THE STRATER HOTEL, DURANGO
Founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company in 1880 the town of Durango sits in the Animas River Valley surrounded by San Juan Range of the Rocky Mountains in La Plata County, Colorado. The high desert town of about 18,000 is within easy reach of wilderness, archaeological sites and ski resorts. For full old west immersion, stay at the downtown Strater Hotel a lively four-storey landmark built in 1888 where ragtime tunes drift from the piano in Diamond Belle Saloon and the lobby displays prohibition-era alcohol, women's hairpins, button-up boots and handcrafted firearms.
699 Main Ave, Durango. See strater.com
DURANGO AND SILVERTON RAILROAD
The narrow gauge railway, between Durango and Silverton, once hauled silver and gold from high country mines. Now a popular coal-powered day trip through the Animas Canyon, it travels past pristine lakes and across the High Line for one of the most spectacular railroad views in the world. You'll also pass Baker's Bridge, the sight of the famous jump scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
479 Main Ave, Durango. See durangotrain.com
The business of craft beer has flourished in southern Colorado over the last decade and includes the bustling and friendly Steamworks which has 15 house beers on tap, brewed on site. Try the One Wit Wunder, an unfiltered Belgian white ale spiced with coriander and orange peel paired with Dirty Fries, beer battered and served with 12-hour roasted pork and banana peppers. Durango hosts the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, where cyclists race the steam train from Durango to Silverton. As part of the festivities a mountain bike event is routed through the bar.
MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
Towering over the Montezuma Valley with views to the border of New Mexico, this national park of flat-topped hills, or mesas, is home to more than 5000 archaeological sites from the Ancestral Puebloans. The four-hour, 700 Years Tour explores the Puebloan preserved pit dwellings and culminates in a climb down to the Cliff Palace, the largest sandstone dwelling in the park of 150 rooms and towers. Accessed by a series of ladders that follows the hand and toe holds of the original inhabitants, a wooden flute tune played by national parks guide and indigenous man David Nighteagle is a highlight. It's a 55-kilometre drive from Durango to the park entrance.
THE NEW ROCHESTER HOTEL, DURANGO
A former boarding house built in 1892, Rochester Hotel is more than its 15 luxe rooms with a tribute to film in the area. Durango was once known as the Hollywood of the Rockies with movies made including Westerns starring John Wayne and Marlon Brando; hotel guests can bone up on the area's movie cred in the hallways with rare movie posters and photographs from classics such as How the West Was Won starring James Stewart and Across the Wide Missouri starring Clark Gable, and more recently National Lampoon's Vacation. . The hotel's leafy outdoors hosts the Secret Garden concert series.
726 East 2nd Avenue, Durango. See rochesterhotel.com
An easy 100-kilometre drive from Durango, the pretty town of Pagosa hugs the San Juan River and proudly carries the title of the "world's deepest hot springs" as certified by Guinness World Records. The Springs Resort and Spa has 23 soaking pools ranging in temperature from 28 to 114 degrees and hotel guests have 24-hour access to the healing waters. Finish the geothermal journey with dinner at charming 1896 Victorian-style house and home to Riff Raff Brewing which uses the heat tapped from the spring to create its beers.
Jane Reddy was a guest of the Colorado Tourism Office (colorado.com) and visited Durango (durango.org), Mesa Verde (visitmesaverde.com) and Pagosa Springs (visitpagosasprings.com). Car hire was provided by Alamo Rent-A-Car (alamo.com).