Silverton occupies less than one square mile, so you may be surprised by the variety of things to do in Silverton. Regardless of season or budget, this town in the San Juan Mountains offers plenty to explore.
Historic sites and tours are abundant, as are outdoor activities. I’m a Colorado local, and in this article, I’ll share with you my take on the 25 best things to do in Silverton, CO.
Let’s dive in!
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25 Best Things to Do in Silverton
Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Tour
Climb aboard for family fun
📍 Map It: E 10th St, Silverton, CO 81433 | Phone: (970) 247-2733 | Website | Hours: Seasonal, Opens May 2022 | Entrance: $99+ adults, $65+ under 12, free under 4 | 👉 Browse Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad scenic tours
The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is one of the town’s most popular tourist attractions. This steam-powered locomotive travels along the same tracks once used to transport mined ore. Now, from mid-May through the end of October, tourists board vintage cars to witness spectacular views of the San Juan Mountains.
👉 Pro Tip: If staying in Silverton, note that the railroad is a one-way trip to Durango. Buy returning bus tickets to avoid hitchhiking back to town!
Animas Forks Ghost Town
Experience a famed ghost town
📍 Map It: 37.9323° N, 107.5700° W
In 1873, Animas Forks was a seasonal home to roughly 450 residents. The mining town had a bustling general store, post office, saloon, hotel, and 30 log cabins. But due to a series of busts, it became a ghost town by 1920.
You can reach this site by driving the unpaved Alpine Loop 15 miles into the backcountry. Peer into the past as you wander through the empty, historic structures.
👉 Love Ghost Towns? Take a Jeep tour to La Plata City, another abandoned mining town in the area.
Stroll downtown Silverton
📍 Map It: Greene Street, Silverton, CO 81433 | Hours: 6:30 am – 11 pm daily
Greene Street is a colorful collection of historic buildings. Each has been converted into quaint restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and accommodations.
Before you go, pick up souvenirs at the Silverton Train Store, Fetch’s Mining and Mercantile, and other charming gift shops.
Ice Lake Trail
A challenging hike that rewards you with epic views
📍 Map It: 37.8094° N, 107.8117° W
The strenuous 8.3-mile hike along Ice Lakes Trail gains nearly 3,000 feet in elevation, but the views are worth the effort. Park at the dirt lot across from South Mineral Campground, then hike to the lower basin. Past the first lake, you’ll see waterfalls and lush wildflowers.
Views continue to amaze as you reach Ice Lake. The dramatic mountaintops of Golden Horn, Pilot Knob, and Vermillion Peak surround the aquamarine pool.
👉 Love Hiking Trails? Hike an extra 1.1 miles northeast to reach Island Lake or head 1.75 miles south to Fuller Lake.
Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour
Ride a mine train into historic tunnels
On this tour, an authentic mine train will take you into the heart of Galena Mountain. Here, more than a century ago, prospectors sought out gold.
Learn the history of the site and watch equipment demonstrate how miles of underground tunnels were formed. The veins of colorful minerals sparkle in the light of headlamps, amazing visitors.
Above ground, you can pan for a valuable souvenir. Keep whatever bits of silver, copper, and gold you may find!
🚂 Read Next: 8 Best Train Rides in Colorado
Million Dollar Highway
Take the famous scenic drive
📍 Map It: US-550, Silverton, CO 81433
The Million Dollar Highway is a 25-mile section of the scenic San Juan Skyway, connecting Silverton to Ouray. The Million Dollar Highway is one of the best road trips in Colorado, but is also known to be a nerve-wracking drive, full of hairpin turns through the high country.
Drivers, stay alert and if traveling in the winter months, use a 4WD vehicle. If you need to rent, compare rates with Discover Cars, our preferred partner.
📚 Related Reading: Taking a road trip? Read our guide to discover more fun things to do in Colorado!
Silverton Mountain Ski Area
Ski backcountry powder
Expert and advanced skiers will love Silverton Mountain, where the powder is deep and the crowds are limited. Having a single lift and ungroomed trails, this probably isn’t an ideal location for families, nor beginner skiers and riders.
Carry an avalanche pack, and from December through mid-March, note that a guide is required. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, reserve a heli-drop run and ski exclusive backcountry terrain!
While definitely not for everyone, for advanced skiers there is no denying Silverton Mountain is one of the best places to ski in Colorado.
