Durango for Memorial Day Weekend – Your 2024 Guide

By Kim Cassels   •   May 6, 2024

Durango for Memorial Day Weekend – Your 2024 Guide for Things to Do

Drone shot of Durango Colorado in summer at sunset

Headed to Durango for Memorial Day Weekend? You’re not alone! With plenty of great events rolling around town, and good times to be had in the mountains, on the water, and the trails in between— it’s just too easy to have too much fun in Durango in the peak of spring. 

Here’s what’s going on in Durango for Memorial Day Weekend for 2024, along with a slew of things to do if you’re new to the area, or you just need more places to check off the list! 

Memorial Day Weekend Events in Durango

Iron Horse Classic: Saturday May 25, 2024 

For those who aren’t privy to Durango’s own amazing race— The Iron Horse Classic is a race between cyclists and the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge.

Starting in Durango, riders pedal 48 miles over the iconic passes Highway 550 as the train chugs its own iconic course through the Animas River Canyon. If not already apparent, the hope is to beat the train to Silverton! But considering the miles covered in tandem (pun intended) with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain, making it to Silverton at all is considered a win.  

If you just want to be a bystander to this awesome event, get to 33rd Street & 2nd Avenue before 7:30 am to give an overly enthusiastic send off for the racers. And we mean it when we say overly! Those psychos gosh darn well deserve it. 

It’s also good to keep in mind that if you were hoping to go to Silverton on Saturday, the road will be closed from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm. 

Durango Train-Colorado-Mild to WIld

Narrow Gauge 10 Mile / 5K: Sunday May 26, 2024 

Another train inspired race! This one however is on foot, and thus doesn’t actually race the train, but loops around Durango from Santa Rita Park. If you feel compelled to work off the barbeque and help support a good cause that goes towards the Marc Witkes Memorial Scholarship, sign up here. Or just show up to Santa Rita to cheer everyone on! 

Bar D Chuckwagon: Friday May 24 to Monday May 27, 2024 

Reigning indisputably as Durango’s most beloved dinner and show, the Bar D Chuckwagon is a pastime that locals and visitors should experience at least once in their lifetime. 

The cast is composed of long-time country musicians who have performed at the Bar D for decades. From hilarious originals to patriotic numbers, you’ll be stomping and swaying so much with the fiddles and banjos, you might have a hard time stopping after the show. 

For supper— it’s all straight off the chuckwagon, or at least spiritually. Get your plate out and ready for roast beef, chicken or ribeye with baked potato, baked beans, a homemade biscuit, applesauce and spiced cake. Help it all go down with cowboy coffee or lemonade. 

The Bar D’s opening night is Friday, May 24 to kick off Memorial Day Weekend. Check it out and make a reservation here.

Things to do in Durango CO-Bar D Chuckwagon-Mild to Wild

Farmers Market: Saturday, May 25 8am – 12pm, 2024 

The Durango Farmers Market is about as charming as any farmers market patron can hardly handle. With fresh flowers, local produce, live music, pastries, pizzas, and yada yada yummy town, it’s a must to make Saturday morning that much better.  

Roll up at the TBK Bank parking lot in your farmers market best (it’s a see and be seen event by Durango’s most fashionable after all), woven basket in hand, and be ready to stuff that thing like a Thanksgiving cornucopia. 

Things to Do in Durango for Memorial Day Weekend 

Get on the Lower Animas River

No matter how you choose to do it, if you’re in Durango during Memorial Day Weekend, floating down the Animas River is basically an imperative pilgrimage. Since the flows can be pretty swell (another pun intended, apologies) in late May, if not at their downright peak, we recommend going in a raft with someone who knows how to use it.  

And what would ya know, we just happen to be an authority on the subject of rafting in Durango. Check out our fabulously fun Lower Animas rafting trips here to get in a solid splash, maybe even a hoot and holler, during your Memorial Day festivities.

Lower Animas, Durango, CO Rafting Through Smelter Rapids - close up of group

Lounge at the Lake(s) – Nighthorse and Vallecito 

We all know that the equation for Memorial Day Weekend often ends up = lake. Lake Nighthorse is a popular option with its immediate access from Durango, Carribean blue water, and ease to recreate boat or no boat. For the no boaters, rent a kayak or paddle board here if you don’t already have one. 

