Traveling from Durango, Colorado, to Mesa Verde National Park will take around an hour by car – it’s so quick that most people just pass by some interesting attractions between these places. Travelers will pass by the communities of Hesperus and Mancos, plus the ghost town of Mayday. A driving tour from Durango to Mesa Verde will let guests enjoy the breeze of the La Plata Mountains and the towns' hospitality.
The adventure starts in tourist-friendly Durango, where a couple of attractions can be seen. The small town of Hesperus follows, famous for its ski area. Next is Mancos, dubbed the “Gateway to Mesa Verde.” That’s more than 50 miles of satisfying Colorado memories.
10 Strater Hotel
The Strater Hotel in Durango is dubbed a “living history museum.” This hotel has been serving guests since the late 1880s, when the town was slowly carving its name as an important Colorado destination. Some famous people who visited Strater include former presidents Gerald Ford and John F. Kennedy, actor Will Rogers, novelist Louis L'Amour, and Apollo astronauts, among others. Tourists are encouraged to check the hotel’s interior because of its rich history. It is easy to spot when exploring Durango because it’s eye-catching and simply iconic.
9 Durango And Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
When in town, tourists must drop by the heritage railroad of Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge. They should take a tour aboard the steam locomotive, especially if they have the luxury of time. However, if they are on a tight schedule, just visiting the station and observing the train is enough to excite them. Much so that they’ll probably stay overnight for a classic tour from Durango to the mining town of Silverton. It’s voted the best scenic train ride in the United States, something to entice anyone.
8 Lower Animas River
Those who want a wet and wild adventure should grab a paddle for a kayak journey along the Lower Animas River. The waters are always fine, and there’s something for everyone: from class I rapids for beginners to class III rapids for those who want a challenge. The Lower Animas River is popular among rafters, so first-timers need not worry; there are professional instructors available. The only thing tourists need to have is the excitement of paddling, surfing, and spinning.
7 La Plata Mountains
Lovers of nature are in for a treat because Durango is situated near the La Plata Mountains, a subrange of the San Juan Mountains. It’s perfect for hikers, campers, and wildlife watchers as the area has 18 peaks. If travelers want to get the most out of their Colorado trip, they should at least have a short hike in Durango’s wilderness. If they want to test their legs, they should hike up the highest peak, Hesperus Mountain. Whether they want to reach the summit or have a picnic, visitors to La Plata Mountains will have a satisfying time.
6 Durango Dog Ranch
From Durango, the next town to pass by is Hesperus. The community might be small, but it offers at least two attractions, one of which is the Durango Dog Ranch. It’s an ideal place for families with kids who want unmatched outdoor memories with cute dogs. They offer snow-cat and sled adventures during winter. Dogs and (snow)cat lovers can visit this place and have their fill of winter wonderland memories. Before tourists head to Mesa Verda, Hesperus should not be overlooked.
5 Dominguez & Escalante Historical Marker
In 1776, the group of Franciscan friars Francisco Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante explored what is now western Colorado, Utah, and northern Arizona, intending to find a route between Nuevo, Mexico, and Alta California. One of the places they visited was the Animas River in what is now Durango. They were not able to reach California, but they are credited as the first Europeans to map what is now central Utah. The local community installed a marker for their expedition, and history buffs can check this out near Hesperus. It’s not much, but it’s one important spot.
4 Mancos State Park
After Hesperus, the next town to explore is Mancos, the “Gateway to Mesa Verde.” As tourists get closer to the national park, they should get excited as well with its neighboring town’s attractions. First is Mancos State Park, a place where they can unwind and relax while eating their favorite sandwich and gulping down a drink. Campsites dot the park, perfect for boaters and fishers. The views are serene, the ideal appetizers before embarking on a journey to Mesa Verde.
3 Mancos Creative District
Lovers of the art should make sure to visit the creative district of Mancos. It might be a small town, but Mancos has a lot to offer when it comes to culture and the arts. The area, after all, is home to many artists, craftsmen, foodies, ranchers, inventors, and other makers. It is situated in Mancos’ historic downtown, a place where tourists will enjoy dropping by artisan shops, galleries, an opera house, old buildings, and other interesting establishments. In Mancos, art is an adventure.
2 Seven Meadows Farm
Another humble destination in Mancos, Seven Meadows Farm, offers guests the chance to unwind with animals while in the presence of various produce. They advocate for sustainable food. Something tourists will learn as they explore the farm and taste its products. Aside from playing with farm animals and eating at the bistro, visitors can also try their hands at planting and learning about organic farming. Supporting local farms is one great way to relax while trying new things. In Seven Meadows Farm, life is made easier.
1 Mesa Verde
Upon reaching Mesa Verde, tourists will easily understand why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. First, it has some of the best-preserved Ancestral Pueblo archaeological sites in the country. Second, it is home to more than a thousand species. Those two work together to give guests a good time learning about the past and the environment. From tours of cliff dwellings to hiking, there’s something for everyone in this Colorado landmark. The Centennial State is indeed a place of adventure.