The Best History Tours of the Southwest
By Molly • October 20, 2016
Colorado has a rich and diverse history! From the beginning of civilization to the modern day, there is a history tour out there to walk you through the people and places that have led to current day. Check out the incredible place where life has ebbed and flowed throughout the soaring mountains and high deserts that we call Colorado.
Old Hundred Mine Tour
The Old Hundred Mine was formed in 1872 by two brothers from Germany. The mine held hope for riches when a vein of gold was found, but unfortunately the brothers didn’t have the funds to explore further. They sold the mine, and various companies over the years worked the mountain for it’s gold. Eventually, the mine dried up and the companies left the area. They left miles of tunnels and an old boarding house, which is the only mine history tour in Silverton that is open to the public.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was formed in 1881 and started hauling passengers and freight in 1882. It was used primarily to move silver and gold from the San Juan Mountains to the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and out into the world. It’s estimated that over $3 million worth of precious metals cascaded down the tracks! When the major mines of Silverton closed, the railroad did as well. When WWII hit, the government opened the uranium smelter in Durango. After the war, determined individuals worked to keep the railroad alive, mainly through tourism. Over the past 80 years, the train has continued to thrive and carry scenic lovers from all over to and from Durango and Silverton. The train is truly the history and heritage of Durango and Silverton, and is a must do on any trip through the Southwest!
Mesa Verde National Park
As one of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan sites in North America, Mesa Verde is an incredible hole in the fabric of time. The dwelling sites some estimate to date to 7500 BCE, give us a peek at the birth and growth of human civilization as we know it. Today, this area is an archeological haven with over 600 well-preserved cliff dwellings and 700 years of artifacts. A visit to Mesa Verde is a must for any visitor to the Four Corners area who is looking for great history tours!
Located between Pagosa Springs and Durango, Chimney Rock is an unmistakable stop along Highway 160. The huge outcropping, visible from over 15 miles away, was sacred to the Ancestral Puebloans that made this formation their home. The monument preserves 4700 acres containing hundreds of historical sites, homes, and ceremonial buildings. This National Monument is a spectacular history and heritage visit for all ages!
Colorado’s defining feature is the Rocky Mountain range that spans the length of the state. The mountains hold the history and heritage of the land – starting with the Ancestral Puebloans who nestled themselves at the base of the mountains up to 12,000 feet where brave souls searched for riches among the rock to modern day life above tree line. Check out the incredible views and the rich history that has shaped life in Colorado without risking your own vehicle! Jeep 4×4 tours are available in almost every town that calls the Rocky Mountains home.
Located just 2 hours south of Durango, Chaco Canyon boasts the densest concentration of Ancient Puebloan architecture, history and culture. The canyon was a major center for the Ancient Pueblo People testifying to the people’s impeccable organizational and engineering abilities. This is one of the best history tours in the Southwest, and one of the least trafficked.
No matter where you’re visiting in Colorado the rich and powerful history is tucked into each corner of the state. Research into local companies like ours is highly recommended before you embark on your trip so that you can get the most out of your vacation! We offer fantastic Jeep tours, exploring La Plata Canyon near Durango or up in the mountains of Silverton. Our Mesa Verde history tours are not to miss, walking you through 700 years of history. Last but certainly not least, you can combine any of our trips with the infamous train!