HOME ON THE RANGE: If you dare, book a stay in the supposedly haunted Strater Hotel
Courtesy Strater Hotel

Outdoor activities abound in this QUAINT MOUNTAIN TOWN — but there’s more to Durango than just being at the forefront of nature’s playground.

Durango is well known as the starting point for the historic narrow-gauge railroad to Silverton. But with the free-flowing Animas River running through town and the rugged San Juan Mountains within view, it has become a gateway for outdoor activities in southwestern Colorado. In addition to the beauty of its natural setting, Durango’s Old West history, Southwest-inspired shopping and newly creative cuisine make it a top travel destination.

STAY: Built in 1887, the purportedly haunted Strater Hotel is a prominent downtown ­landmark. Within the hotel you’ll find the world’s largest collection of American Victorian antiques, many of which decorate the 93 rooms. Enjoy cocktails at the hotel’s Diamond Belle Saloon, fine dining at Mahogany Grille and a show at the historical Henry Strater Theatre. The luxurious four-­diamond ­General Palmer Hotel, also a renovated 19th-century building, is conveniently located next to the railroad depot. Prefer something smaller and quieter? Go a few blocks off Main Avenue to The Leland House & Rochester ­Hotel, where you’ll be treated to a daily gourmet breakfast. This boutique hotel features 15 rooms with decor inspired by ­Western movies filmed in the area.

DO: Combine a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad with a jeep tour over 13,000-foot passes in the San Juan Mountains, or get your adrenaline flowing with a whitewater-rafting trip. Play golf on a hillside overlooking Durango at Hillcrest, a public course just past Fort Lewis College on Rim Drive. On your return to town, stop to visit the Center of Southwest Studies­ at the college and admire a glorious overview of the city below.

In town, ride bicycles along the Animas River Trail (rent cruisers at the Rochester Hotel), then raft or float in a tube down the Animas River. Explore downtown, a nationally registered historic district, stopping at Durango Discovery Museum and art galleries like Sorrel Sky and Toh-Atin for Native American treasures. Just an hour’s drive away you can see original cliff dwellings and learn about the culture of the Pueblo Indians at Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

EAT: A plethora of talented chefs celebrate ­Durango’s culinary passion at numerous festivals, craft breweries and fine restaurants. Steamworks Brewing Co. is a Durango favorite; guests trash peanut shells on the floor while enjoying pizza, sandwiches or New Mexico­-style foods. Anything you can roll into a tortilla you can find at RGP’s Flame Grilled Wraps, a popular lunch spot. Even if you’re from Texas and think Coloradans don’t have a clue, give the ribs, steak and brisket at ­Serious Texas Bar-B-Q a try — it might humble you. Growing in popularity are innovative, independent restaurants such as Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen, which offers eclectic selections.

SHOP: Aptly named Main Avenue is a shopper’s delight — no matter what kinds of goods you’re looking for. The Jewelry Works offers beautiful ­Southwestern-designed turquoise and coral pieces. Get everything you need for outdoor activities at Gardenswartz, a locally owned sporting-goods store. Find fashionable and unique clothing and accessories at Silk Sparrow. After dinner, choose delectable morsels at the original — yes, the very first — Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

­AMERICAN AIRLINES offers two daily flights between ­Durango (DRO) and ­Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).
US AIRWAYS offers two daily flights between Durango and Phoenix (PHX), with an additional trip on weekends.