Framed by the San Juan Mountains and boasting numerous lakes, rivers and hot springs, Southwest Colorado is the perfect destination for outdoor adventurers. While world-class skiing, snowmobiling and sledding are the primary activities in winter, the area offers fun summer recreation like hiking, mountain biking, fishing and river rafting. Take in panoramic views year-round from the Telluride Gondola. Visit two national parks (Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison), and stop off at historic mining towns, archaeological sites and farming communities. Much of the state’s history can be explored here.
Travel as far southwest as you can go in Colorado (45 minutes from Cortez on US-160) and see the Four Corners Monument. The intersection marks the borders of four states – Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Along the way you’ll pass the historic town of Durango, home of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Take the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway and stop off at Mesa Verde National Park, the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument and the Anasazi Heritage Center. San Juan Skyway is a 236-mile loop with picturesque views of mountain peaks and alpine forests.
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Board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for a scenic journey winding through the San Juan Mountains. Discover Silverton’s mining heritage or browse the National Historic District in Durango. Take a drive along Grand Mesa Scenic Byway near Cedaredge. Save time to explore Delta County wine country and enjoy an orchard tour or farm dinner. Telluride has a restored Victorian downtown perfect for shopping and people watching.
Navajo State Park is popular for boating, fishing, hiking trails and wildlife viewing. Sweitzer Lake State Park, near Delta, offers boating, bird watching and a chance to explore dinosaur tracks at Dry Mesa Quarry. Curecanti National Recreational Area, near Gunnison, features a 48-mile long gorge and incredible views. Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area offers 200,000 acres of red rock canyons, and Pagosa Springs is a great base for exploring Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park.
See exhibits on the Ancestral Puebloan People at Mesa Verde National Park and Ute Mountain Tribal Park near Cortez. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, east of Montrose, provides glimpses of Colorado’s tallest cliff, Painted Wall. The area offers hiking, rock climbing and spectacular views. Go rafting and fishing at Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. Don’t miss Island Lake in the San Juan National Forest. The glacial lake is a short drive from Durango.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort is a winter sports paradise for skiers and snowboarders. Monarch Mountain Ski and Snowboard Area is popular for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and tubing. Experience world-class skiing just minutes from Telluride at Mountain Village. Gunnison Nordic Center offers cross-country skiing trails and ice-skating. Skiers also flock to Durango Mountain Resort and Wolf Creek Ski Area for dogsledding, sleigh rides and other snow sports.
Durango’s True West Rodeo, held from June-August at La Plata County Fairgrounds, features bronc and bull riding, plus Wild West-inspired live entertainment. Cattlemen’s Days in Gunnison has been a tradition since the 1800s. The event in early July includes a PRCA rodeo, livestock exhibits, a parade, carnival and dance. The Montrose County Fair & Rodeo in late July features a 10-day county fair. Bayfield hosts a rodeo every weekend from spring to fall.