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Our Favorite Things to Do & See in Silverton

Kelli G
13 min read

Planning a visit to Silverton, Colorado? You're in for an exceptional experience!

Nestled in the San Juan Mountains, Silverton is not just a picturesque location; it's steeped in history and offers a plethora of activities for every interest.

This guide is your key to uncovering Silverton’s treasures. From exploring must-visit places to finding budget-friendly fun, to romantic escapes for couples, and thrill seeking adventures, we have insights from locals who know the town inside out.

Prepare to immerse yourself in all that Silverton has to offer. This off the beaten path destination promises to be an unforgettable experience. A durango and silverton narrow gauge scenic railroad train pulled by a vintage

What Our Local Experts Love About Silverton

Tucked into the heart of the San Juan Mountains, Silverton is the melting pot for outdoor enthusiasts and historical buffs alike. The town is a National Historic Landmark, a stop along The San Juan Skyway, home to the Animas Forks and the world-renowned Alpine Loop. Located on Red Mountain Pass between Durango and Ouray, a visit to this historical western town is like stepping back into time. The surrounding mountains, stunning in every season, add to the town's allure.

A highlight for many is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This vintage train winds through spectacular & breathtaking canyons in the remote wilderness of the two-million acre San Juan National Forest. Experience the adventure of traveling by a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive on the same tracks miners, cowboys and settlers of the Old West took over a century ago.

Beyond its historical appeal, Silverton is a hub for outdoor adventure. Near the Weminuche Wilderness where you will find the biggest concentration of 14ers in Colorado, Silverton is the gateway into Colorado’s backcountry. Silverton is a recreational paradise, whether you're into winter activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, and ice fishing, or summer for rafting, hiking, biking, off-roading, fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, hunting, and camping. It is the perfect getaway for those seeking an off the beaten path adventure filled with history, and a connection with nature.

What to Do & See at Night in Silverton

Grand Imperial Hotel, Silverton, Colorado When night falls in Silverton, the town transforms into a cozy haven of nighttime activities. Under the starlit sky, here are some enchanting experiences you can enjoy:

  • Stargazing on the Mountains: Silverton’s night sky is a stargazer’s paradise. Find a high vantage point and be dazzled by the twinkling stars.
  • Relax at the Grand Imperial Hotel: Belly up at the saloon or stay the night in this historic hotel. Its old-world charm makes for a unique and authentic experience.
  • Local Pubs and Eateries: Spots like Avalanche Brewing Company provide a perfect setting to unwind and mingle with locals and other visitors.
  • Night Photography: Capture the beauty of Silverton’s historic architecture and mountain landscapes in a different light.
  • Live Music Venues: Check out places like the Columbine Roadhouse for some great live music. It's a fun way to liven up your evening in Silverton.
  • Nighttime Ghost Town Adventures: Visit ghost towns such as Animas Forks for an exciting, slightly spooky nighttime excursion. (Link to 4x4 Suburban tour https://www.sanjuanbackcountry.com/tours/guided-4x4-guided-tours-in-durango-silverton-co/)
  • Campfire Evenings: Many local campgrounds offer the perfect spot for a classic campfire, complete with storytelling and s'mores.

Fun for All Ages in Silverton

Silverton is a true haven for fun! Whether you're seeking outdoor excitement, leisurely strolls, historical explorations, or just some quality time with nature, Silverton has it all. Here’s a glimpse of what you can enjoy in this vibrant and welcoming community:

  • Scenic Train Rides: The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a hit across generations, offering stunning views along the Animas River. Pulled by a steam
  • locomotive, this nostalgic journey takes you into the heart of the San Juan Mountains.
  • During the holiday season, climb aboard The Polar Express: Take a train ride from Durango Depot for the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus himself. After arriving at the North Pole, you’ll enjoy an incredible light show set to holiday music. On the return trip to Durango, Santa will visit each coach and hand out the first gift of Christmas to each passenger.
  • Kendall Mountain Recreation Area: This year round recreation center offers fun for the whole family. In winter, this affordable ski area offers $25 adult lift tickets and is the perfect pitch for skiers and snowboarders of all ages to come work on your turns and slide around on the snow. Also offers other winter activities like ice skating, cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing. Summer activities include picnics, mellow hiking.
  • Fishing at Molas Lake: Enjoy a peaceful day of fishing in this serene setting, perfect for family bonding.
  • Guided Jeep Tours: Explore one of Colorado's most famous scenic and historic byways the Alpine Loop checking out Corkscrew Gulch Link to Mild To Wild Tour
  • Gentle Hiking Trails: Trails such as those near south fork mineral creek and around Ice Lake provide a less strenuous hiking option, suitable for families and casual hikers. The area is often referred to as the Switzerland of America; these mountain vistas will have you humming the Sound of Music.
  • Gold Panning Adventures: Experience the excitement of the gold rush at the Old Hundred Gold Mine.
  • Local Parks and Playgrounds: Spend a relaxing day where kids can play and adults can unwind in beautiful surroundings.
  • Photography Walks & Tours: Capture the scenic beauty of Silverton’s nature and historic buildings on leisurely photography walks.

