There are so many things to do in Durango with kids! We recently took the 7hr drive from Phoenix to this well know Colorado city, and spent a week exploring the town and surrounding area. The amenities offered appealed to our entire family, from white water rafting to hiking to delicious food. Durango is also a good location for several day trip options! Read on to see what we found to do with our kids, and some tips for visiting with your family during the summer months.
What We Did
Durango has numerous parks, some tucked away and won’t show on Google Map searches. See this website for a complete list of parks in Durango, including amenities – most have even small playgrounds! There are two in particular that have playgrounds which we loved.
Fassbinder Park is easy to access from the main road, with new equipment of climbing structures and slides, plus swings. There are also restrooms, and beautiful shade trees. Playgrounds don’t seem to be shaded here, so it can get hot during the summer. Perfect place for a picnic overall!
There is also Schneider Park, with a playground and huge skate park. We only drove by, but bookmarked for next time.
The absolute best park in Durango is Santa Rita Park. The playground is huge! Reminded us, in color and features, of the Adventure Playground back home in Anthem! Three stories, with multiple slides and climbers, swings, a merry go round, and a unique snake-like platform that moves up and down. We visited here three times during our week in Durango! There is also easy river access, and is right next to the popular Animas River Trail for biking and walking. Restrooms are a short walk away.
Lions Den Lookout (2401 Rim Dr, Durango, CO 81301)
This hidden gem is not to be missed! The views of Durango are amazing. And there’s no hike involved! Park in the dirt parking lot and follow the stairs up the hill for this little known spot. There’s also a huge stone ramada with picnic tables.
If you continue to follow the path from the ramada, you’ll come to a stone kiva. Kids will love this little structure. The path continues down and briefly around the mountain, to take you to back to the main viewing area. There are some side trails as well – see the map for details.
– this cute little store and honey processing plant is right outside of Durango. Unfortunately the production part was not operating when we visited, but we peeked inside the facility, viewed the working bees, and had free samples of various honey! The apple cinnamon honey was our favorite. See their website
for opening times and information.
Play in river – the Animas River runs through the city, and is perfect for water play! We found patches from ankle deep to waist deep to enjoy while skipping rocks and even swimming. Next time we’ll rent tubes and try tubing! Note that the level will vary depending on the season. We were told it’s still a rip and roarin’ 5 feet or more in June! Three of our favorite spots are Rotary Park (go just past the gazebo and you’ll see a trail down to the water on the right), Santa Rita Park, and Schneider Park. There are a couple places to park for the latter; we liked the small lot south of the skate park.
Train ride/free museum
– the Durango/Silverton train is likely on the top list of recommendations of things to do in Durango. We actually opted out of the train, partly because of the price ($250 for our family), and because the current route was modified so it didn’t seem the best value for the cost. But do stop by the fabulous train museum in the Durango depot! It’s free and has an amazing collection of train memorabilia including full size cars, a model display, old cars, and more! Really take your time here, there’s so much to see. See their website
for more details.
Junction Creek Trail and the Colorado Trail – we were given this recommendation by a local mama, and were not disappointed! (Side note: want the best list of local ideas? Head to a park, strike up a conversation with a fellow parent, and then ask for their suggestions. You’ll likely find hidden gems like we did!) Junction Creek is just outside of Durango, and offers an easy hike alongside a creek, perfect for exercise and exploring and relaxing! This is also the start of the epic 486 mile Colorado Trail, which runs from Durango to Denver. We briefly hiked a portion of this and loved the views.
There are two parking lots to access the Junction Creek Trail. The first has restrooms, but we actually recommend the second parking lot – it’s a short 5 min walk to the water! GPS coordinates are 37.3367990, -107.9189080. Note that the road does become unpaved, but it’s just less than a mile to the second parking lot.
White water rafting
– no trip to Colorado is complete without a white water rafting trip! We booked with Mild to Wild in Durango. Kids as young as 4 are welcome on some of the trips! Due to low water levels, we were only able to take the 2hr trip during our visit, but would totally book with them again. The staff was friendly and fun, and had good safety measures for the kids. And being on the Animas River was both relaxing and a bit thrilling. We even had the adventure of our guide falling off at one rapids! Mild to Wild
also offers other local excursions like Jeep tours.
– there are so many cute shops along Main Street in downtown Durango! It’s fun to stroll and window shop, or find special gifts for friends and family. Lots of restaurants and coffee shops, lots of historical buildings too. We may have picked up chocolate from Animas Coffee and Chocolate
, and found some souvenirs. This is also where you’ll find the weekend farmers market!
