By Natalie DeYoung
It’s getting to be that time of year when the weather warms up and those with itchy traveler’s feet start thinking of places to explore. Not sure where to go on your next adventure? Give Southwestern Colorado a try. Most people gravitate farther north, toward Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, and ski resort towns like Vail and Aspen, but Southwestern Colorado boasts a wealth of sights and experiences off the beaten path.
If you’re outdoorsy and sporty, there really is no better place to visit in the summertime than Colorado, and Southwestern Colorado is no exception. The San Juan Mountains features a unique climate of high desert plateau with a towering Rocky Mountain backdrop that makes the area mild in the summer, ideal for horseback riding, hunting, rock climbing, fishing, and pretty much any other outdoor activity you can fathom.
It is a hiker’s paradise, for one thing, with enough trails and scenic vistas to satisfy even the most avid outdoor enthusiast. Backpacking is always an option for the terribly rugged and hardcore hikers, but day hiking can be just as rewarding (plus with a refreshing shower at the end of the day). For instance, Piedra Falls is a breathtaking destination for those who just want a leisurely day hike. Pro-tip: bring plenty of water and high-energy snacks like trail-mix and peanut butter, because girlfriend, you will be hungry. The high-altitude trail is no place for a diet.
Those looking for more adrenaline will find it in the many whitewater rafting options. Colorado is home to over a hundred rivers, and in the Southwestern region the Animas, Piedras and San Miguel Rivers offer places to release your inner wild woman. For a higher fun factor, this is best done in a group, so make sure you bring your thrill-seeking friends, or at the very least, drag your significant other along with you. Then, for a trip back in time, of course there’s Mesa Verde National Park. Its Pueblo cliff dwellings and long houses comprise the largest archeological preserve in the country, and just the sight of the ancient structures is enough to inspire and rejuvenate the spirit. A ticket for Mesa Verde is good for seven days, so you can count on plenty of exercise walking through this scenic gem.
Not really athletic, or are the outdoors just not really your thing? There’s plenty to do in Durango or Pagosa Springs that doesn’t involve weaponry or hiking boots. The geothermal hot springs in Pagosa are the deepest in the world, and a soak in those will restore any aching joints, not to mention leave your skin softer than a silk bathrobe. After you’ve washed the sulfur smell from your tresses, enjoy a massage or facial at the full service spa at the Springs Resort. Feel like shopping? If touristy clay pots and dream-catchers are not your idea of shopping, never fear! For more exploratory shoppers, quality thrift stores abound in the area. Peek into such the Humane Society Thrift Store for a respectable collection of books and Upscale Resale for steals on cute clothing.
For those interested in history or stunning views, the Durango and Silverton railway offers both. Before you go though, stop for a honey latte at Durango Joe’s – you won’t be sorry.
One of the best ways to see what Southwestern Colorado has to offer though is to just take a drive along one of the highways, then turn off on an unpaved road. The real beauty of Colorado is in the untamed countryside. What are you waiting for? Grab your favorite playlist, hop in the car and get a move on – adventure awaits.