Christ of Mines Shrine
Honor the San Juans’ mining history
📍 Map It: 258 15th St #252, Silverton, CO 81433
A 16-foot marble statue of Jesus Christ overlooks the town of Silverton, Colorado. Known as the Christ of Mines Shrine, it was erected in 1959 to honor past miners and the industry’s importance within the San Juans.
To visit this remarkable work of art, visit the Anvil Mountain hillside and walk just a few hundred yards from the lot.
⛰️ Read Next: Best Mountain Towns in Colorado
National Historic Landmark District
Learn from local guides
The mining town of Silverton, Colorado is a National Historic Landmark in itself. The same distinction applies to the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the Mayflower Mill.
Purchase a Heritage Pass to gain discounted entry to the Mill, Old Hundred Gold Mine, San Juan County 1902 Jail, and Mining Heritage Center.
Walk the wild side of town
📍 Map It: Blair Street, Silverton, CO 81433 | Hours: 9 am – 11 pm daily
Back in the Old West days, Silverton was geographically divided. Law-abiding churchgoers occupied Greene Street. Meanwhile, the town’s gamblers and dance-hall girls filled the saloons on “Notorious Blair Street.”
Though brothels are now hotels and this rowdy crowd is long gone, visitors can still sense the era’s charm. Visit restaurants and shops including The Bent Elbow, The Avon, Old Arcade, and The Eureka Station.
Winter Activities in Silverton, CO
Kendall Mountain Ski Area
Ski beginner and family-friendly slopes
If the backcountry terrain at Silverton Mountain is too intimidating, head to Kendall Mountain Ski Area. Entry is affordable, and you can even purchase half-day passes. Families and beginners will love the groomed green and blue trails accessible from the chair lift.
👉 Pro Tip: After a morning of skiing, rent a pair of skates at the Kendall Mountain ice rink! Finish the wintery day with a cup of hot cocoa from the Lift Shack.
Glide through deep powder
Even in the winter, the off-road vehicle companies in Silverton stay busy. Rather than a Jeep or ATV, rent a personal snowmobile from San Juan Backcountry. The engines in these sleds are powerful, allowing you to ride up and down the powder slopes.
Prefer riding with an expert? Pirates Backcountry Adventures offers guided snowmobile tours. Their vehicles can accommodate both single and double riders, perfect for couples and families with children over the age of 4.
Experience holiday magic
Take a delightful horse-drawn sleigh ride into the San Juan National Forest! Buck’s Livery, located at Bears Ranch, is a bit of a drive some Silverton, Colorado. Though nearly 30 miles south, visitors won’t be disappointed by this unique experience.
Dash through the snow, then gather around the campfire for hot chocolate and holiday cheer.
🚗 How to Get There: To reach this destination in the winter months, an AWD or 4WD vehicle is essential. Need to rent? Compare costs and agency ratings with Discover Cars.
Be pampered at a luxury ski resort
Purgatory Resort is also a bit of a distance from Silverton, roughly 22 miles south. But for those seeking an elevated après ski scene, fine dining restaurants, and spa services, this location is for you.
With 13 lifts, the mountain offers a wide variety of terrain, great for all skill levels. Enjoy ski-in/ski-out access, soak in the heated pool, and check their special events calendar for live music, demo days, and more.
📚 Related Reading: 27 Best Colorado Ski Resorts (‘21-’22 Season)
Go cat skiing and snowboarding
Generally, untouched powder requires a hefty hike through the backcountry. But Silverton Powdercats’ guided tours make the journey easy, yet adventurous.
This experience includes 8-12 runs and is ideal for advanced and intermediate skiers. Avalanche kit rentals are also included in ticket purchases. Start at the top of Molas Pass and enjoy gliding through tree terrain, open fields, and steep mountain faces.
Summer Activities in Silverton, CO
Off-Road Backcountry Tours
Adventure into the San Juan Mountains
Explore the Colorado backcountry with a side-by-side off-road vehicle. These modern UTVs can hold up to six passengers. With a built-in GPS, you can feel confident renting and driving solo. But if you prefer a guide, Pirates Backcountry Adventures has you covered.
Want a larger vehicle? Contact San Juan Backcountry to book a tour or rent one of their 4WD Jeep Wranglers!
