We took a family trip to Ouray & Durango, southwest Colorado, about 3 years ago before we started our own family. Lots of physical activities were enjoyed, from site-seeing to hot-tubbing in the snow, but there were a few experiences that are worth discussing below.
Ouray is a cute town nestled in the hills of the San Juan mountain range, and is called the Switzerland of America. The hilly drive will give you great views of the town from above with plenty of photo opportunities. The Ouray Ice Park had climbers visible from the road we were on... I personally have no desire to ever climb ice like that but good for those who do! Although we mostly just drove through, the streets were lined with cute shops and eating places as well and would be great for a day trip to explore.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train
All I can say is this is a must to add to your bucket list. A beautiful and historic train ride running between Silverton & Durango, CO that kids and adults will surely enjoy. The train runs on narrow gauge rails so it can maneuver around the twists and turns along the mountain trail. They have both enclosed and open seating areas, plus concessions with "refreshing adult beverages". Although it was super cold, we spent the majority of our time in the open rear caboose. Those hot totties definitely helped! The train takes you through the winding mountains, with scenic views of the river and gorge, plus it makes a play stop in Cascade Canyon at the end of the line so it can turn around. This was a great experience that I would like to share again with my children one day, and remember, keep your head and hands inside the train at all times!
We rented ours from Outlaw River and Jeep Tours. They took us up to a quiet mountain side, gave us a few lessons on how to stop and go, and then said good luck! No guides came with us and we probably spent a few hours up there. There was a road that went up to the top of the mountain and the dead end was the queue to turn around, but mostly play time was on the road. There were a few small turn offs we goofed off on, though. Thankfully they had tow ropes on the units because we did need it due to one of the machines dying towards the end. It wasn't the experience you see in the movies, where you are ripping through tons of fresh powder and catching air, but it was probably best since we were noobs. We still enjoyed the experience though!
Purgatory Resort is located in Durango and has some decent slopes. With Ben and I living in California for a while, we would snowboard in Tahoe every season. I decided to try my hand at skiing though, since my sister and brother-in law were skiers. Lots of nice snow to fall in thankfully! I did enjoy the skiing much better than snowboarding. Lots of green trails for me to explore on while the others did more difficult trails. And of course, lots of pretty views!
Drive around for the views
The views were absolutely stunning. There's nothing like beautiful snow covered mountains and frozen lakes, with great vantage points to keep you in awe during your drive. Plenty of wildlife was still out and about, too, as we saw large eagles and elk. Roads were kept clear as well for "mostly" easy driving. Car snacks are a must to keep your brain from turning to scenic "mush", but thankfully there were plenty of places to stop to hop out for pictures and leg stretches.
Visit Dinosaur Poop (aka. Hot Spring Formations)
So the first thing that came to mind when we pulled up to some hot springs was "dinosaur poop!" These springs were located right on the roadside and had an easy pull off to stop and explore. I felt the urging desire to touch the water to see if they truly were hot, but it was luke-warm at best. I had never seen anything like these formations before, and was intrigued by the look and smell. We only spent a few minutes here but it was definitely worth it to remind me of how crazy nature is.
Do you have any tips to share about your experiences in Southwest Colorado? I'd love to hear from you!