Southwest Colorado For Adventure Junkies

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Located at the cross roads of the mountains to the north and the desert to the east, west and south, southwest Colorado is a hub for adventure. Tourists flock from all corners of the globe to visit this incredible gem. In the summer time, rivers run high, flowers blossom, and trails open up.

In the winter time, the rugged mountains are blanketed with snow, where skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, and snowshoers find plenty of opportunity to get out and play.

Compared to many of its counterparts, southwest Colorado is relatively undiscovered. You can easily avoid the crowds of more well-known tourist destinations such as Moab, Sedona, or Vail but are left with tons of different options to choose from. No matter the season, southwest Colorado has an adventure to suit tastes of all types. If you’re planning a trip to this outdoor recreation mecca, use some of the tips to help make it unforgettable.


A trip to southwest Colorado is not complete without a stop in Durango. This adventure hub won’t disappoint thanks to its wide variety of offerings.


In the summer, the raging Animas River makes its rapid descent through the heart of town. The cold snowmelt runoff fills the river to its banks, turning what is a small and quiet stream during the fall and winter into a raging torrent of icy cold water. If you are feeling adventurous, book a whitewater rafting trip. The upper Animas is class IV to V and can be done as an overnight trip. This is an unforgettable experience that can be hard to replicate anywhere else!

If you are still wanting to get out on the water, but don’t want the same adrenaline rush that comes with hard whitewater, standup paddle boarding or kayaking at one of the area’s many local lakes or reservoirs is a great way to get out and explore. Renting a boat or board from 4Corners Riversports Lake Nighthorse location is easy and convenient. With 2, 4, and 8 hour rates, this can be a short or long excursion.

Durango is home to hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails. Some are located directly in town, but if adventure is what you seek, heading up towards the San Juan Mountains is the ticket. Hiking to the top of Engineer Mountain is an easy day trip that rewards those who make it to the top with stunning views of the San Juans and Animas Valley.

For something more exciting, hop on a bike and explore one of the many highly regarded mountain bike trails in the area!


Durango is home to multiple ski areas. Chapman Hill is owned by the city and is located right in town. Though there is just one lift, this can be a fun way to get an adrenaline rush if you’re on a time crunch.

Purgatory Resort is a 20-30 minute drive to the north of town, but is well worth the trip if you’re looking for adventure. Purgatory offers skiing, snowboarding, snowmobile tours, a mountain coaster and more. The resort offers plenty of fun stuff in the summer too!

Pagosa Springs

Though the population of Pagosa Springs is fairly small (year-round population is just under 2,000 people), it balloons during the tourist seasons of summer and winter.


In the summer, Pagosa Springs has all kinds of fun adventures to choose from. Pagosa Outside, the local gear shop, offers bike rentals, whitewater rafting trips, kayaking lessons, as well as paddle board and bike rentals. They can be used as a sort of adventure hub while in town.

There are lots of trails in the surrounding National Forest that can be explored via hiking. An overnight backpacking trip in the nearby Weminuche Wilderness is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.


The winter season is when Pagosa Springs especially shines as a destination for adventure junkies. With lots to offer, from skiing and snowboarding to snowmobiling or snowshoeing, Pagosa Springs is a great destination for anyone looking to get an adrenaline rush. Try to plan your trip around a powder day at Wolf Creek Ski Area, which is known for getting “the most snow in Colorado!”

Swing by the local apparel shop, VOORMI, where you can gear up with high performance merino wool that will keep you warm and comfortable while hunting, skiing, backcountry camping or any other adventure that you get caught up in.


An old mining town, Telluride, Colorado is now home to one of the best ski resorts in the state. One could even make a case for one of the best resorts in the lower 48. With tons of skiing for beginners to experts alike, Telluride is a premier destination for skiers and snowboarders. However, the town has much more reason to visit than solely skiing.


Aside from epic slopes, tour Telluride’s snowy abyss by a fat bike. Who said you can’t mountain bike in the winter? Rent a fat tire bike from Bootdoctors and pave your own way or schedule a tour with a guide to take you through the high alpines. Telluride is also home to some of the best ice climbing during the winter months. Whatever your skill level, Telluride Mountain Guides, has an ice climbing route for you. Where they provide the knowledge, as well as the equipment in their tour packages.


In the summer time, the resort is converted into a mountain bike park with downhill and cross-country style trails. If you are looking for a once in a lifetime adrenaline rush, check out the Via Ferrata. Unless you’re an experienced climber with your own gear, this is best done with a guide.

Break way from the mountain and take flight on a paragliding tour. Here you’ll experience a view of Telluride that few get to experience.


Known as the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez is more than just a stopover for sightseers, historians and amateur archaeologists. It has become known to be an epicenter for mountain bikers and hikers year-round.

Cortez is home to Phil’s World, a world-famous mountain bike trail that features the infamous Rib Cage section. Whether you’re a beginner taking some of your first pedal strokes on a trail or an expert, this is a must stop for mountain bikers.

Cortez is an earshot away from several national parks, making it an easy gateway drug to southwest Colorado.

Situated between two very different climates, each offering totally different types of outdoor recreation and adventure, southwest Colorado is a top destination for anyone seeking an adrenaline rush. No matter where you choose to spend your time, any part of the southwest corner of the state will not disappoint.

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Richard Remick

Richard is the founder and the chief editor of Outside Pursuits. Passionate about the great outdoors, Richard spends much of his time in Colorado enjoying skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. When at home in Florida, he is most often found in the water. He loves water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. He is a certified scuba diver. Because of his wealth of knowledge and experience, Richard has been invited to contribute articles to many outdoor-focused websites, such as Florida Rambler, and has been profiled on travel websites such as JohnnyJet.

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