiking loops and when there is more snow you can snowshoe, but even if you just do the drives and see the pueblos you will not be disappointed.

We knew there wouldn’t be food in the park in the winter, so we headed to Sunnyside Farms Market for some sandwiches before we left Durango. We had a picnic in our car while we enjoyed stunning views of the San Juan mountains.

We headed to the airport, about an hour’s drive, and were so sad to wave goodbye to Durango, Colorado.

Disclosure: I visited Durango on a press trip funded by Visit Durango. All opinions are my own.

Christa profile image

Christa Jimenez

Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *