• Photo: Twildlife | Dreamstime.com
  • Photo: Ken Hurst | Dreamstime.com


Glorious peaks surround Silverton, an old mining community. The town reputedly got its name when a miner exclaimed, "We ain’t got much gold but we got silver by the ton!" Silverton is the county seat, as well as the only remaining town, in San Juan County. The last mine here went bust in 1991 (which is recent as such things go), leaving Silverton to boom only in summer, when the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad deposits three trainloads of tourists a day. But the Silverton Mountain ski area has also helped the town to shake off its long slumber, and more businesses are finding it worthwhile to stay open year-round.

The downtown area has been designated a National Historic Landmark District. Be sure to pick up the walking-tour brochure that describes—among other things—the most impressive buildings lining Greene Street: Miners’ Union Hall, Teller House, the Town Hall, the San Juan County Courthouse (home of the county historical museum), and the Grand Imperial Hotel. These structures have historical significance, but more history was probably made in the raucous red-light district along Blair Street.

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