Colorado is cautiously moving forward with reopening professional sports and community spaces like libraries. But the state health department is still encouraging people to hunker down, even for the Fourth of July weekend.
Congregating for parades, fireworks, big family reunions or concerts is not an option this year. The city of Durango has canceled all traditional festivities because of the rise of COVID-19 in nearby states, and fireworks have been called off because of the heightened fire danger.
Bayfield residents plan to hold a rogue parade – the town government has not approved the procession but will not take action unless it interferes with traffic.
While it might be difficult to enjoy the traditional Independence Day festivities, there are still plenty of options for fun to be had in Southwest Colorado.
The Durango Herald pulled together a list of 10 actually fun experiences for the holiday weekend that can be done with a safe social distance:
1. Hit PurgIn this hot weather, Durango has ample mountain escapes for cooler temperatures, including Purgatory Resort. If you’re planning on spending the holiday weekend with family and friends, the resort is a good place to go because it has plenty of options, including the mile-long Inferno Mountain Coaster, scenic chairlift rides, the alpine slide and paddle boat rentals.
This summer, Purg is offering half-day passes called activity sessions, instead of just daylong passes. The morning session is from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the afternoon session is from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tiona Eversole, marketing manager for Purgatory, said capacity is limited because of COVID-19 restrictions, so visitors should plan on getting tickets for the weekend in advance.
2. Cook an impressive dinner using a virtual farm standFood in Southwest Colorado is better when it is local. Seasonal produce and locally sourced meat is readily available, even for delivery. Place an order at the James Ranch Market for grass-fed beef, whey-fed pork, artisan cheese and organic vegetables. Adobe House Farm also delivers fresh produce to residents in and around the city of Durango. Pick up herbs like Greek oregano or fresh meat like lamb ribs from Fields to Plate Produce. The local food producers will also be available at the Durango Farmers Market, which will be open and operating on Saturday. Montezuma County residents can order seasonal produce and fresh eggs from Green Table Farm.
3. Travel on horseback through the mountainsTake in classic Southwest Colorado scenery from a different viewpoint – the back of a horse. Near Purgatory Resort, Buck’s Livery and Rapp Corral offer trail riding for all skill levels through the San Juan Mountains. Buck’s Livery offers trails that last anywhere from one hour to an entire day, and Rapp Coral offers a variety of tour destinations, including the Hermosa Cliffs and Old Wagon Cave. Both companies recommend making reservations in advance.
4. Learn about American historyThe Southern Ute Cultural Center is closed because of COVID-19 concerns, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn about America before it became the United States. The National Museum of the American Indian has many online tours of exhibitions available, as well as photo essays and webcasts to learn about the people excluded from the Founding Fathers’ vision. An online exhibition by the Henry Ford museum complex in Dearborn, Michigan, demonstrates in images “The Struggle for African American Freedom.”
The National Park Service also created an Independence Mobile App that gives a virtual tour of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Benjamin Franklin Museum. The free app teaches users about the sites and people of the American Revolution. The National Park Service also has on online interactive tour of the Statue of Liberty.
5. Sail down the Animas River in a raftWhether it’s a challenge or a float people are looking for, the Animas River has areas for both. But anywhere people go along the river, the water is sure to be refreshingly frigid. Durango has several companies offering rafting trips. Southwest Raft & Jeep is still accepting reservations for this weekend, along with Mountain Waters Rafting and Adventure Co. and Durango Rafting Co. Companies like AAM’s Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Tours offer wide-ranging land and water adventures.
6. Drive to mountains or across bordersWhat about grandpa? He might not want to go whitewater rafting. If that is the case, drive the breathtaking, 235-mile San Juan Skyway through old mining towns and mountains. The loop takes drivers from Durango to Silverton, and then on to Ouray, Telluride and Cortez. Keep in mind there are some steep drop-offs without guardrails.
The Tracks Across Borders Byway is another scenic drive option that follows the historic 1880s Denver & Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Railroad San Juan Extension, the nation’s largest narrow gauge railway system. The byway loops around Navajo Lake and the Chimney Rock National Monument.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad also offers trips through the canyons of the San Juan National Forest, a great ride for family members who may be visiting from out of town.
7. Camp alongside a neon blue lakeNeed to get out of the house you’ve been in since COVID-19 reached the Southwest? The stunning turquoise blue Ice Lake near Silverton is a beautiful place to pitch a tent and see the stars. The Ice Lake Basin Trail is an 8.7-mile trail with two destinations, the lower and upper basin, which is surrounded by snowcapped peaks that rise well above 13,000 feet. Other equally strenuous trails lead to creek falls and waterfalls. The area is also known for its late-season wildflower meadows.
8. Take a hikeThere are plenty of hiking trails closer to town with a variety of landscapes and terrains, and without the same steep elevation. Hikers can travel through high-desert terrain, high mountain slopes and pine or aspen forests in one day. The Animas Mountain Trail includes a spectacular view of the Animas Valley.
The Animas River Trail winds around town, with options to stop for a beer from Animas Brewing Co. or swerve onto Main Avenue for an ice cream from Cream Bean Berry.
For those looking to brave the heat, the hike to Weminuche Wilderness from Vallecito is a fun but challenging journey. And it’s free!
9. Bike the peaksLooking for an adventure? Tackle a new mountain with Durango Mountain Bike Tours, a company that customizes each ride to the terrain, length and skill level customers are looking for. And there are hundreds of miles of trails in Southwest Colorado to choose from. The rides can last anywhere from two to four hours. Bikes can be requested for the tour, and DMBT doesn’t mix strangers in the same group.
Want to try mountain biking for the first time, but feeling self-conscious? Solo tours are available.
10. Watch fireworks on your TV or computer screenEven though the fireworks in Durango were canceled to avoid igniting yet another wildfire, some major cities across the country are livestreaming or televising their shows. Fireworks will shine over the nation’s capital during “A Capital Fourth.” Tune into PBS, PBS.org or YouTube at 6 p.m. MST to see the fireworks live.
Houston’s “Shell Freedom Over Texas” celebration show will air at 6 p.m. MST on ABC13.com. Nashville is hosting an event that will honor workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis on NewsChannel5.com at 10 p.m. MST.