Welcome to Silverton, Colorado – a hidden gem nestled in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, where the spirit of the Old West meets endless outdoor adventures!
This charming town, once a bustling hub during the mining boom, now beckons travelers with its blend of historical allure and natural wonders. From the thrill of snowmobiling on Molas Pass to the serene beauty of the Animas River, Silverton offers a treasure trove of experiences.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a history enthusiast, or someone who simply loves soaking in majestic mountain vistas, come visit Silverton – which will have something special in store for you.
So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and let’s dive into the top things to do in Silverton, CO., where every turn is a new adventure and every moment is a memory in the making!
Snowmobiling on Molas Pass
Molas Pass, a winter wonderland near Silverton, offers some of the most scenic and exhilarating snowmobiling in Colorado.
Situated at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, this area boasts miles of trails that weave through the majestic San Juan Mountains, offering breathtaking views of snow-covered landscapes.
As one of the top attractions in the area, the trails cater to both beginners and experienced snowmobilers with such a large variety of terrain. The high altitude guarantees a thick blanket of snow, providing ideal conditions for one of the best Silverton outdoor activities.
Guided tours are available, offering insight into the area’s history and geography while ensuring a safe experience. Whether gliding over gentle slopes or navigating more challenging terrain, snowmobiling on Molas Pass is an unforgettable way to experience the beauty of Silverton in winter.
Exploring the Old Hundred Gold Mine
The Old Hundred Gold Mine, a relic of Silverton’s rich mining history, offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of miners in the early 1900s. Visitors can embark on a guided mine tour, journeying deep into Galena Mountain.
The tour, aboard a mine train, takes you through the underground tunnels where you can witness the original mining equipment in action and learn about the methods used in gold extraction.
The mine’s history is brought to life by knowledgeable guides who share tales of the miners’ experiences and the challenges they faced. This educational and entertaining tour is not just a journey into a mine but a trip back in time, making it a must-visit for history buffs and curious travelers alike.
Riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a unique and scenic journey through the rugged San Juan Mountains. This historic train, dating back to the 1880s, was originally built to transport silver and gold ore and has now become a beloved tourist attraction.
The journey from Durango to Silverton is both breathtaking and serene, as the train chugs along the Animas River, passing through canyons, verdant forests, and mountain vistas. Along the way, passengers are treated to stunning views and the opportunity to learn about the area’s history and geology.
The train ride, combining historic charm with natural beauty, is a perfect way to experience the essence of Colorado’s rugged wilderness in comfort and style.
Hiking the Ice Lakes Trail
For outdoor enthusiasts, the Ice Lakes Trail presents a challenging yet rewarding hiking experience. This trail, known for its stunning alpine scenery, takes hikers through wildflower-filled meadows, past cascading waterfalls, and up to the vibrant blue Ice Lake and Island Lake.
Located in the San Juan National Forest, the Ice Lake trail hike is moderately strenuous, culminating in breathtaking views at the lake, which is nestled in a glacial basin surrounded by rugged peaks.
The vivid colors of the lake and the surrounding flora in summer make it a photographer’s paradise. While the hike demands effort, the natural beauty and tranquility of the destination make it an incredibly fulfilling adventure for those who undertake it.
The hike may be a challenge for some that are not used to the elevation but the view of Ice Lake or the sderenity of Island Lake is worth the incredible trek.
While the trail leads to both Island Lake and Ice Lake, you can choose to camp or visit either one or both depending on how far you would like to hike in the wilderness.
Visiting the San Juan County Historical Society
The San Juan County Historical Society in Silverton is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts. Housed in the old County Jail, it offers a deep dive into the rich heritage of the region. Exhibits include a comprehensive collection of photographs, mining artifacts, and historical documents that paint a vivid picture of Silverton’s past.
Highlights include the Mining Heritage Center and the 1902 County Jail Museum, both providing an immersive experience into the mining era. This visit is not just educational; it’s a journey back in time, offering insights into the life and times of the early settlers and miners in the San Juan Mountains.
