Before we get into visiting Durango we want to remind you to practice the LEAVE NO TRACE principles. Please remember to stay on trail, pack out all trash, and explore prepared.
We went to Durango, CO from July 30th – August 1st. We enjoyed our short stay in the beautiful southwest Colorado city located into the San Juan National Forest. During our trip we stayed with a local, family owned, Glamping spot just 15 minutes north of downtown Durango (it is no longer open). While in Durango we hiked to Cascade Falls, hiked to Engineer Mountain, soaked at the Durango Hot Springs, and enjoyed the local food.
Quick Stats | Cascade Falls
Distance: about 1 mile out & back
Elevation Change: 200 ft
Water at Trailhead: no
Toilet at Trailhead: no
Thank you to our hosts, we were able to find Cascade Falls. The waterfall is along Cascade Creek right off a sharp turn on Highway 550 north of Durango. You’ll exit on Lime Creek Road on the southeast side of the highway, right next to Buck’s Livery. There is a spot on Google Maps labeled Cascade Creek Rapids; it’s marked a little before where we parked and isn’t the route we took to get to the waterfall. Slightly further down the road is a short little pull out fit for a small number of cars. The coordinates are 37.656152, -107.8074640 | 37°39’22.2″N 107°48’26.9″W and we pinned it on Google Maps.
The waterfall isn’t even a half mile from trailhead. The trail takes you down about 200+ feet in elevation to the creek level and ends at the waterfall. Overall the trail was narrow but mostly easy to follow. At the waterfall is also a rock climbing wall and we saw some climbers enjoying the challenge. Because of the consistent afternoon summer rains in the area the water was a little brown.
Quick Stats | Engineer Mountain via Pass Creek Trail #500
Location: Coal Bank Pass | Parking on east and west side of Highway 550 | Google Maps
Distance: 4.4 miles out & back to Engineer Mountain Trail #508 | 6 miles out & back base of mountain
Elevation Change: 2,299 ft overall | we recorded 1,484 ft to where stopped
Difficulty: moderate to difficult. starts at 10,600ft above sea level. Engineer mountain is very steep
Toilets at TH: yes
Water at TH: No
Trash Receptacle at TH: located in restroom
We arrived at the Coal Bank Pass trailhead around 8:40 am the last Saturday in July and there was still parking; we intentionally parked on the east side of Highway 550 where there were two vault toilets that are property of the San Juan National Forest. Our hike started by crossing the street by the elevation sign and taking the trail through the woods that leads the west parking lot and official start of Pass Creek Trail 550.
The trail starts in a beautiful hillside meadow that had tons of seasonal wildflowers, especially because Durango was having a wet summer! We were soon among the tall pines switching back and forth up the mountain with some great shade. There were plenty of hikers and mountain bikers that day. A couple times the trail passed through some meadows for some great views. After about 1.5 miles or so the trial enters this large, beautiful, and healthy meadow. You can see many peaks of the San Juan National Forest in the distance and Engineer Mountain straight ahead.
We connected with Engineer Mountain Trail 508 and started up the mountain. The incline gradually got steeper and steeper and traction wasn’t the greatest. As we climbed the mountain the views were spectacular. We were definitely winded 12k+ feet above sea level struggling to keep our footing. With the forecasted afternoon showers and building clouds in the distance, we decided not to push it. We found a great lookout spot over the meadow and forest below. It was a beautiful day!
Quick Stats | Durango Hot Springs
Address: 6475 Co Rd 203, Durango, CO 81301
Distance: 13 min north of downtown Durango | 4 min south of Durango like a Local
Pools: 16 natural mineral hot springs soaking pools
Time allowed: 2 hours maximum
Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa
We went to Durango Hot Springs later in the day after our hike of Engineer Mountain. After we hiked, we went into town to eat, drink beer, and walk around. We thought there would be heavy rains but they kept away so we decided to go to the hot springs and relax.
There were 16 pools of varying temperatures. Make sure to wear swim wear you don’t mind getting ruined. The pools will ruin whites especially.
Mesa Verde National Park
Distance: 45 min west of Durango
Driveable Park: Yes
Entrance Fee: Yes, $35
Main attraction: Ancient cliff dwellings
The final morning of our stay we decided to go checkout another waterfall north of Durango. When we got there and the road was pretty rough, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to our vehicle and getting stuck so we turned around and headed back. We then decided we should go to Mesa Verde National Park instead and head home from there. Originally, we were not going to visit the national park because we didn’t get tickets to walk down to the cliff dwellings. However, do to our change in plans we decided to hit the park without a plan. Based on what was open to us, we did the Mesa Top Loop, about 45 minutes from the park entrance. It was an easy way to see many of the archeological sites and viewpoints. Next time we plan to make a full day trip to the park and hike down to some of the dwellings.