I enjoyed two days in Durango after finishing the Colorado Trail. Given I had just backpacked 53 miles on the Colorado Trail, I opted for an extremely relaxing day. I stayed at the Best Western Durango Inn & Suites. It is conveniently located at the South end of town within walking distance of Durango’s historic district loaded with shops and restaurants as well as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum and Train Station.
I started the day at Durango Bagel as it is located near the train station and I planned to take the train ride to Silverton. Durango Bagel seemed popular among the local young folks. After grabbing a breakfast sandwich, I wandered over to the train station to find out about my ticket that I ordered online the previous evening.
I recommend getting the ticket sooner than I did (especially in the summer) as many choices were sold out. The weather had been so bad the previous month, however, I wanted to wait as I was interested in one of the open-air cars. After having read many reviews, I wanted to take the train from Durango to Silverton in the morning and to return on the bus in the afternoon for a different view and a shorter ride. This option wasn’t available, so I picked the reverse and hoped for clear skies in the afternoon.
I found the narrated bus ride to be uneventful. I suppose if one hasn’t spent much time in the mountains, the drive would be nice, but frankly, I saw most of these views on foot multiple times over the last month. In addition, the bus driver short changed of us Colorado Trail hikers 10 miles and then said thru-hikers took 2.5 months to hike it rather than 1.5 months at most. Then, after he literally pointed out every gulch and mountain, he drove right by the trail without saying a word! OK, I am being hard on him as he was very knowledgeable. I suppose I was still relishing in my glory of completing it!
Anyway, upon arrival in Silverton, I climbed up to Christ of the Mines Shrine which overlooked the town, stopped for lunch at Thee Pitts Again which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and strolled along the main street as well as through the red-light district one street over. The town is pepper with old buildings including the old jail and a variety of shops, including a nice antique store. It doesn’t take more than a few hours to explore the whole town which is all I had before I boarded the train just as a rain and hail storm hit.
I paid extra for the Knight Sky car which had a glass roof and open-air sides. As we started, I was getting rained on, though I had rain gear. Less prepared passengers were given ponchos, umbrellas and blankets. Fortunately, the storm didn’t last long and by the time the train left the station, the menacing cloud had left. I’m not certain the Knight Sky car is worth the extra money, as I hardly ever sat in the plush seat for the three-hour ride. I mostly stood outside the car on the platform or talked with the leader of a Kiwi group that was driving Mustangs around the Western United States for 33 days! The car wasn’t crowded which was nice. I’m unsure if the other cars were crowded. All cars have windows that open, and it is best to get one toward the end to keep from breathing the ash from the steam engine. Protective eye-wear is a good choice too.
I loved the train ride. Despite having hiked through parts of this area, and even having crossed the tracks on the Colorado Trail and having followed the Animas River, this train ride offered spectacular views of the river, old mines and more. Also, some of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed on the tracks. I think it would have been a little better to ride the train from Durango to Silverton rather than the way I went. Not for the scenery, but for the stories the train attendants tell. The Kiwi group rode the train both ways, so the attendant, who was great, limited his stories on the return. As far as scenery, the train criss-crosses the river many times, so either side has good seats, but for the high section of the tracks, it is best to be on the left going from Silverton to Durango. I’m really glad I rode the train, and I suspect the bus was a better choice just because the train ride would be long for both directions.
Upon arrival into Durango, I deboarded the train and head to Himalayan Kitchen, a great Nepalese Restaurant. The food was delicious. Still looking to catch up on sleep, I headed back to the hotel early and awoke with renewed energy to explore Durango for another day.
I started out with Durango Diner as I loved dine food. Bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns…who can go wrong with that? Afterwards, I checked out the free museum at the train station. The museum includes far more than just trains..old cars, WWII gear, stuffed bears and more.
Next, I stopped at Bread where I picked up a sandwich to take with me on the trail that follows the Animas River through the town. I walked part of the trail and sat on the riverside as I watched many enjoy water sports like tubing and kayaking.
Happy hour included a beer a Ska Brewing just next to Ken and Sue’s, a fantastic restaurant that I shared a meal with some of my fellow CT hikers. All of our meals were outstanding! It was a great way to end our hiking. ETB
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