Thrill Seeking Experiences in Silverton

Silverton is more than just a scenic town; it's a vibrant playground brimming with unique and thrilling activities that cater to a wide range of interests and adventure levels. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie seeking type II fun or looking to escape into nature, Silverton has something special for you.

Here's a curated list of thrilling adventures that showcase the very best of what Silverton has to offer.

  • Expert-Only Ski Area: Not for the faint of heart this guided only ski area tests your agility, lungs, and mental capacity to push your skiing to another level. This single chairlift ski area has no groomed runs or cut trails, it is purely designed from the natural avalanche paths that run down the steep chutes. It is required that avalanche safety equipment is worn with most runs requiring a 15 to 45 minute hike. One aspect that adds character to the experience is the decorated buses that pick you up and take you back to the chairlift. If you're wanting to add to the thrill, you can opt into a single or multi drop helicopter assisted run. Reservations are highly encouraged.
  • Ice Climbing Adventures: If you're seeking an adrenaline rush, ice climbing in Silverton is a must. Guided by professionals, it's an unforgettable experience. With routes for all abilities there are many options in and around Silverton. Link to San Juan Mountain Guides.
  • Backcountry Snowmobile Tours: Explore the snowy landscapes and get deep into the backcountry on a snowmobile; a perfect way to see the majestic views of the San Juan mountains. (Link to Ice Pirates)
  • Summertime Off-Road Tours & Rentals: Set out into the backcountry and discover the beauty of these rugged mountains. The options are endless from getting high up on top of the mountain vistas, exploring the ghost towns and the mining relics, accessing remote hiking trails, or testing your driving skills on some of the most technical off-road trails around. Head out on a multi-day adventure following one of Colorado's most famous scenic and historic byways the Alpine Loop (Link to Durango Rivertrippers)
  • Rafting the Upper Animas: This stretch of the Animas River known as the Needleton Section is action-packed with constant Class II-III and a few Class IV and V drops. Link to Mild To Wild
  • Mountain Biking the Historic Rainbow Trail: This is mostly a singletrack trail that runs from Silverton to the bottom of Ophir Pass Road. 4.4 miles each way, this trail is a great out-and-back, with a fun descent back into Silverton or as a link to Ophir Pass. Best time to ride is mid to late summer as snow patches exist until late spring and spring runoff can create an impassable creek.
  • Dog sledding: Link to the mushing.

Cultural Experiences in Silverton

A carriage passing from old arcade Relive the Wild Wild West days in Silverton. There’s a reason why western films such as True Grit and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed here. In today's standards it is an outlaw scene, not quite the days of prostitution and bank robberies but you can get a good idea of what it was like.

  • Ghost Town Exploration: Dive into the past by visiting ghost towns like Animas Forks, Ironton, Eureka, and Howardsville, where you can explore the remnants of the mining era. Rent a RZR or Jeep (Link to rental page).
  • Silverton Hillside Cemetery: Talk a walk through the cemetery and learn more about Silvertons past including the time when half the population got wiped out due to the Spanish flu.
  • Silverton Skijoring: A spectacle not to be missed, this event brings the Wild Wild West into the modern world of outdoor recreation. Skijoring combines a fearless skier getting pulled behind a horse guided by a cowboy/cowgirl often at speeds of 40 mph attempting to get the fastest time while flying over jumps and catching batons along the way. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Commute around town or ride the town trails on a snowmobile: One of the last mountain towns in Colorado that allows you to snowmobile from your house to a restaurant. You can also access the Silverton town trails from the Silverton Visitor’s Center parking lot, or from the Railroad Depot at the end of 10th street. Riding on Silverton streets is allowed if you have a flag, are at least 16 years of age, have a valid driver’s license, are insured, and obey the speed limits and traffic laws. You may cross Greene Street, but there is no riding along the main drag.
  • Staged Gunfights on Blair Street: History enthusiasts and families will love these lively reenactments of the Wild West, complete with costumes and theatrical performances.
  • Historic Walking Tours: Learn about Silverton's rich history with guided tours that take you through historic sites and tell tales of the past. (Link to https://www.sanjuanbackcountry.com/)
  • Guided Mine Tours: (Link to https://www.sanjuanbackcountry.com/)
  • Wildflower Photography Workshops: Nature lovers and photographers will enjoy learning how to capture the stunning wildflowers that bloom in the San Juan Mountains.
  • Off-grid backcountry huts: High up on Red Mountain Pass disconnect from the hustle and bustle and enjoy a nights stay at an off-grid backcountry hut. Many of these huts are set on mining claims where once the veins descending deep into the earth's crust were accessed for silver and gold. Check out Opus Hut or Red Mountain Lodge
  • Wellness Retreat: Attend a Wellness Retreat at one of the many backcountry huts in the area.