Vallecito Lake is also a great option about 30 minutes from Durango, especially if you want to spend more time away from Durango’s hustle and bustle. Backdropped by soaring peaks of the San Juan Mountains, and great restaurants like the Weminuche Woodfire Grill, Vallecito can be hard to leave! Consider staying here at a campground or one of the many lodges for all of Memorial Day Weekend.

Man stand up paddling boarding on Lake Nighthorse near Durango, Colorado

Hit the Trails 

Late May can still be a bit snowy on some trails, especially the higher you go in elevation. But here are some routes that are typically dry, or dry-ish by Memorial Day Weekend, whether you’re walkin’ or rollin’ on wheels.  

Great Trails for Full Weekend Backpacking Trips

Vallecito Creek Trail – 39 miles, intersects the Continental Divide trail while meandering through glacial valleys while following Vallecito Creek. 

Emerald Lake – 20 miles, follows the lush canyon of the Pine River and ends at Emerald Lake. You can continue on to Moon Lake to trek on another 3.5 miles. 

Hiker in a meadow on the way to Emerald Lake in Colorado

Friggin’ Fantastic Day Hikes

Lake Eileen – Forested trail with amazing views of the San Juan Mountains and Vallecito Lake ending at a small natural lake covered in lily pads. A 4.2 mile round trip, the trailhead is at Vallecito Lake about 25 minutes from Durango. 

Goulding Creek – Forested trail that ascends aspen groves and meadows while following a stream. A 6 mile round trip, the trailhead is about 20 minutes north of Durango off Highway 550. 

Flowy Mountain Bike Trails 

Horse Gulch Trail System – Pick from a wide variety of trails for all skill levels, accessible from multiple points on the south end of Durango. 

Twin Buttes Trail System – A smaller, more forested trail system off Highway 160 for all experience levels. 

Durango, CO-Durango Jeep-Mild to Wild Rafting

Stupendously Scenic 4X4 Trails 

La Plata Canyon – Located in Hesperus, just 15 minutes from Durango. Drive all the way up to Kennebec Pass, or peel off halfway up the canyon to Gibbs Peak. Not in possession of an off-roading vehicle? You can always join a La Plata Canyon Jeep tour with a local guide! It’s also a great place to camp. 

Hermosa Creek Trail System – Explore the beautiful backside of Purgatory Mountain Resort… You know what we mean! A popular place to start is Hermosa Park Road at the resort, from there you’ll encounter multiple roads to explore. 

Where to Camp in Durango for Memorial Day Weekend 

Durango Colorado-Mild to Wild Rafting

United Campground

For the camper who wants all the amenities and then some (like immediate access to the trolley line, or views of the Animas River Valley + the Durango Silverton train), United is the way to go whether you’re bringing an RV or tent. Check it out here.  

Junction Creek Campground

Close to town and nestled in a ponderosa forest near multiple trails, Junction Creek is a great option for both RV and tent campers looking for a more lowkey and peaceful place to camp in Durango’s immediate wilderness area. Check it out here

Find More Places to Camp around Durango Here

Get Down on Some Bbq

eat outside Durango pizza places

T’s Smokehouse

A BBQ, cajun and creole gem located right by the Durango train station. Check out the menu here

J Bos Pizza and Rib Company

A local favorite on the north end of Durango along Florida Road. It’s the place you want to be for ribs, beer, and pinball. Check out the menu here

Buckhead West Bbq

A genuine hole-in-the-wall BBQ spot in downtown Durango, located under the Balcony Bar. They’re only open for lunch, so stop by during your downtown wanderings. Check out the menu here

Hotels In Durango - Strater Hotel - Mild to Wild

Final Tips

Memorial Day is in honor of America’s fallen veterans. If you would like to show your appreciation for their sacrifice, visit Santa Rita Park on Monday for the flag installation. 

Durango is downright BUSY on Memorial Day Weekend, so don’t wait to book a campsite or other lodging. 

May, just like all the other months in Colorado, can serve up any flavor of weather. So pack the coat and swim suit, just in case.

If you breezed past the Iron Horse Classic section like a cyclist headed downhill, Highway 550 will be closed between Purgatory and Silverton on Saturday between 8:30 am to 1:30 pm. 


More Reading 

How to get Off the Beaten Path in Durango

The Best Post-Adventure Patios in Durango

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