Nestled among the craggy peaks and lush, wildflower-dotted meadows of the San Juan Mountains, Silverton is a historic silver mining town that’s now an outdoor adventure playground.
Whether you’re into casual hiking and nature photographing or more extreme sports like OHVing and mountain biking, Silverton provides a welcome opportunity to reconnect with nature during the zero-to-60 hustle and bustle of post-pandemic life.
And thanks to its remote location, vast surrounding outdoor space of the Weminuche Wilderness and small community of roughly 550 residents, it’s also the perfect destination if you’re trying to ease your way back into travel and avoid big crowds after the pandemic.
Here’s how to make the most of your time in one of Colorado’s last mostly untouched mountain towns.
From Boulder (or anywhere else along the Front Range), you have a few options. Take I-70 to Grand Junction, then turn south on the scenic U.S. 50 (which becomes the “Million Dollar Highway” between Ouray and Silverton). Another option is to head south on U.S. 285, then either veer west on U.S. 50 or continue south to Durango. Plan for your road trip to Silverton to take between seven and eight hours.
Where to Stay
Check into The Wyman Hotel, located inside a historic Silverton building that’s nearly 120 years old. Owners Shane Fuhrman and Haley Morgan lovingly restored the property, adding mid-century modern decor, brushed brass accents and velvet to create a welcoming (and totally Instagrammable) retreat set against the backdrop of Silverton’s rugged surrounding mountains.
Though Fuhrman and Morgan updated the hotel and added modern amenities throughout, including electric vehicle charging stations, complimentary Wi-Fi, sporting gear storage, high-end linens and bath products, they’ve also maintained the historic charm of the building by using. There’s a vintage Edison phonograph record player in the lobby (it works!), as well as an old payphone booth. The rooms are not equipped with TVs, which encourages genuine connection and spontaneous conversations with other people.
Choose from one of 15 light-filled rooms and suites, including a luxurious bunk room that puts a modern twist on hostile-style traveling. Several of the guest suites also feature bunk beds, which makes The Wyman a smart pick for families and friends traveling together (the hotel also hosts weddings and other intimate events).
The hotel’s name is a nod to Louis Wyman, a successful businessman in the freighting industry who built The Wyman Building in 1902. The first floor served as a mercantile, gas station and parking spot for the town’s trolley, while the second floor featured a ballroom, lodge hall and banquet room. The Wyman Building was a hot spot in Silverton, playing host to social activities nearly every night.
Today, The Wyman is carrying on that tradition. Travelers and locals alike gather in the hotel’s cozy lobby bar, which offers natural wines, craft beers, small-batch liquors and other drinks, as well as in the adjacent courtyard, which hosts live music and other community events.
Where to Eat
In the morning, grab a coffee and a breakfast burrito, then head up to the rooftop patio at Coffee Bear, a roomy three-story coffee house where you’re likely to run into locals fueling up for the day’s adventures.
Consider eating an early or late lunch to beat the crowds that arrive in Silverton each afternoon on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (the train typically arrives around 12:30 and departs again at 2:45). Order a Reuben or a Philly cheesesteak from Kendall Mountain Cafe, located just across 14th Street from The Wyman, and be sure to get an order of homemade curly fries, too.
For dinner, put together your own craft beer and pizza crawl at Silverton’s two craft breweries, which also double as pizzerias. Watch the chefs pull out piping hot pizzas from the brick oven at Golden Block Brewery as you sip the Madame Brown Ale or the Blind Load IPA. Be sure to save room for Mio Mountain Dots (basically, little spherical breadsticks) and the Graceland BBQ pizza at Avalanche Brewing Company. The Eureka Station is also a tasty spot for dinner or drinks.
What to Do
Silverton’s remote location means that it offers unparalleled access to the vast Colorado wilderness. Surrounded by the San Juan mountains on all sides, Silverton serves as the perfect basecamp for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, jeeping and four-wheeling in the summer, and skiing and snowmobiling in the winter.
With the Animas River running right through town, Silverton is also an ideal spot for fly-fishing and whitewater rafting.
As an added bonus, there are lots of experienced guides, instructors and tour companies who can help your try a new activity or visit new-to-you spots in the San Juans.
If you love history, you’ll find lots of it in Silverton, first established in 1874. Take the Old Hundred Gold Mine tour to venture underground into Galena Mountain on a vintage mine train, then try your luck panning for silver, copper and gold. Also be sure to visit the 1902 County Jail Museum, the Mining Heritage Center and the Mayflower Mill, all managed by the San Juan County Historical Society.
Silverton is also home to several boutiques, antique shops and souvenir stores on Greene and Blair streets.
Extend Your Trip
- Spend a few days shopping, eating and drinking and adventuring in Durango, less than an hour’s drive from Silverton.
- Head to Mesa Verde National Park to learn about the Ancestral Pueblo people who first inhabited southwestern Colorado.
- Camp out under the stars in the 1.8 million-acre San Juan National Forest.
- Take your time driving the beautiful “Million Dollar Highway,” then spend a few days exploring neighboring Ouray.