Fun on a Budget in Silverton

Discover the charm of Silverton without stretching your budget through a variety of affordable activities. This picturesque mountain town offers plenty of options that are light on the wallet but rich in experience. From outdoor adventures that immerse you in nature's beauty to cultural explorations in the town's historic streets, there's no shortage of low-cost ways to enjoy Silverton.

Dive into our selection of budget-friendly activities that capture the essence of Silverton:

  • Downhill Skiing at Kendall Mountain: There are not many places in Colorado where you can access lift service skiing for $25. These slopes are the perfect pitch to practice your turns and great for the whole family.
  • Hiking the Local Trails: There are endless amounts of trails around Silverton, whether you're wanting to summit a 14,000 ft peak, or seeking high alpine vistas, waterfalls, lakes, or wildflowers, the options are limitless.
  • Backpacking in the Chicago Basin: This backpacking excursion into the Weminuche Wilderness is all about the journey starting with a train ride from Durango or Silverton. This is the only place in the continental US where you can flag down a train allowing access to the most vast wilderness areas of Colorado. Know Before You Go by finding out how to flag down the train and the best time of year to access the wilderness through the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
  • Exploring Historic Downtown: Wander through Silverton's historic downtown for free, admiring the old buildings and soaking up the town's history. Learn more through Silvertons Historical Society
  • San Juan County Historical Museum: One of the finest mining museums in North America, this 3-story, complex houses a newly restored 1902 county jail, including realistic underground tunnels and machinery and numerous artifacts from Silverton’s colorful past.
  • Mayflower Goldmill Tour: Take this self-guided tour of this once operational gold mill and see how gold and silver were processed after the ore came out of the mine. Visit the Aerial Tram House, where the buckets and tram system are still in place.
  • Rugged Electric Bike Rentals: Rent an Electric Bike and take to the mountains. (Link to https://www.sanjuanbackcountry.com/)
  • Picnicking at Molas Lake: A perfect spot for a relaxing day out, Molas Lake is ideal for a scenic picnic with family and friends.
  • Scenic Drives on the Million Dollar Highway: Explore the beauty of Colorado by driving the infamous Million Dollar Highway that offers some of the most picturesque views in the area.

Romantic Things to Do for Couples in Silverton

Train passing by a beautiful view Silverton, with its enchanting mountain scenery and quaint charm, is the perfect setting for romance. It's a dream destination for couples seeking to create special moments together.

Here’s a collection of delightful activities that promise a truly romantic experience in this picturesque town:

  • Sunset Walk along the Animas River: A peaceful stroll by the river during sunset offers a beautiful and tranquil experience.
  • Dinner in the Mountains: Enjoy a romantic dinner in one of Silverton’s cozy mountain restaurants, perfect for a special evening.
  • Stargazing Near Molas Pass: Escape the light pollution and head out into the high country for a romantic and breathtaking night under the sky.
  • Silverton Historical Tours: Go back in time and learn what it was like during the rugged times of the mining era. (Link to https://www.sanjuanbackcountry.com/)
  • Pedal Bike: Gert acquainted with the town on this multi person pedal bike. (Link to https://www.sanjuanbackcountry.com/)
  • Rent a Jeep or UTV: Head up toward Animas Forks Ghost Town with just the two of you and take in the natural beauty of the landscape. Pack a charcuterie assortment and have a picnic amongst the most picturesque mountain sceneries.
  • Orvis Hot Springs: Take a day trip to Ouray, schedule a massage, and bask in the mineral hot springs; bathing suits optional.
  • Plan your wedding at The Wyman Hotel: The event space at The Wyman offers a unique blend of rustic charm & modern luxury. This 1902 landmark building was restored and in 2020 opened with the comforts and amenities of an urban boutique hotel. Framed by the dramatic San Juan mountains the courtyard offers a spectacular outdoor venue, a perfect place to host a wedding reception.