Day trip to Silverton and Ouray – this was a 8am-8pm excursion for us, and we loved every moment! Silverton and Ouray are two small towns north of Durango, and the road to Ouray especially is one of the most scenic ever, called the Million Dollar Highway. Lots of driving, but many awesome places to stop and experience more of the backwoods of Colorado.
doesn’t offer much. But you must take a mine tour at the Old One Hundred Gold Mine
! We donned hard hats (and jackets – it’s 46 degrees in the mine!) and took a journey back in time to see what mining life was like. Our tour guide was fantastic, a miner himself, and kept the kids interest the entire 45 minutes. After the tour, gold panning was included. This seasonal tour is about 20 minutes from Silverton, and includes dirt roads, but we totally recommend visiting! Afterwards, we had a picnic lunch back in town in front of the courthouse, and continued on to Ouray.
is called “Switzerland of America” and it’s easy to see why. The scenic mountains tower above this little but bustling town. We stopped for ice cream at Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee
and hiked in two difference places. Box Canyon has an admission fee ($5/adults, $3/child), and is a city maintained park with a year round waterfall. To clarify – this is a huge, swift waterfall that roars down a canyon and you can view it in just a short hike! Pretty impressive. The other area we explored was Cascade Falls Park and had a smaller waterfall but a lovely stream to play in! The hike here is almost all uphill, but very short and totally doable with even toddlers.
Lake kayaking – there are three lakes near Durango: Lake Nighthorse, Lemon Reservoir, and Vallecito Reservoir. Lemon is a bring your own kayak lake, Vallencito had no availability on our outing, so Lake Nighhorse it was. There is a $8 fee to enter the park. We rented two single kayaks for two hours and had a blast! Even our 18 month old went out, loving every moment. The lake had amazing blue water once you get away from the shore: closer up is muddy, so don’t judge by first looks. This kayak adventure was a highlight of stay in Durango! Visit CRS River Sports for rental information.
Mesa Verde National Park – if you didn’t visit this national park near Cortez on the way to Durango (like we did), definitely take a day trip here! It’s a fascinating look at native life hundreds of years ago, from underground ruins to the famous cliff dwellings. Double check on the official website if tours are currently running. We’ve heard it’s totally worth it! Tours were not running when we visited, so we drove around and utilized the park map. Note that the ruins and cliff dwellings are a good 30 minute drive once you enter the park. So be prepared with gas and snacks – and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for the kids to complete!
Extra – there are a couple things we had on our list, but didn’t do while in Durango. This was due to either the businesses being temporarily closed, or the current schedule not working for our family. But definitely look up these places: Durango Adventures (ziplining), Soarin’ Treetop Ziplining Adventures, Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Museum, Powerhouse Science Museum, Purgatory Resort (day pass activities).
Bonus – want to find the Durango mural? It’s on the side of Mountain Motion Media, just north of the Main Street/26th Avenue intersection. If you can, stop by after 6pm to likely have the mural free of cars!
Where We Stayed
We love AirBnB and use it frequently when traveling, especially for stays over 4 days. For this Durango trip, we chose a location just outside of the town for a more relaxed feel. You can view the home here
. Use this referral link
to get up to $65 off your first booking!
Where We Ate
There are numerous awesome restaurants in Durango! We like a mixture of home cooked meals, especially breakfast, and experiencing what the locals love. Two must visit places are James Ranch
, and JBo’s Pizza
. James Ranch is located outside of Durango and offers farm to table food in a gorgeous setting near the Animas River. There are also two sweet goats to pet, a short walking path, and a general store. JBo’s has some of the best pizza we’ve ever had. Seriously – the crust, the sauce, the ingredients blended so well together! Try their wings and beer as well.
Wondering where we went in Colorado? Browse these blog posts for our top things to do with kids in Georgetown, Aspen, and Telluride! Also, we shared the top places to stop along the drive between Phoenix and Colorado, and our favorite on the go activities. (If no links, blog posts are in progress.)
Jana is a homeschooling mother of three children, and lives in Scottsdale with her husband, Chris. She enjoys traveling, reading and coffee. Follow @phoenixwithkids on Instagram for daily photos around Phoenix!
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You convinced me! I never even thought about traveling to Colorado from Phoenix. This looks like a fun and affordable family trip.
Oh yay!! Yes, it was so affordable and fun – not to mention the drive being just as far as going to LA or San Diego. Hope you can visit soon!
Hi, thanks for the great, detailed information! We are heading to Durango this summer and your list is very helpful. One question, what did you do with your toddler when you did the rafting? Did your husband take the older kids and you didn’t go? How did that work out? We have kids ranging from 2-16 so I’m trying to find some fun activities for the older kids but not sure how to balance it with the little ones.
Yeah, the toddler couldn’t go. The weather is usually really nice there, so find a park.
Thanks so much for this detailed post! I’m planning a family trip there this spring, and this is the most helpful post I’ve found. 🙂 We will be there with our 5 and 2 year olds, and we can’t wait! My husband and I travelled to Ouray before kids and did ALL the adventurous things, so I’m seeking out all the kid-friendly options for this trip. My currently is current most excited for Honeyville. 🙂
Awesome! I hope you have a great trip, Durango was amazing and we hope to go back sometime. Hopefully Honeyville is open for tours as well when you’re there!