Summertime in Silverton—come up and play!

Uncrowded, “natural” social distancing

SILVERTON IS OPEN

Refreshingly Cool

Comfortably Uncrowded

Head up to the high country.

Plenty of social distancing up here!

Can't leave home?

Take it with you!

©Kathryn R. Burke

Shop Greene Street

©Kathryn R. Burke

©Carolyn Wilcox

Lots of Fun Finds

at Fetch's Mercantile

Visit historic Silverton.

Ride the stagecoach.

©Kathryn R. Burke

San Juan County Heritiage Pass Visit Mining Museum Mayflower Mill Old Hundred Mine Tour

©Kathryn R. Burke

Ore bucket carried men to work and ore out to smelters.

©Kathryn R. Burke

Handlebars Saloon

Wagonwheel patio

Dining with a view!

Visit Professor Shutterbug

on Blair Street

Quiet Bear

Blair Street

Carol Wilkins & Ken Webb

Jewelry design

Metal Art

Blacksmith

Print this story.


[San Juan Silver Stage | July 2020 |Story, Kathryn R. Burke | Images, Carolyn Wilcox]

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, summer visitors coming up for lunch 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 percent capacity (whichever is less), many restaurants have expanded their service venue to patios and parking areas, so “al fresco” dining is a pleasant experience. Most, including Handlebars, Brown Bear, Pickle Barrel, and Bent Elbow, are open. Several, like the Shady Lady (serving lunch only), have new owners and/or a new look.

The season is in full swing and the town is really busy, even without the train. I recently visited Handlebars, and every table was full. It’s a popular spot beloved by many Western Coloradans and a regular stop for annual visitors coming from all over the world. [See ad, back page.] Be sure to pick up a souvenir from their tee-shirt counter. And if you’re a mask wearer, they have some cute ones.

Visiting Silverton isn’t just about good food. Although it’s known as a great place for lunch, shopping here is fun, too. And without the train chugging into town, shopkeepers have more time to visit with customers, giving personal attention and taking time to share an anecdote or a little local color.

Stop at Weathertop Wovens, just up the street from Handlebars. Husband-wife team Linda and Gary Davis build their own looms and weave beautiful clothing in a rainbow of colors.

Ye Olde Livery once stabled mules upstairs. Now it’s a gift shop, gallery and art studio.

Meander back along Greene Street, past the Train Store, Funnel Cakes—try one, you’ll love it—and Fetche’s Mercantile, with an eclectic collection of maps, books, tee-shirts, and souvenirs. Cross over to Ortegas and check out the Indian jewelry, pottery, and Native American handicrafts. At the far end of the shopping district, put in some time at Kurrowong Gallery located in Ye Olde Livery—yes, it really was a livery, and they used to keep the mules upstairs! Today, Australian painter Edith Eggett displays her spiritual, mystical paintings alongside a wonderful array of jewelry, clothing, and accessories and collectibles. Next door her daughter, Edith Mary’s, store, Henry Smith, is a visual treat with pottery, toys, clothing for kids and grownups, books and maps, and more. I found a wonderful moose-themed nightshirt. (And yes, there are moose in Silverton!)

Stop in at Professor Shutterbug in Old Towne Square for a vintage photo–starring you! Image, ©Carolyn Wilcox

On the other side of Kurrowong, jewelry artist Carol Wilkins and her husband, Ken Webb, have opened a new shop to showcase her original designs and his metal work. It’s one of their two stores, with the other is on Blair Street, Quiet Bear, where Ken also has his blacksmith shop between the Shady Lady and Bent Elbow. Across the street, Tommy Wipf, aka Professor Shutterbug, can take your “old-timey” picture dressed in period costume.

Blair Street, where Silverton’s shady ladies once plied their dubious trade, still has plenty of reminders of those bawdy days when miners spent their time off gambling, drinking, and visiting the houses of ill repute. You’ll find books about Blair Street’s fascinating history at several shops in town.

Art is the heart of Silverton. Here a pretty doorway and flower wagon welcome visitors on Blair Street. Image, ©Carolyn Wilcox/

Shop-lunch-shop, stop for coffee, visit the Mining History Museum, take a Jeep ride. It’s easy to make a day of it. And if a day isn’t enough, and you want to hang out for some evening entertainment, dinner, and adult beverages, try an overnight at one of the hotels, motels, or campgrounds, like Silver Summit. My personal favorite, Red Mountain Motel & RV Park, is where we like to rent one of the perfectly appointed little cabins. As is Handlebars Saloon at the other end of town, Red Mountain is a regular stop for people who come back to Silverton year after year. Repeat visitors also come from neighboring Western Colorado towns, folks who know and love this historic spot in the middle of nowhere. There’s only one paved road—Highway 550, the “Million Dollar Highway”—that leads in or out of Silverton over notoriously high passes: north to Ouray over Red Mountain Pass or south to Durango over Molas and Coalbank.

As a frequent visitor, who for many years produced the Silverton Magazine and All Aboard publications, whenever I’m up here, I always run into people I know from both ends of that road. I see old friends and make new ones, joining both out-of-towners and locals alike who come from far and wide to spend a night or two where it’s cool and quiet, eat good food, shop a little, or maybe rent a Jeep or ATV for an Alpine excursion.

Wherever you come from, whatever you do here, if you do it in Silverton, you’re going to have fun!


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.

~Kate Burke