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8 Great Southwest Colorado Excursions

By March 30, 2017activities, Adventures

Escape to the rugged San Juan Mountains this summer for a one-of-a-kind adventure. Every traveler from young to old and relaxed to go-getter will find a unique activity that’s perfect for them.

The mountain towns of Pagosa Springs, Durango, Cortez, Telluride, Ouray and Silverton await the eager traveler. We selected eight of the region’s most popular attractions below.

1. Animas River Rafting

With both the Upper and Lower Animas to choose from, you’ll find a whitewater float that’s right for you. Classes range from one to five, with the Upper Animas River being solely for thrill-seekers and experienced rafters. The Lower Animas runs through town and the Smelter Whitewater Park. It’s perfect for families.

There are numerous raft outfitters in town, including Durango Rivertrippers, Mild 2 Wild Rafting and Mountain Waters Rafting. All three offer carefree trips on the Lower Animas, but only Mild 2 Wild and Mountain Waters commercially raft the Upper Animas.

2. Zipping Through the Trees

The only way to access the world’s largest zipline canopy tour is by train or helicopter. This adventure begins in a privately chartered first-class car on board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It delivers guests to Soaring Tree Top’s remote alpine location.

From there, zippers ages 4 and up can access 27 different zip lines. They total over a mile and a half in length, ranging individually from 56 to 1,400 feet. The course features a patented, eco-friendly design, which is safe enough to not require gloves or helmets.

3. Exploring Anasazi Ruins

Mesa Verde National Park Long House

Mesa Verde showcases the magnificent ruins of the Ancient Puebloan people, whom lived in the area through the end of the thirteenth century. The area is most known for its striking cliff dwellings, which are built into the side of mesas. The Anasazi also lived in mesa top villages long before these popular cliff dwellings were erected.

Two types of group guided tours are offered, ranging in price and service. The larger Aramark Tours are led by National Park Service trained guides in 50 person motor coaches. Smaller tours that include lunch, park entrance and a personalized experience are offered through Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours and Mild to Wild Rafting.

4. Riding an Old West Train

Rides begin May 27th on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which connects Antonito, CO with Chama, NM, via a 64 mile track. It meanders along the Colorado/New Mexico border, stopping for a complimentary buffet lunch in Osier.

Choose between coach, tourist and parlor class, all of which offer stunning views around every turn. Ride roundtrip to Osier or combine it with a bus one-way to ride between Chama and Antonito. The train departs daily during its summer season.

5. Float High in a Hot Air Balloon

Get off the ground and soak in the world from a bird’s perspective. Pagosa Spring’s Rocky Mountain Balloon Adventures hosts thirty minute trips in the sky, during a three hour excursion. After landing, guests enjoy a continental breakfast, champagne toast, ballooning knowledge and a personalized flight certificate.

If you’re looking for more time afloat, Durango’s Over The Rainbow Ballooning offers an evening tether and hot air balloon glow, which lasts an hour or two. They also host traditional morning floats. Weight limit is 600 lbs, appropriate for 2 adults and 2 children, or 3 smaller adults.

6. Canyoning in the San Juans

Walk, rappel, jump, swim, scramble and slide down remote, alpine canyons! Ouray County features numerous creeks for canyoneering, suitable for all abilities.

Canyoning Colorado operates between June and September, possibly May and October if weather permits. Internationally certified instructors lead full and half day trips, for beginner, intermediate and advanced canyoners. You must be at least 12 years old.

7. Backcountry 4×4 Trip

Get off the beaten path and experience the Rockies via 4×4! Rent a Jeep, ATV or dirt bike and let loose. Both guided and unguided tours are available from a variety of outfitters throughout the Southwest.

San Juan Backcountry operates out of historic Silverton, a mecca for old mining roads. In addition to vehicle rentals, you can opt to ride in one of their Suburbans, so you can kick back and enjoy the views, without worrying about steering around a narrow mountain pass. For a truly unique ride, rent a Polaris Slingshot from Durango Adventure Rentals.

8. VIA Ferrata

Italian for “iron road”, Via Ferrata is a one-of-a-kind experience in beautiful, box-canyon Telluride. With the protection of cables and steel/iron rungs, participants navigate horizontally along majestic mountainsides.

San Juan Mountain Guides offers guided trips for one to four people. It’s appropriate for all ages and abilities, as long as you can climb a ladder. They provide the necessary via ferrata gear to assure a safe and memorable time.