If you have hopes of seeing both Denver and Durango on your trip to Colorado, you should keep in mind that the cities are 337 miles apart. Not far from the New Mexico border, Durango is actually closer to Albuquerque than Denver, with 215 miles between them. If you drove there from Albuquerque it would take you about half as long.
However, as the expression goes, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. If you’re planning an escape to Durango in southwestern Colorado, a road trip will lead you through some historic mining towns, scenic overlooks worthy of a stop, and unique hot springs that you’ll definitely be able to smell as you make your approach.
If you're looking to just get there as quickly as possible, it's much better to fly. A direct flight will only take about an hour in the air, which will save you a lot of time. And if budget is a factor in your trip planning and you're looking for the cheapest way to travel, you could take a Greyhound bus to Durango. Keep in mind though, it's an incredibly long ride because you'll need to travel out of your way to switch buses in Grand Junction. Still, the bus is significantly cheaper than flying and depending on gas prices and whether or not you need to rent a car or book a hotel overnight, it's probably cheaper than driving too.
How to Get from Denver to Durango
- Flight: 1 hour, 17 minutes, $197+
- Bus: 12 hours, $63+
- Car: 6 hours, 30 minutes, 337 miles
Only United Airlines operates multiple direct flights a day from Denver International Airport (DEN) and Durango La-Plata County Airport (DOR), which is just 15 miles from downtown Durango. Each flight takes about an hour, so this is definitely the fastest way to get from Denver to Durango.
American Airlines also offers flights to Durango, but they require you to first stop in Phoenix, which means it will take at least 4 hours to arrive. It might sound like a bad deal, but these tickets can be a little bit cheaper than United's direct flights and it's still faster than driving.
If you want to shop around for the cheapest fares, you can compare flights flying to other airports in Southwest Colorado like the Telluride Regional Airport (TEX) or the Cortez Municipal Airport (CEZ), but that will require you to drive the rest of the way. Cortez is 50 miles away from Durango, while Telluride is 110 miles away.
If you are traveling to Durango by bus, prepare for a long ride of at least 12 hours. The reason why it's so long is because there is no direct bus service between the two cities. Instead, you will have to first take the bus from Denver to Grand Junction, Colorado and then hop on a second bus heading to Durango. You'll be basically traveling in an L-shape on the two long sides of a triangle, instead of driving on the diagonal.
Greyhound is virtually the only bus company operating this route and ticket prices start at $63, although they can be as high as $140. The bus leaves Denver at 6:45 a.m. and arrives in Durango at 7:10 p.m.
When beginning your Denver to Durango road trip, you have two routes to choose from. The shortest way is to take Route 285 through to Route 160, which will take you past Buena Vista. You could also travel on Route 24 to pass through Colorado Springs, before connecting and driving west on 160, which will add about 30 minutes to your trip.
Colorado is a beautiful state to drive through and the road from Denver to Durango has many places worth stopping to see, even if you're taking the shortest route. Here are some of the most worthwhile pit stops on the way from Denver to Durango:
- Frisco: Visit the Frisco Adventure Park, just outside Breckenridge, for snow tubing in the winter or kayaking and paddle boarding in the summer.
- Ouray: Nicknamed the Switzerland of America, Ouray has hot springs and flower-filled valleys worth seeing. Don't forget to grab a sweet treat at Mouse’s Chocolate & Coffee for the road.
- Buena Vista: This is a great base camp to go rafting along the Arkansas River. You can get some mighty good views of the mountains from that raft, but if you're just passing through, Eddyline Brewery is a good place to take a beer break.
- Pagosa Hot Springs: Swing by for a plunge in the world's deepest geothermal hot spring, which feeds mineral water to the soaking pools at The Springs Resort & Spa.
In Durango, you can marvel at the Anasazi ruins in Mesa Verde National Park, schuss down the slopes at Purgatory Resort, or go hiking through the San Juan National Forest. Other points of interest include feeding the fish at the Wildlife Museum's fish hatchery, going kayaking on the Animas River, or stopping in at Animas Brewing Company to try the latest batch of beer.
You can't get to Durango by train, but if you're looking for an old west experience, hop aboard the Silverton Silverlight Express. Silverton is an old mining town nestled between Red Mountain and Molas, two San Juan Mountain passes. You'll ride on a historic, coal-fired train that travels the same tracks as the miners, cowboys, and settlers who came to the Wild West did more than 100 years ago. The train route links Silverton and Durango, and you can even book a seat in a private car. If you don't have time to board the train, it's worth it to at least pay a visit to the railroad museum in Durango.