Driving To and Around Durango

August 17, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Our next stop after Great Sand Dunes NP was Durango, but first we took a detour at South Fork  on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. The highway runs parallel to the Rio Grande River, which we followed to North Clear Creek  Falls. We then backtracked, stopping at scenic pulloffs along the way.


North Clear Creek FallsNorth Clear Creek Falls Brown Lakes and Hermit PeakBrown Lakes and Hermit Peak


Durango was to be our base of operations for a couple days. After arriving, we took a scenic drive north toward Silverton and Ouray. The drive between Durango and Ouray is part of the San Juan Skyway, winding through the Molas Pass south of Silverton. Silverton marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway, which derives its name from the low grade gold ore present in the roadbed. Ten miles north of Silverton is the appropriately name Red Mountain Pass. On the way down from the pass, we stopped at the Mining Reclamation Project to read about mining that used to be done in the area and look at the old mining structures.


Near Molas PassNear Molas Pass Yankee Girl Mine RemnantYankee Girl Mine Remnant Red Mountains reflected in Crystal LakeRed Mountains reflected in Crystal Lake


Our second day in the Durango area was to be the highlight of our stay there. We were going to hike the Ice Lake Basin trail. It would be a difficult hike given the elevation gain and the altitude (2,400 feet starting at 9,800 feet), but I was excited because the basin is supposed to be the most spectacular in the San Juan Mountains and one of the top locations for wildflowers there. Given we hadn’t seen many wildflowers yet, I decided to do some searching on the Internet for current reports about the trail. I found a post from someone that hiked the trail the week before and noted the trail was dangerous as large portions were still covered in snow with spots of ice. Given this, I was certain there was little chance we would see any wildflowers up there. With the potentially dangerous conditions, we decided to rearrange our remaining hotel stays and leave the area after one night.

Before leaving, we went to the old downtown section of Durango to walk the quaint streets filled with old buildings and to visit the Silverton & Durango Railroad station. We headed south from Durango to Farmington, New Mexico, our jumping-off place for excursions to the Bisti Badlands.


Silverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad leaving the Durango stationSilverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad leaving the Durango station


Next stop: The wild and crazy Bisti Badlands


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