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3 Reasons to Ride the Durango Train One Way

By Kim Cassels   •   May 30, 2024

3 Reasons to Ride the Durango Train One Way

Durango Train-Colorado-Mild to Wild

If you’re on the fence about whether to ride the Durango Silverton train one-way, or do the whole kit and caboodle through the astounding wilderness of the Animas River Canyon, you’ve chugged yourself over to the right place!

It’s no secret that the Durango train is one of most scenic trips in the United States, but do you necessarily need to ride it both ways to get the full experience? As locals who have ridden this amazing high-line narrow gauge with our families and friends— often more than once, we think a one-way journey is more enjoyable. Read on for our reasons why! 

Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - Colorado - Mild to Wild

#1 Round Trips Make for 8 hours on the Train 

Let’s get the most pertinent point out of the way that inspired this list in the first place— The itinerary! The most common feedback from round-trip Durango train riders is that the first half flies by, and the second half definitely doesn’t.

And when you add it up, it’s easy to see why. You’re on the train for about 8 hours total without much time in between rides. The journey from Durango to Silverton takes close to 4 hours in the morning. Once there, you have about 1.5 hours to enjoy this charming Victorian town before hopping right back on the train. Then it’s another 3.5 hours of chugging through the same scenery back to Durango. 

If you’re a diehard railroad enthusiast, then this is going to be the best day EVER. But for those who want to experience the Durango Train for its novelty and the amazing scenery it offers, a one-way ride is going to be completely satisfactory. Take it from the folks who have done the whole kit and caboodle! 

Durango train above the Animas River in Colorado

#2 One Way Train Rides Allow For More Scenery 

Since the Durango Silverton train is an out-and-back expedition, you’ll see the same canyons, cliffs and meadows along the Animas River on your return trip. This isn’t to say the sights aren’t completely spectacular, only that the round trip ensures the same scenery twice in the same day. 

For one-way riders, you’ll get to experience the jaw dropping views along the San Juan Skyway, which traverses a different high-line route than the train. Plus, the shuttle is around 1.5 hours so you’ll get to Durango or Silverton 3 times faster!

The Durango Train offers multiple shuttle options to or from Silverton, making it your choice if you want to ride the train in the morning or afternoon. To up the ante, and get the most out of your day while getting blasted with more scenery and interp than you’ll know what to do with, there’s also the Trails and Rails option. 

front view of Jeep Gladiator driving up a mountain with trees in background in Silverton CO - Mild to Wild

Trails and Rails includes:

  • A 1.5 hour shuttle over the San Juan Skyway in the morning with an awesome guide. 
  • A 3 hour Silverton Jeep tour with yet another well-informed guide that will take you into the mountains and up to the historic mining sites. 
  • Time for lunch and shopping in Silverton. 
  • A stunning 4 hour train ride back to Durango. 

#3 Adding a Jeep Tour Allows You to Fully Experience the Train

While this sentiment might seem ironic, hear us out! The fundamental reason why the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge was constructed was to transport ore from the Silverton mines to the Durango smelters for processing. But riding the train won’t give you any insight into this transformative era for Colorado and the American West at large. 

The train staff is there to serve refreshments and make sure you stay onboard— not provide interp along this locomotive’s original route from 1881. This is just a scenic ride accompanied by the powerful sounds of the engine. Luckily that won’t be the case on your Silverton shuttle and Jeep tour for the Trails and Rails option. 

The experienced and local guides on this tour have a wealth of information and countless stories to share about the train, Durango and Silverton’s mining history, and the unbelievable stories that made this area truly the Wild West.

The Jeep tour travels up the original mining roads from Silverton to the historic mines that led to the Durango Train to be established in the first place. Along the way to these historic sites, you’ll often see wildlife and waterfalls, and of course amazing mountain views. This option provides a much more insightful and meaningful experience to a day well-spent on the train. 

 

All in all, we think you should ride the Durango Train however you see fit. Some of the reasons someone might want to ride the train to and from Silverton are:

· You don’t mind taking it slow! The train maxes out at 18 mph, and slowing down to immerse yourself in the experience of this astounding wilderness area can be a very fulfilling experience. 

· You’re spending plenty of time in the area, so a full day on the train doesn’t cut into other things you might want to do, like spend more time in Silverton and the mountains beyond.

· It’s been on your bucket list for a long time. This is one of the most famous scenic railroads of all time after all, and some people just want to experience the entire journey to check it off their list.

 

Like we said in a sense, you do you! If you’re short on time and want to get more out of your time in Silverton, or simply just don’t want to spend 8 hours on the train, consider the packages we discussed above! No matter how you end up spending a day riding Durango Train, you’ll come back with lifelong memories from it. 

More Reading

How to Book the Trails and Rails Package

Top Reasons Why You Need to Take a Jeep Tour in Southwest Colorado

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