Natural Wonders in Silverton

Nestled in a picturesque landscape, Silverton invites travelers with its breathtaking natural beauty. This lovely destination boasts various must-see spots, each offering a unique look at the region's enchanting charm.

From serene lakeshores to rugged mountain trails, here are our top picks:

  • Ice Lake Basin: Known for its vivid blue waters and wildflower fields, the hike to Ice Lake Basin is rewarding with its spectacular views. Make a loop out of it and visit another astounding natural wonder, Island Lake.
  • Red Mountain No 3: One of the most colorful mountain tops to hike up, it is a photographer's dream, offering 360 degree views of the San Juans.
  • Kendall Mountain: An accessible spot for hiking or skiing with a birds eye view of Silverton.
  • Molas Lake: Located south of Silverton, this crystal-clear lake is a serene place for fishing or simply enjoying the scenery.
  • Animas River: Flowing through Silverton, it offers opportunities for fishing and rafting.
  • Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Route 550): This highway provides some of the most dramatic mountain vistas in Colorado, especially over the Red Mountain Pass. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings such as Moose, Bear, or Bighorn sheep.
  • San Juan National Forest: A vast area with diverse landscapes, including Molas Pass and South Mineral Campground, perfect for exploring nature.

These experiences offer couples and nature enthusiasts alike a chance to enjoy the unique beauty and romantic settings of Silverton.

Giving Back to the Community

Sustainable tourism is responsible travel to natural areas conserving the environment, helping the well-being of the local people, and creating knowledge and understanding through education. Here are a few ways to contribute to the ecotourism of the Silverton community.

  • Silvertons Single Track Society - Initiatives include building new mountain bike trails, maintaining existing trails, and putting Silverton on the map as a world class mountain biking destination. The Baker's Park Trail System will create nearly 30 miles of singletrack trails on BLM lands offering experiences for all skill levels.

  • Become a member of Silverton Snowmobile Society and help keep the 100+ miles of trails groomed for multi-use recreation.

  • Friends of CAIC Supports Avalanche Forecasting and Education in Colorado. In order to access Silverton in the winter, you must drive over Red Mountain Pass also known as the Million Dollar Highway. In order to keep the road open during the winter months, CAIC plays a major role in avalanche mitigation on the pass.

Your Silverton Adventure Awaits

Are you planning a trip to Silverton, Colorado? Great! You’ve got all the info you need for an unforgettable experience. Silverton is a blend of fascinating history, stunning natural beauty, and activities that everyone can enjoy, regardless of age. It's a place that's sure to leave a lasting impression.

Seeking an adventure? Looking for a romantic getaway? Or maybe you want some family-friendly fun? Perhaps you're just looking to relax amidst nature? Silverton offers all these experiences and more. Plus, exploring all the great spots in Silverton can be done without spending a fortune.

Interested in more travel tips for Southern Colorado, like Durango, Telluride, or Ouray?

We've got just what you're looking for:

  • Weather in Telluride: Stay informed about the weather to plan your activities accordingly.
  • Best Time to Visit Telluride: Discover the ideal times to visit, based on your interests and the different seasons.
  • Telluride Visitors Guide: Get insider knowledge on the top places to visit and hidden local gems.
  • Transportation & Navigation in Telluride: Learn the most efficient ways to get around and make the most of your sightseeing.
  • These guides are your comprehensive resource for all you need to know about Telluride and the surrounding areas. Dive into them for a well-planned and enjoyable trip to this beautiful region of Colorado.
Kelli G
Kelli is no stranger to outdoor adventure travel. Born into a family with strong ski heritage, she committed her earlier years to ski racing and big mountain freeskiing competitions. After she graduated with a Finance degree at the University of Denver she moved to Telluride, Colorado and worked up the ranks in the family-owned ski business. During her tenure, she wore all hats of the retail business and became one of the few female ski hardgoods buyers in the industry. For over 10 years she was a ski tester for Ski Magazine and was involved in multiple product development projects for various ski manufacturers. During the pandemic, she traded her skis for sails and spent a few years traveling the world on a 35' sailboat. She enjoys connecting to nature through whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, skiing, sailing or globe trotting. She loves to share her passion for adventure and travel with others.

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