Durango, Colorado is a vacation destination that’s made for travelers with interests of all kinds to enjoy. This year-round getaway is loved by those seeking adventure and fun as well as those who are looking to relax and unwind at their own preferred pace. If you happen to be someone who is enthusiastic about time spent in the great outdoors and there’s nothing you find more refreshing than time on the trails, then hiking in Durango is sure to be a highlight of your stay. This scenic and inspired experience is truly one-of-a-kind in Durango for those ready to lace up their boots and set out on a pathway or quest that takes them through nature and time. As rich in history as it is in spectacular scenery, Durango hiking is a dream come true. Within just 50 miles of the town center, outdoor adventurers will find easy access to everything from alpine meadows, and spruce-fir forests, to high deserts, and caves. Every trek here is entirely unique and tells a story of nature’s awe-inspiring work. There’s no shortage of wonders to discover in Durango on foot and with over 300 miles of local trails within 30 minutes of the city waiting to be enjoyed, you’ll have options to customize your outing according to style and skill level. When you’re looking to maximize every moment out on the trails, consider this your ultimate guide to hiking in Durango, CO.  

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The Ultimate Guide to Hiking in Durango, Colorado

If you combine the hiking and biking trails that run through and around Durango, you find more than 2,000 miles of pristine pathways just waiting to be discovered. Each hosts an array of natural features and wildlife to check out, making a hiking-focused journey to Durango unforgettable from start to finish. Hikers of all skill levels will find a trail that meets their needs whether you’re looking for more of a leisurely and scenic stroll, or you can’t wait to conquer some of the most treacherous mountain treks out there. The trail system in Durango moves seamlessly between in-town options and out of the way retreats so you can pick one or the other or combine the best of both for a truly memorable stay. Elevation gains are the norm when hiking in Durango so no matter where you roam, it’s good to keep altitude and steep grades in mind. The in-town trails and those that aren’t far out of the way all enjoy a collection of helpful trail maps to use when you’re looking to re-route or learn more about your surroundings as you’re out exploring. Whether you hit the trails solo, alongside friends or opt for a guided experience in the great outdoors, don’t be surprised if your hiking journey brings you back to Durango time and again. 

Spend Time on the South Durango Trails

For travelers who are spending time in the southern portion of the city, the South Durango trail system is a great option. Both the Grandview Ridge and Three Springs trail systems offer up an extensive network of hiking options along powdery and relatively flat terrain. If you start your adventures over at Grandview Ridge, you’ll encounter a collection of 11 trails that go in all directions, each boasting a varying difficulty level to choose from. The Three Springs trail system in South Durango is shared by hikers and mountain bikers thanks to its scenery and six miles of inviting terrain to trek.   Guide to Hiking in Durango, CO

Check Out West Durango Trails

For outdoor adventurers looking to hike on the west side of Durango, the trail systems here include the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, the Overend Mountain Park, and Twin Buttes. While all of these trails are more suitable for intermediate and skilled hikers, the Perins Peak Trail is particularly inviting to those who are advanced trekkers. At 5.9 miles long, this trail is dotted with complex grades to navigate. When you take to this trail, you’ll be asked to conquer a 2,000-foot ascension in a very short amount of time. It’s not for the faint of heart, but you’ll certainly be rewarded in the form of great views! 

Savor the Sights on East Durango Trails

Over in East Durango, the trail systems have earned a reputation for offering hikers access to truly beautiful vistas at just about every turn. Both the Horse Gulch trail system and the Fort Lewis College trail system showcase the Animas River Valley at its very best. The Fort Lewis College trail system stretches five miles long and is rated moderately difficult for its 500 sky steps included on the route. The Horse Gulch trail system hosts 22 different routes to pick and choose from that vary drastically in difficulty level. 

Enjoy Every Moment on the Scenic Animas River Trail

Yet another amazing route to check out when hiking is your activity of choice in Durango is the Animal River Trail. This 7.1-mile route is paved from start to finish making it a great and family-friendly option for a day out and about exploring. The trail runs along the Animas River with plenty of options to hop off at just about any point and check out local stores and coffee shops. The elevation gain here is just 337 feet so you don’t have to worry about steep inclines as you admire your lush surroundings. 

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Explore High-Country Trails Between May and Mid-October

You don’t have to travel far outside of Durango to enjoy some of the best high-country hiking around. These intense trails and treks are options between May and mid-October each year and are richly rewarding in terms of views and wildlife watching. The Coal Bank Pass trail system is a great place to start and can be accessed just 27 miles North of Durango. There are six trails that make up this trail system and in total, you’ll have 23 miles of terrain to cover. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced hiker, there’s a route in this high-country system designed just for you. Many of the trails host a great collection of streams, spruce-fir forests, and meadows that are filled with wildflowers in the springtime. When you’re looking for trails that showcase great views of the Needle Mountain and the Grenadier Range in particular, look no further than the Molas Pass trail system. Located near Silverton, this system is made up of the Molas Trail and the Elk Creek Trail. The Molas Trail is 4.4 miles long, while the Elk Creek Trail takes hikers along 8.9 miles of scenic high-country terrain. The rocky and grassy pathways offer up amazing views and places to pause and take stock of your surroundings along the way. Over at the Weminuche Wilderness trail system, just 17 miles from Durango, you’ll find a perfect place to access a wilderness that sprawls across nearly 500,000 miles. For a fantastic 3.1-mile route to explore, consider adding Fourmile Falls to your list which starts around Pagosa Springs. 