Off-Roading on the Alpine Loop in the San Juan Mountains
The Alpine Loop, accessible from Silverton, is an off-roader’s paradise. This rugged backcountry trail, stretching over 65 miles, offers some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the state. Suitable for 4×4 vehicles and ATVs, the loop traverses through ghost towns, past abandoned mines, and over high mountain passes.
It features seventy-five winding miles through the San Juan County mountains which connects the towns of Silverton, Telluride, Lake City, Ophir, and Ouray.
Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass, parts of the loop, provide challenging and thrilling rides with panoramic mountain views.
The loop’s historical significance and natural beauty make it a must-do for adventure seekers. Remember to check conditions and prepare adequately, as the trail can be demanding.
Skiing at Silverton Mountain or Kendall Mountain Ski Area
For skiing enthusiasts, Silverton Mountain presents an unparalleled adventure. This unique ski area, with its one chairlift and guided-only skiing, offers some of the most extreme and unspoiled terrain in North America.
The mountain caters primarily to advanced and expert skiers, boasting steep slopes, deep powder, and natural terrain. The experience here is rugged and raw, focusing on challenging descents in a backcountry setting.
For those looking for a less extreme experience and a more relaxing pace for families – you can also check out the Kendall Mountain ski area, which offers a few short runs at the base of the mountain.
Touring the Mayflower Gold Mill
The Mayflower Gold Mill on the outskirts of Silverton is a well-preserved piece of mining history. This national historic landmark offers a fascinating look into the gold milling process during the 20th century.
The self-guided tour allows visitors to explore the three-story mill, which still houses the original machinery used to extract gold from ore. The mill provides an educational experience, explaining the technological advancements in mining and milling.
Walking through the mill, visitors can almost hear the echo of the past, bringing to life the industrious spirit of Silverton’s mining era.
Fishing in the Animas River
The Animas River, flowing through Silverton, is a prime location for fishing enthusiasts. Renowned for its abundant trout population, the river offers a serene and picturesque setting for both fly fishing and conventional angling.
Anglers can find spots along the river teeming with rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout. The clear, cold waters of the Animas provide ideal conditions for trout to thrive, making it a rewarding experience for both novice and experienced fishermen. With the backdrop of the San Juan Mountains, fishing in the Animas River is as scenic as it is enjoyable, offering a peaceful escape into nature.
Enjoying Local Cuisine and Breweries
Silverton’s culinary scene, though modest, offers a delightful taste of local cuisine and craft beverages. The town’s restaurants and cafes serve a variety of dishes, with an emphasis on hearty, comforting meals perfect for refueling after a day of many outdoor activities and adventures.
Local specialties often include game meats and traditional American fare. Silverton also boasts unique breweries such as the Avalanche Brewing Company where Silverton visitors can unwind and sample locally brewed beers.
These establishments are not just about food and drink; they’re social hubs where locals and visitors alike gather, sharing stories and basking in the town’s friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
Photography at Kendall Mountain
For photography enthusiasts, Kendall Mountain provides a canvas of breathtaking landscapes. The mountain and its surrounding areas offer stunning vistas perfect for capturing the beauty of Silverton.
Photographers can capture the changing seasons, from wildflower blooms in summer to snow-capped peaks in winter. The panoramic views from the mountain encompass the
town, the valley, and the encompassing ranges, offering diverse photographic opportunities. Whether you’re an amateur with a smartphone or a professional with a DSLR, Kendall Mountain’s scenic beauty provides ample inspiration for capturing memorable images.
It is a major hotspot when the leaves begin changing in the fall and people travel all across the U.S. to capture the breathtaking views.