Both outfitters are conveniently located in downtown Silverton, Colorado. You’ll be in for an adventure, regardless of what vehicle you choose!
White Water Rafting
Splash down the Upper Animas River
Rafting is one of the most popular things to do in Colorado, and Silverton is a great place to do it! From late May through early August, Silverton visitors can raft the Upper Animas River. This is one of the country’s most challenging commercially-run routes.
For this experience, book a single-day or multi-day adventure with Mild To Wild Rafting Tours. Their professional guides will rush you through Class II-V rapids on the banks of 14,000-foot San Juan peaks.
👉 Pro Tip: If you’re a less experienced rafter or have children under 14, plan a midsummer trip. During this timeframe, water levels are lower and rapids are less difficult, but just as fun!
Savor Palisade peaches, green chiles, and more
📍 Map It: 1239 Blair St, Silverton, CO 81433 | Seasonal, Opens July 2022
Located at Columbine Park on Blair Street, the Silverton Farmers Market is a lovely summer activity. Browse a wide variety of fresh produce, including Colorado favorites like Palisade peaches and green chiles. Local vendors sell fresh flowers, artisan baked goods, and so much more.
Mayflower Gold Mill
See where prospectors mined for gold
The Mayflower Gold Mill was the last big mill to be built in the San Juan Mountains. For that reason, it was the most advanced and longest-running mill in Colorado history.
Today, visitors can take a self-guided tour, learning how ore was processed into precious metals. Some artifacts, such as the buckets and tram system that once transported gold, are still in their original place.
Trot down exclusive wilderness trails
Fifteen minutes south of Silverton, horseback riders meet with San Juan Sky Outfitters. Their expert guides haul horses up Coal Bank and Molas Pass and obtain exclusive backcountry permits.
For two hours, you can ride into the San Juan Mountains and enjoy stunning views. Witness wildflowers, jagged peaks, and an impressive 60-foot waterfall.
Food & Drink in Silverton, CO
Avalanche Brewing Company
Drink with the locals
Avalanche Brewing Company is a favorite in southwestern Colorado. In true Silverton spirit, several of their craft beers are named after historic locals.
Their Fischer Pilsner honors the town’s first brewer. Romero’s Mexican Lager celebrates the Romero family who, for more than fifty years, ran a restaurant in the same building. Pair your pour with tacos or housemade pizza, perfect after a busy day of exploring.
Thee Pitts Again
Dine on southern mesquite barbecue
Famed for their feature on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Thee Pitts Again wowed host Guy Fieri. This award-winning, family-owned restaurant is sure to do the same for you, too.
Barbecue fans will love their pulled pork, beef brisket, and hearty sides. Don’t forget a slice of peach cobbler for dessert!
Rocky Mountain Funnel Cake Factory
📍 Map It: 1249 Greene St, Silverton, CO 81433 | Phone: (479) 739-0997 | Hours: 11 am – 6 pm daily
This isn’t the standard funnel cake you’d find at the county fair. Rocky Mountain Funnel Cake Factory creates extraordinary treats.
Try their caramel apple with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or lemon drop with powdered sugar. From strawberry cheesecake to cookies n’ cream, you won’t be disappointed!
Golden Block Brewery
Cheers to craft beer and pizza
Few things hit the spot more than a cold beer and a slice. Golden Block Brewery is a newer addition to Silverton’s restaurant scene. But, they’re quickly gaining popularity for their brick-oven signature pizzas.
Try The Snow Cat featuring pepperoni and pineapple, or The Outdoor Enthusiast topped with bacon and smoked gouda.
Handlebars Food & Saloon
Try rocky mountain oysters
Upon entering Handlebars Food & Saloon, you’ll immediately notice the collection of Wild West bric-a-brac. Like the decor, the menu is Colorado-inspired with one of the state’s most famed dishes: rocky mountain oysters.
Tourists, be warned – these deep-fried delicacies are not seafood! Rather, they’re battered bull testicles, served with Handlebars’ homemade barbecue sauce. Yum!
This mining town’s boom era may have passed, but its history and natural beauty continue to draw travelers from across the globe. It’s no wonder that Silverton, Colorado was named one of the best places to travel in 2022!
With so many fun things to see and do in Silverton, you’ll probably want to extend your visit. Be sure to read my guide on where to stay in Silverton!
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