Mid-Country Trails That Are Sure to Inspire

Hikers who want to be challenged during their Durango stay but aren’t up to tackling the highest summits of the mountains will find the collection of mid-country trails in the area to be the perfect fit. These routes typically showcase lush forests, lots of great wildlife and stunning views too without the drastic elevation changes always included. Over at the Mission Ridge trail system, hikers can make the most of treks through aspen forests and historic sites too. This 28-mile network is made up of five inviting trails with elevation gains ranging anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 feet. The Hermosa Area trail system is equally inviting with 14 routes winding their way through 105 miles of terrain. It’s a popular place for wildflower admiring in the springtime and the San Juan Mountain views are truly spectacular from just about every imaginable vantage point. For a hike that comes with the reward of a lakeside stay, consider adding routes found within the Vallecito and Lemon Reservoir trail system to your must-try list while you’re here. The expansive lakes that can be enjoyed along these scenic pathways are great for rewarding yourself for the trekking effort with some time on the water. Yet another mid-country trail system to check out while you’re in Durango is the Church Camp trail system. Running through an idyllic valley dotted with Ponderosa Pines and tall grasses, this trail system is scenic and sensational. The hiking routes here boast gentle dirt grades to navigate with very few obstacles or obstructions making it a great choice for those who are newer to hiking. Guide to Hiking in Durango, CO

Take time to Explore Surrounding Area Routes and Trail Systems

Durango is within easy reach of some truly spectacular surrounding areas and if you’re fortunate enough to have an extended period of time to make the most of your hiking journey, you won’t want to leave them off your itinerary. The best of the American Southwest is on display in places like Manco, Dolores, Silverton, Cortez, and Mesa Verde where the vast majority of trails and networks are open all year long. There are also opportunities when you’re visiting Durango to set your hiking sights on the trails that run through and around Mesa Verde National Park. The trail system here puts you in the heart of history and you only have to travel about 48 miles to reach it. Hikers will have access to 12 trails that encompass 30 miles ranging from easy to moderately difficult. Because this area is a sacred location to 26 indigenous tribes, you’ll encounter meaningful landmarks and artifacts along the way. 

Hiking Outfitters in town

Before you set out on any of the above-mentioned trails or network of pathways, it’s important to stock up on the outdoor essentials you’ll need to make it a fun, successful, and safe excursion. Places like Pine Needle Mountaineering in downtown Durango offer casual and technical clothing, shoes, apparel, and more that can keep you feeling comfortable out in nature. Gardesnwartz Outdoor is another local outfitter maintaining an impressive inventory of outdoor and sporting goods to pick and choose from while Backcountry Experience has the specialized gear and extras you might be looking for as well. 

Guided Hiking Options in Durango

While hitting the trails at your own preferred pace in Durango can be a delight, there are also options to book guided hikes alongside the experts when you’re new to the sport or just looking for an insightful experience in nature. Over at San Juan Expeditions, guests can book guide services year-round that include everything from summer hikes to ice climbing in the winter. Qualified experts will show you a new side of the Durango trails and are happy to point out details you might otherwise miss hiking on your own. They’ve been serving the greater Silverton and Durango for years and can easily customize a guided outing to fit your needs, preferences, and skill levels upon request. Guide to Hiking in Durango, CO

What to Pack for Your Hiking Adventures

Hiking in Durango promises to be inspiring, but it’s important to be prepared for changing conditions and scenarios before you head out. When you’re hiking here, always be sure to have the proper navigation tools on hand including a GPS, your phone, a map, and a compass in case you reach areas where cell service isn’t available. Sunscreen is always highly recommended for a day of hiking and is especially important for those who are heading up the mountains at higher elevations. A first aid kit is a must in any hiker’s bag in Durango while a headlamp is useful for longer hikes that might see you returning along the trail when the sun has already gone down. If you have any plans to camp overnight and hike back the next day, it’s important to have basic fire-making tools available as well as a multi-tool for any field repairs that might be necessary. Always bring plenty of water and snacks for any trek out and when it comes to packing apparel, clothing for all occasions is key. A sun-protective shirt is ideal while synthetic shorts and pants are a must. A fleece jacket to layer in the transitional months is useful as well as a rain jacket. A wood hat comes in handy when you’re heading up the mountains while synthetic gloves are good for gripping hiking poles. A buff or neck gaiter can serve multiple purposes in colder months on the trails or as a sweat block during the summer months.  

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