Though a really tiny town (population under 1000!) , Silverton not only has its rich history but has its fair share of visitors. Wedged in Colorado’s southern San Juan Mountains, the city’s roots may be in mining, but today its draw is mostly in adventure and heritage tourism. It’s the gateway to surrounding activities, like skiing, hiking and ATVing. But, the town itself has remained true to its authentic and old charm, rather than rounding its curves for the tourists.
Silverton Bucket List: 10 Things to Do in the Southern Colorado Town
1. ✧ Take the Durango-Silverton Steam Train
This historic train began its services way back in 1882, with its original reason for existing being to carry silver and gold from point A to point B. However, due to the scenery of the route it became popular amongst regular passengers. Today, you can still step on this train and take a ride through the history and culture of Southwestern Colorado. Book you ride here.
2. ✦ Drive Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway
Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway was also built in the late 1880s, and it is among one of the most stunning routes you can find in all of the United States. But, while it is one of the most scenic routes to drive, it is also one of the more dangerous ones! This winding US highway includes steep cliffs and narrow lanes with no guardrails, so caution is advised to be taken during the otherwise spectacular drive. If you or your travel partner is a seasoned driver and is willing to stick to the speed limits, then it is an incredible journey to embark on.
For an even more adventurous ride, rent a Polaris Slingshot to drive along the route. Polaris Adventures in collaboration with various excellent outfitters (like Rock Pirate Backcountry Adventures in Colorado!) elevates travel experiences on the road. You can read about my Polaris Slingshot Adventure on the Million Dollar Highway.
3. ✧ Explore the Mayflower Gold Mill
Located right by Silverton, this mill is still open to the public, offering visitors a peek into the region’s history in mining. The Mayflower Gold Mill has been a National Historic Landmark since the early 2000s. It is a must-visit for history buffs, especially as this mill happens to be the longest-lasting and most successful one out of all the mills located in the San Juan Mountains.
4. ✦ Visit a Ghost Town: Animas Forks
There are a handful of former mining towns, now abandoned, located in the Silverton area—many of which are so remote that they aren’t the easiest to find and access! One of the best is Animas Forks that was founded in the late 1800s and stands high in the San Juan mountains. Way back then it was a log-cabin mining camp, and some of those buildings till stand. It’s best reached by 4WD while off-roading Colorado’s trails in a Polaris RZR.
5. ✧ Hike the Ice Lake Trail
While the Ice Lake Trail is not the only hike available in the Silverton area, this is hands down one of the best one, just for its beauty alone. However, it is also not an easy one. The hike quickly gains elevation (from 9,900 feet to over 12,200 feet!) with the route trailing through the forests and meadows, leading to two lake basins that are absolutely gorgeous to look at. And once you’ve started on your hike, there’s no reason to skip out on the steep climb to reach the Ice Lake and its stunning, turquoise blue waters.
6. ✧ Get BBQ
Beef brisket, pulled pork and peach cobbler—no wonder this place was featured on Guy Fieri’s hit show Diners, Drive-ins & Dives! Thee Pitts Again is a delicious BBQ restaurant located in Arizona, but their sister location is smack dab in the middle of downtown Silverton. If you are a barbecue fan then you just cannot pass out on during your trip.
7. ✦ Eat Pasty at Eureka Station
Open for lunch every day of the week, and for dinner on the weekends, Eureka Station is a Cornish style tavern located in the heart of Silverton. Their specialty is the mouthwatering Cornish Pasty, originally brought to the States by Cornish immigrants who arrived during the gold rush. Though they’re known for their Cornish pasties, their menu has lots of other delicious and seasonal food as well.
8. ✧ Get an Old Tyme Portrait
By visiting Professor Shutterbugs, you can get your very own Old Tyme Portrait during your visit. You can take the portrait outdoors against historical buildings and boardwalks; all dressed up in Old West and Victorian costumes. This is the best tangible memory that you could come home with.
9. ✦ Eat Rocky Mountain Oysters
A famous delicacy from Colorado, you may be surprised to find out that these ”oysters” are actually not seafood but bull or bison testicles. But when in Colorado, you eat like people from Colorado, am I right? At Handlebars Restaurant & Saloon, located right in the downtown, they feature the tender dish, serving them breaded and deep fried with a side of BBQ sauce for dipping.
10. ✦ Visit the Christ of Mines Shrine
Built more than 50 years ago, the Christ of Mines Shrine, located on the north side of Silverton, serves as a reminder and legacy of the town’s heritage in mining. The shrine, standing at a high altitude on a hillside, was an idea incepted by a pastor. Although it also serves a religious purpose today, it is dedicated to Silverton’s miners. The shrine has also intentionally been built so massive that anyone coming Silverton’s way could see it before entering the town already.
For a town as small and tucked away in the mountains as Silverton is, it sure is rich in activities and memory-making opportunities for those looking for a different kind of adventure to embark on. Whether you’re going more for the food or for exploring the history, it’ll be a thrilling and yet a relaxing trip to go on. And best of all, due to its size, Silverton is an excellent choice for a short weekend getaway.
Essential Tips for Visiting Silverton, CO
Getting There: Durango and Montrose are the closest airport, each about 60 miles away. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination.
Where to Stay in Silverton: It’s a small city with limited hotel options right in the downtown, but most are in the same reasonable price range. Both the Teller House and The Bent Elbow are charming historic hotels with restaurants (I stayed at the latter of the two). Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to VRBO that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Renting a car in Silverton is the best to really experience the city and RentalCars.com has some great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options.
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
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