Skip to Content

7 Terrific Things To Explore Around Silverton, Colorado

Colorado’s popular Silverton offers family-friendly experiences for exploring an authentic Old West mining theme. The tiny village may look like a minuscule dot on the map, but it packs a lot of fun into its borders.

Don’t pass up this hidden gem if you plan to visit the San Juan Mountains. There’s more to it than meets the eye.

Today, we’re digging into Silverton to see why visitors can’t get enough.

Let’s dive in!

Main Street on the historic mining town of Silverton, Colorado. Take a walk to explore Silverton.
Take a walk to explore downtown Silverton

About Silverton, Colorado

High in the San Juan Mountains is the historic mining town of Silverton, Colorado. At an altitude of over 9,000 feet, this sleepy village technically lies in the Animas River valley, surrounded by staggering peaks.

The Indigenous Anasazi and Ute nations originally inhabited the Silverton area until prospectors made themselves at home in the 1800s. Silver, then gold, was extracted from the nearby mountains in a series of booms and busts. 

The population reached around 2,000 in its heyday, but the latest census tallied only 600 year-round occupants. Today, the entire village is a National Historic Landmark, preserving much of its original architecture. It remains the only established town in remote San Juan County.

What Makes Silverton Unique?

They say too much time in seclusion can make you weird. But in Silverton, Colorado, it’s the good kind of weird! This quirky town has embraced its history and isolated location. 

In the 1800s, the Durango & Silverton Railway connected the remote village to the larger mining town of Durango. Today, the novelty train still runs between them and serves mainly as a tourist attraction. Fortunately, paved roads now connect Silverton to the outside world. 

Despite its small population, tourism is a big part of its economy. Folks visit for the history as well as ample opportunities for outdoor adventure. Silverton is a waypoint for skiers, snowboarders, hikers, and campers. 

Next stop Durango: 7 Things To Do in Downtown Durango, Colorado.

7 Things To Do in Downtown Silverton

Adults and children alike will find plenty to explore in Silverton. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the town’s history, enjoy local flavors, or stretch your legs in the great outdoors, there’s something for everyone. 

#1 The Old Arcade Trading Company

You won’t find Pac-Man or Frogger at the Old Arcade Trading Company, but you’ll find just about everything else. This mercantile is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs like t-shirts, home goods, and jewelry. And we hear they have some of the best fudge in Colorado. 

The Old Arcade also hosts events for locals and tourists, such as movie nights and Latin dance classes. Reviewers say the owner and staff make you feel at home when you step inside. You won’t want to miss this staple no matter why you visit Silverton. 

#2 San Juan County Historical Museum & Mining Heritage Center

The San Juan County Historical Society has fought tooth and nail to preserve the town’s rich history. With the help of locals, the society had the Caledonia Boardinghouse moved into Courthouse Square, where the collections remain today. 

Visitors can explore realistic caves like the original Silverton miners would have used and get up close to authentic machinery. They can also visit one of the town’s many historic jails to see how criminals were dealt with in the Wild West.

These facilities are only open seasonally, so be sure to plan accordingly. 

#3 Professor Shutterbugs Old Tyme Portrait Parlor

To commemorate your trip to Silverton, visit Professor Shutterbugs. For over 40 years, the Professor and his staff have used authentic costumes and post-processing to create old-timey portraits. The studio is in a former brothel, and their slogan says, “Get shot at Silverton’s first bordello!”

Reimagine yourself as an early miner, dance hall girl, or Victorian family, and let Professor Shutterbugs bring your vision to life. This just might be your favorite souvenir from the old mining town. 

This highway runs through Silverton: The Million Dollar Highway Road Trip Guide.

#4 Avalanche Brewing Company

After a full day of high-altitude exploration, you’ll want a tasty bite and a cold brew to wash it down. The Avalanche Brewing Company offers a dozen different beers brewed on-site, and Hoppy IPAs, creamy lagers, and sour Gosé-style libations provide something for just about everyone. 

We hear their pizzas are the best, and you’ll find unexpected menu items, such as shrimp ceviche, Thai salads, and Cubano wraps. 

#5 Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour

What’s a trip to a mining town without the chance to prospect for your own loot? At the Old Hundred Gold Mine, just outside Silverton, you can spend about 45 minutes deep underground as you meander through an old mineshaft. Afterward, you can pan for gold like in the good ol’ days. 

The mine is only open seasonally, so check their website for hours. Prices range from $15 to $30, and kids under four can join in the fun for free. Best of all, these prices include the hands-on panning experience.

#6 Kendall Mountain Recreation Area

Visitors hoping to hit the slopes should check out the Kendall Mountain Recreation Area. The ski area is small, especially compared to Colorado’s other mountain resorts, but it’s the perfect place for beginners to learn. 

You can rent gear and take lessons from the professionals, then try your new skills on the bunny slopes of Kendall Mountain.

More experienced skiers and snowboarders can head to Silverton Mountain for more challenging routes. 

A man leads a herd of llama pack animals through wildflowers in the mountains. It's a great way to explore around Silverton, Colorado.
Redwood Llamas offers a unique experience in the mountains surrounding Silverton

#7 Redwood Llamas

One of Silverton’s most unique attractions is Redwood Llamas. For nearly 40 years, this group has led group camping excursions through the mountains with the help of their highly trained llama companions. These friendly, docile creatures can haul 75 pounds of gear each, so you can take a load off. 

Guided tours range from three to five days and include tents, food, and cookware. You’ll need to bring your own gear, such as sleeping bags, headlamps, and sunscreen, but the llamas will tote just about everything. 

Want to explore on your own? Find excellent hikes with Best Hiking in Southwest Colorado around Ouray, Telluride, Silverton and Lake City.

Is a Trip to Explore Silverton, Colorado, Worth It?

Silverton is unlike most other mountain towns. They’ve worked hard to maintain their history and continue bringing the past to life. 

This authentic mining town deserves a place on your Colorado itinerary. Whether you’re just passing through or using the town as a home base before setting off into the surrounding wilderness, you’ll want to check out what makes this sleepy village so unique.

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: