[San Juan Silver Stage | June 2020 | Kathryn R. Burke] Now is the perfect time to visit Silverton, a town nestled in the incomparable beauty of the San Juan Mountains. It’s refreshingly cool, and it’s comfortably uncrowded since the Silverton train isn’t scheduled to steam into town before mid-August. Without the 3x-daily surge of train passengers, visitors don’t have to wait in line for a restaurant table or be rushed to move on and make room for the next trainload.
Because of rules limiting diners to 50 persons or 50% capacity (whichever is less), many restaurants have expanded their service venue to patios and parking areas, so “al fresco” dining is a pleasant experience. Shopkeepers have more time to visit with customers, giving personal attention and taking time to share an anecdote or a little local color. Campgrounds, like Red Mountain Motel & RV Park, offer a welcome travel respite and safe travel, because you can take your home with you!
Most establishments, like Brown Bear, Pickle Barrel, and Bent Elbow, are open…or, like Handlebars, soon will be. Several, like the Shady Lady (serving lunch only), have new owners and/or a new look. Carol Wilkins’ (jewelry) design and husband, Ken Webb’s Quiet Bear (metal) art (our featured artists last summer) have two locations now, the second newly opened on Green, the first still on Blair next to the Shady. The weekly (Tuesday) town farmers’ market opens the end of the month and will feature arts, crafts, and entertainment as well as healthy food. And this is just in town!
The beautiful mountain scenery beckons jeepers and ATVers, who are taking advantage of the less-crowded conditions. Jeep tours (for family or friend groups) or 4-wheel rentals provide a great way to view it all and still comply with social distancing. This is the start of wildflower season and the waterfalls are still running from snowmelt, so it’s a great opportunity to snap some special pictures while taking a memorable trip. And if you’re a local, what better time to enjoy your own backyard before it’s overrun with out-of-town visitors.
The campgrounds still have some open spots for regular RVers who make this an annual stop and for those coming for the first time, in their own rig or renting one. With certain Covid restrictions still in place, it’s a good time to travel with family and pets, and meet up with old friends and make some new—while still keeping your distance.
Silverton, the capital of San Juan County, was founded during the 1800s mining boom and has survived a series of booms and busts since then. The San Juan County Historical Society provides a Heritage Pass that lets you visit three of the main attractions: Old Hundred Mine Tour, the Mayflower Mill, and the Mining Heritage Center & Jail. But that’s only the tip of the proverbial historical iceberg [Learn more on their website.]
Experience the past in the present with a scenic tour (guided or self-driven) up into the mountains to see ghost towns and old mining structures that relate the story of the region’s glory days when prospectors flocked to the San Juans in search of silver and gold.
Whatever your pleasure—eat, shop, play—Silverton has something to fulfil it. Come on up and enjoy!
A note from the publisher and author….
In addition to the Silver Stage, I also published the Silverton Magazine and Durango & Silverton Railroad’s All Aboard magazines for several years, much of that time working from an apartment in Silverton. The town is like a second home to me, and the business owners are longtime friends. I extend to you a personal invitation to visit and find out more about this gritty little town that has survived over a century of booms and busts, from mining to and including natural disasters. Silverton is tough! But it’s also friendly and fun to visit. I hope to see you there this summer.