Camping at South Mineral Campground
South Mineral Campground, located just outside of Silverton, is a favorite for campers seeking a rustic outdoor experience. Nestled in a picturesque valley, the campground is surrounded by towering peaks and lush forests. It’s a perfect base for exploring nearby hiking trails,, streams, and wildlife. The campsites, set along South Mineral Creek, offer a tranquil setting ideal for relaxing to the soothing sounds of nature.
With its natural beauty and serene atmosphere, South Mineral Campground is an excellent choice for those wanting to immerse themselves in the southwestern Colorado wilderness.
Exploring the Animas Forks Ghost Town
A visit to Animas Forks, a well-preserved ghost town just a short drive from Silverton, offers a unique glimpse into Colorado’s mining past.
Founded in the late 1870s, this once-bustling mining community is now a collection of historical buildings set against a backdrop of stunning mountain scenery. Visitors can explore the town’s remnants, including the famous Walsh House, a two-story Victorian building, and various miners’ cabins and structures.
The drive to Animas Forks is an adventure in itself, traversing scenic alpine routes. The ghost town, accessible mainly during the summer months, provides a fascinating journey through time, allowing visitors to walk in the footsteps of the miners and pioneers who once called this remote settlement home.
Barrett Twin Lakes Hiking Adventure
For those who love the great outdoors, hiking to Barrett Twin Lakes offers a rewarding experience. This moderately challenging trail leads hikers through diverse landscapes, including lush meadows, dense forests, and rugged mountain terrain. The highlight of the hike is reaching the Twin Lakes, two pristine alpine lakes offering fantastic views within a glacial basin.
The area around the lakes is ideal for picnicking, fishing, or simply relaxing and enjoying the tranquility of this secluded spot. The hike to Barrett Twin Lakes is not only a physical journey but also an opportunity to witness some of the most breathtaking natural beauty that the Silverton area has to offer.
Silverton’s Heritage Mining Park
Silverton’s Heritage Mining Park is an open-air museum that celebrates the town’s rich mining heritage. The park offers self-guided tours through the remains of the Hillside Mine and Mill, showcasing the mining equipment and facilities used during the height of Silverton’s mining era.
Visitors can learn about the processes of mining and milling, the hardships miners faced, and the impact of the mining industry on the region’s development. The park also features informative displays and exhibits, making it an educational experience for all ages. Visiting the Heritage Mining Park is not just about exploring history; it’s about understanding the roots of Silverton and the industry that shaped it.
You can also visit the Christ of Mines Shrine, which is another iconic historical tribute on the north side of town.
Driving on the Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway, on Red Mountain Pass, offers one of the most breathtaking drives in America, stretching from Silverton to Ouray. This beautiful road, with its steep cliffs and sharp curves, is both thrilling and awe-inspiring, providing amazing views of the San Juan Mountains.
The highway gets its name from the immense cost and effort it took to construct, along with tales of its roadbed being lined with precious metals. As you navigate the incredible mountain views, you’ll encounter panoramic vistas, many historic sites, mining towns, and potentially wildlife in the San Juans.
The drive is particularly stunning in the fall when the aspen trees turn a brilliant gold. However, caution is advised, especially in winter months, as the road can be challenging with its narrow lanes and lack of guardrails in places.
Strolling Down Main Street in Silverton
Downtown Silverton, with its well-preserved Victorian architecture and historic charm, offers a delightful experience for visitors. Strolling through the streets, you’ll find a variety of unique shops, art galleries, and local eateries, each with its own character and story.
The town’s rich history is evident in its buildings, many of which date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Highlights include the iconic Grand Imperial Hotel and the San Juan County Courthouse.
The downtown area is not only a hub for shopping and dining but also a living museum, where the spirit of the Old West is still very much alive. A leisurely walk through downtown Silverton is a must-do, offering a blend of history, culture, and local flavor.
Once you enjoy the stroll of the scenic town, you can stay the night at one of the comfortable hotels like the Triangle Motel or Grand Imperial Hotel – this way you have multiple days to enjoy the mountains.