The great outdoors, creative food and passion for the community meet in Durango, Colo. But its heart is the Durango & Silverton Railroad.
When you spend time in Durango, the first thing you’ll notice is its deeply rooted sense of community. Whether you’re mountain biking a world-class trail, rafting the beautiful Animas River, skiing at Purgatory or eating at one of the town’s 200-plus eateries, you’ll meet with passionate and inspirational locals focused on the good of the community.
Durango has attracted bright and creative chefs from all over the country. Take El Moro Tavern’s chef Sean Clark. He created the first ever food and beer pairing for the James Beard House. Or Beau and Jenna Black, the creators behind The Bookcase and Barber, the two-chair barber shop that’s back-wall-bookcase opens up into a hidden speakeasy when the secret password is mentioned.
“The culinary scene in Durango has never been better,” says El Moro’s general manager David Woodruff. “Every dish here tells a story.”
El Moro Tavern’s modern rustic dishes certainly do. Creative spins on classics like shrimp and grits and marrow bones tell a story of community. In 2016, a fire broke out at the tavern, closing it for three months. The restaurant group, which also owns Steamworks Brewing Company, rallied to both take care of its employees and turn the tragedy into something good for the community. The employees continued to receive their regular paychecks while the restaurant was closed – the only caveat was that they spend the hours they would have been working volunteering in the community. That’s the ethos of Durango: take care of the locals, welcome the visitors, create a sense of community.
Don’t be surprised when you get swept into the community on your first day in town. From the collective excitement when the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s steam engine starts billowing to fundraising events like the Rochester Hotel’s Secret Garden Summer Concert Series, you’ll feel part of the community instantly.
Durango’s heart is the railroad. Founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Co. in 1880, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad attracts approximately 200,000 passengers per year. Find out why this is such a popular attraction by taking the nine-hour round-trip train excursion from Durango to the tiny, historic mining town of Silverton. Or if you have limited time, opt for the Skyway Tour, in which you ride the train one way and a bus the other.
A mix of artisans, outdoor enthusiasts and athletes, today Silverton is home to North America’s most extreme, ungroomed, guided heli-skiing area.
But in the late 1800s, it was a booming mining town. Experience what it was like to be a miner by riding a vintage electric-powered mining train one-third of a mile into the heart of 13,000-foot-high Galena Mountain. Not for the claustrophobic, the tour lasts 50 minutes. Afterwards, pan for copper, silver and gold outside.
After riding the train to Silverton or spending the day hiking, biking or rafting, you’ll understand why so many people flock to Durango. Take a piece of this charming town home with you and make one of El Moro Tavern’s specialties in your own kitchen.
For more information:
Durango Visitor Center
802 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum
El Moro Tavern
945 Main Ave.
Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour
Make El Moro Tavern’s Roasted Marrow Bones Appetizer
4 marrow bones
2 cups parsley leaves, minced
¼ cup capers
4 oz. shallots, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sliced baguette, grilled, for serving
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425-degrees.
Add parsley, capers, shallots, lemon juice and anchovy paste to a blender. Blend on medium speed, slowly adding olive oil. Refrigerate.
Sprinkle marrow bones with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 11-13 minutes and then cool for 2 minutes. Spread parsley sauce on a plate. Place the marrow bones on top of the sauce and enjoy with a baguette.
Get Special Mesa Verde Tickets in Durango
To get an insider view of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings, purchase your tickets in person for the park’s ranger-led tours to Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House. Tickets are available up to two days in advance. Buy your tickets at the Durango Welcome Center at 802 Main Avenue before you head to the park. Otherwise, tickets are also available at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center located in the park.
If you don’t want to rely on the limited supply of walk-up tickets, reserve a tour of the Balcony House, Cliff Palace or Long House in advance at recreation.gov or by phoning the call center at 1-877-444-6777 starting March 9, 2020. You will need a hard copy of your ticket for the tour, so pick it up at four locations, including the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, Morefield Ranger Station or Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum in the park or outside the park at the Durango Welcome Center.
Stop by the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center on your way into the park to get limited first-come, first-served same-day tickets to tour Cliff Palace, Balcony House or Long House. Tickets are $7 per person and it’s strongly recommended that you stop by before 10 a.m. during the summer months for your best chance for getting tickets. The visitor center is open from 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. late May through early September.
Durango & Silverton Railroad by the Numbers
|136||Years of service|
|$300,000,000||Worth of precious metals has been hauled by the train|
|10,000||Gallons of water is used each trip|
|12,000||Pounds of hand-shoveled coal used each trip|
|1882||Year tracks to Silverton were completed|
Source: Durango Area Tourism Office; Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce