Things to do in southwest Colorado

Exploring the great outdoors is definitely one of the best things to do in Southwest Colorado, and the good news is that you can enjoy outdoor activities in Southwest Colorado all year long.

Warm Months

During the warmer months of year, activities such as hiking, whitewater rating and leaf-peeing trips are some of the most popular things to do in Southwest Colorado.


If you love hiking, you will be glad to know that you’ll find a ton of trails in Southwest Colorado where not only you’ll be able to do hiking, but also biking, horseback riding and snowshoeing during the snowy months.
Things to do in southwest Colorado

San Juan National Forest is one of the best places in the region where you will find nature trails suitable for beginner and difficult levels.

You’ll find many easy trails in the area around Durango such as the popular Animas River trail that takes you past lovely scenery.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is another popular pursuit in southwest Colorado and if you love traditional climbing, Black Canyon of the Gunnison Park is one of the best places to do this.
southwest Colorado

If you do plan to rock climb in Black Canyon Park, be aware that the rock climbing season runs between April and June, and that you’ll also need to get permit, so be sure to visit one of the park’s visitor’s center to get one.

Scenic Drives

Experiencing the fall foliage is another of the great things to do in Southwest Colorado, and the region is one of the best places to see the fall foliage in the US without a doubt!

Between the last two weeks of September and the first week of October, you’ll be able to experience the blazing yellow leaves of the Aspen trees.
Scenic drive in southwest colorado
Sights to see in Colorado
If you’d like to enjoy a leaf-peeping tour in Southwest Colorado this year, one of the best ways to go about it it’s by driving along one of the region’s pristine byways. Two of the best byways to drive along are the historic Grand Mesa scenic byway and Alpine Loop National Back Country byway.

Both of these byways are stunning, though the scenic drive along the Alpine Loop byway is probably one of the best since you get to past by ghost towns, stamp mills ruins and the famous Engineer pass road!

Whitewater Rafting & Kayaking

Water sports and water based activities such as whitewater rafting and kayaking trips, as well as fishing are other popular things to do in southwest Colorado.

The whitewater rafting season in Southwest Colorado runs between April and September, and some of the most popular spots for rafting include Animas River, Piedra River and Dolores River.

If you’re bringing your own family inflatable kayak, the lower sections of Animas River and Piedra River are the best spots since they boast easy rapids suitable for the entire family.

If you’re an experienced rafter and prefer more challenging rapids, head to the Gunnison River in Black Canyon Park as it boasts IV and V class rapids.

You can also book whitewater rafting and kayaking trips from Telluride, or Durango with rental companies such as Further Adventures, Telluride Outside and Durango Purgatory Rentals, which offer kayaking and whitewater rafting trips.

Cold Months

If you’re planning a winter vacation in Southwest Colorado, snow-related activities such as skiing, snowshoeing and downhill skiing are the top things to do this time of year in Southwest Colorado.
Wolf Creek Ski Area

If you are planning to visit southwest Colorado between December and late January, the San Juan Mountains is one of the top 10 places to ski in Colorado as the area gets deep snows every year.

There are a handful of ski resorts and ski areas, though Wolf Creek ski area is one of the best places in the region for enjoying skiing and snowboarding because of its light powder.


Besides fun outdoor activities, the southwest region of Colorado also offers plenty of sightseeing opportunities that will allow to discover the region's top attractions, which include:

Mesa Verde National Park

Visiting the Mesa Verde National Park is, without a doubt, one of the must things to do in southwest Colorado since nowhere else in the country you will find amazing cliff dwellings!
Mesa Verde cliff dwellings

Mesa Verde National Park’s cliff dwellings are one of the most interesting places to visit in Colorado, and the great thing is that you can take tours through these dwellings to get an idea of what life would've been like for the natives peoples living there.

Anasazi Heritage Center

The Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores is another great place that you can’t miss passing by when in southwest Colorado, as the center boasts many artifacts and exhibits showcasing amazing art by the Pueblo peoples.

Cortez Cultural Center

Visiting the Cultural Center in Cortez is another excellent place that you’d want to add to your list of things to do in southwest Colorado hands down!

You’ll be able to see more interesting displays here, and catch annual events such as the Birding Festival in early May, the Christmas Craft Fair in late November, and the Summer Arts and Crafts fair in early June.

Durango & Silverton Train Ride

Durango and Silverton are, undoubtedly, two of the must see places in southwest Colorado, and what better way to travel between these two towns than aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad?

The Silverton Narrow Gauge train ride truly allows to get a feel of train travel in the 19th century on board a steam engine, while at the same time soaking in southwest Colorado’s stunning scenery.
Silverton Colorado Old Western town

No matter what way you choose to travel, you must definitely check out the town of Silverton which really feels like a town out of an Old Western movie set with its old saloons and dirt streets! (See places to visit in Durango Colorado)

Southern Ute Cultural Center

The Southern Ute Cultural Center in Ignacio is another popular attraction in the southwest Colorado that must visit, especially if you’re interested in learning more about the region’s Native tribes.
Southern Ute Cultural Center

You’ll be able to take guided tours of the facilities and even get to see rare artifacts, photos and clothing items such as beaded hat bands.

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