Winter is in full-effect in southwestern Colorado!
For those seeking freedom from the couch, Netflix, or political debates with family, the weather around Durango, Colorado has provided the perfect escape.
The recent storms have brought a blanket of fresh powder to the region- offering those looking to shred, the best Christmas gift of all.
In order to help you navigate and plan an adrenaline-packed retreat, here are five things you should do in Durango this Winter season:
#5 Soak Your Worries Away
Before you go bananas in the fresh powder, find a little zen and relaxation by soaking in the hot springs.
Just north of downtown Durango lies the newly completed Durango Hot Springs & Spa resort. With over 16 spring-fed pools and eight Japanese wood, soaking tubs, soak your worries away and plan your next move while taking in the views of the snow-covered mesas of Animas Valley.
The temperature of the water stays at a nice 105-115 degrees throughout the year, great for limbering up your body before hitting the outdoor scene around Durango.
Reservations are required! Book your soak online.
#4 Snowshoe in the High-Country
The High-Country, just north of Durango, features miles of trails that snake the San Juan Mountains and the largest wilderness area in Colorado: the Weminuche Wilderness. Snowshoeing in the high-country is one of the best ways to explore the area.
While snowmobiling and cross country skiing are also popular activities in the area, they don’t allow you the freedom to explore as well. Especially along the trails that hug the base of the mountains, the trails are tight and the forests are dense. These factors make snowshoeing the ideal route to explore without worrying about being able to “fit” on the trails.
We recommend starting your snowshoeing outing at Molas Pass. Sitting at 10,900+ feet, Molas Pass bisects the 480-mile Colorado Trail, a favorite among Winter enthusiasts. Take the Colorado Trail west towards Little Molas Lake, or northeast towards Molas Lake (different from Little Molas Lake), the Animas River, and Silverton.
In both directions, you’ll be greeted by views of the 13,000 foot peaks in all directions.
Snowshoeing in the high-country is truly an epic way to explore the wilderness areas around Durango.
Watch out though! As you stomp your way through the snow, you’ll start dreaming of future Winter expeditions in those mountains.
#3 Ice Climbing in Cascade Canyon
About 30 minutes north of downtown Durango, sits Cascade Canyon: an accessible and beautiful ice climbing area home to bright limestone and gushing waterfalls.
As a fairyland of ice columns and frozen waterfalls, Cascade Canyon was recently featured in Rock and Ice Magazine, and is on the radar for local climbers.
With a variety of routes, Cascade Canyon offers beautiful views, reliable flows, lots of curtains, and hanging pillars.
Many of the routes in Cascade Canyon are well under a pitch tall, making the area a great spot when you can’t afford to ice climb for a full day.
The area is just a few miles past Purgatory Resort at the hairpin, on Old Lime Creek Road. You can rap into the canyon or hike down on the trail to the base.
#2 Cross Country Ski in La Plata Canyon
Located just west of Durango, La Plata Canyon is the physical valley that sits between the two mountain ranges that make up the La Plata Mountains.
For reference, the La Plata Mountains are the peaks that are visible from downtown Durango if you’re looking west.
During Winter, the area develops a well-established trail system, sporting miles of cross country skiing trails throughout the valley floor via County Road 124.
While it might seem silly to cross country ski on a county road, the road is narrow and closed off to traffic during the Winter months. This offers steep climbs in one direction and flowy descents in the other without the worry of clipping trees along the way.
As you trek along, you’ll be greeted by towering peaks and thick aspen groves in all directions- without the crowds!
Most people will cross country ski as far as they like and then turn around.
For the true weekend-warriors, we recommend trekking to the top of Kennebec Pass. The 16+ mile round-trip day features over 4,000 feet of elevation gain as you climb into the clouds. Kennebec Pass tops out at 11,600 feet with a 360-degree view of the La Plata Mountains, the mesas of Durango, and the San Juan Mountains to the north.
While this 6-8 hour long day is a sufferfest, it offers some of the best views of the mountains around Durango without a doubt.
All-in-all there’s no better place to cross country ski in Durango than in La Plata Canyon.
#1 Play in the Powder
With some of the most unique terrain in the lower 48, the San Juan Mountains offer one of the most exciting high alpine experiences for skiers and snowboarders alike.
In the San Juan Mountains, you can look forward to 170+ miles of slopes from five amazing ski resorts, and hundreds of thousands of skiable acres in the San Juan Mountains and La Plata Mountains backcountry.
In addition, southwest Colorado is also home to the highest concentrations of 14ers than anywhere else making it a perfect spot for ski mountaineering.
A word of caution:
Although one of the most unique places to ski, the San Juan Mountains around Durango are the most avalanche prone mountains in the state, so make sure you have the proper training and equipment, or that you’re skiing with a guide before you go. Be sure to check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website before enjoying some backcountry pow.
If you’re a powderhound, you’ll have endless fun in the steep and deep skiing or snowboarding around Durango!
It’s clear that we’re all a little stir-crazy right now.
Between the madness of the Holidays, quarantine blues, and Netflix binges, we could all use a little outside time.
With the recent storms in southwest Colorado, Durango should be near the top of your list of places to explore this Winter. The fresh powder has made exploring the area around Durango even more enticing.
Just make sure you reward yourself with a soak in the hot springs before wrapping up your adrenaline-packed visit!
All photos courtesy of Visit Durango