We spent the last week soaking up the glory of the San Juan National Forest in the summertime. You’ve heard me express my love for the San Juan Mountains before – beautiful rock colors, natural hot springs, alpine lakes, and the cutest mountain towns. You may even remember me raving about Purgatory Ski Resort and how it’s the perfect place to teach your kids how to ski. But have you ever visited a ski resort in the summer? It’s a unique experience to see the ski runs covered in bright green grass (and mountain biking trails), and the lifts running for scenic summer rides to the top (or to get to the top of the alpine slide!). We tested these 10 adventurous summer activities at Purgatory the whole family agreed that ski towns are just as much fun (or more) after the snow melts! From stand up paddle boarding to riding the alpine rollercoaster, there is a thrilling activity for every age.
Thank you to Purgatory Resort for sponsoring this post, all opinions are my own.
Purgatory is about 30 minutes north of Durango in Southwest Colorado, in the San Juan National Forest. At around 8,800 feet elevation at the base, It’s on the route of one of the most scenic drives in Colorado—from Durango to Silverton, then over the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray.
10 Adventurous Summer Activities at Purgatory Resort
#1: Luge down the Alpine Slide
The Alpine Slide at Purgatory is a blast for all ages. To get to the beginning of the slide, you get to take a small ski lift which is an adventure in itself. The slides have a break so you can take them as fast or as slow as you would like. Since there are two tracks side by side, you can race your friends which adds to the excitement. Walker and I started off slower on our first ride to get the hang of it (and got smoked by Bryce and Emerson), but then we flew down the second time. Keep an eye out for marmots crossing!
#2: Ride the Inferno Coaster
The Inferno Rollercoaster is a main attraction. Similar to the slide, you control your speed so it’s fun for younger riders as well. Both of my thrill seeking kids wanted to go full speed ahead, but if you have more timid riders they can rest assured that the coaster is fun and not scary. The view is unmatched as you look out on the San Juan Mountains on the 300 feet drop.
#3: Kayak, Canoe, or Stand Up Paddle Board on the lake
Nothing says summer like getting out on the water, especially when it heats up. We have found a way to incorporate Stand Up Paddle Boarding on most of our summer vacations this year. Access to Twilight Lake and the kayak and SUP rentals is included in the summer activities pass so you don’t have to bring your own. It’s also an opportunity to try something new so we kayaked to change it up. Walker paddled all on his own for the first time in the kid sized kayak and he was quite proud of himself! To get to the lake, Purgatory provides a free shuttle service as it’s just across the highway from the rest of the activities in the village.
#4: Pan for Treasure
Mining is a huge part of the history in the San Juan Mountains, so it’s appropriate that Purgatory has a sluice in the village for a panning activity in the summer. You are given a bag of rocks that will “magically” turn to beautiful gemstones and treasure in the water. The kids were enthralled with this activity and have continued having fun sorting their gems since.
#5: Take a Scenic Ride above 10,000 feet
The higher you get in these mountains, the more epic the views so taking the scenic ride is a must! You ride on the highspeed ski lift up to the top of Purgatory Ski Resort and get panoramic views of the San Juans. This is the same lift that the mountain bikers ride to get to the top, so your options are to bike down, hike down, or ride the scenic lift back down (which was our choice).
#6: Swim at the Purgatory Pool
If you are a guest of Purgatory Lodge or staying at a condo at the base of the mountain that has access to the amenities, I highly recommend a dip in the pool! The heated pool has a slide and a hot tub big enough for multiple families. You can grab a drink at the poolside bar with the view of the green “slopes” in front of you and the mountains behind you.
#7: Play at a Purgatory Park with a View
We usually aren’t big park people at home, but we love finding a good park on vacation—especially one with an epic view like this one. Can you spy the iconic Engineer Mountain in the backdrop? The park is located behind the Durango Nordic Center right near Twilight Lake, so you can take the shuttle over to play. This park is free and open to the public, so a summer activities pass is not needed to enjoy this activity.
#8: Hang out at the base of the mountain
The vibe of the ski village during the summer is fun in itself. Grab lunch at Purgy’s or Paradise Pizza in the village or a sweet treat from Waffle Cabin. There is always something going on in the village area like live music or an event. You can check out the upcoming events here. Otherwise, even playing cornhole, making your own music, or watching the mountain bikers speed down the mountain is a fun pastime. The village is open to the public, so a summer activities pass is not needed to soak up the mountain vibes at the base.
#9: Hike near Purgatory
You know I couldn’t write a post about the San Juan Mountains and not talk about the hiking! Purgatory has a system of hiking trails on the mountain and across Highway 550, as well as tons of options nearby. On our trip last week, we hiked a kid-friendly section of the Colorado Trail that can be accessed from Little Molas Lake. It’s a 2.6 mile out and back with 390 elevation gain. You can find more details about this shortened route here. If you are looking for a more challenging option, one of our favorite hikes in the area is Ice Lakes Basin which is easily accessible when staying at Purgatory Resort. (Be sure to check whether Ice Lakes Basin has re-opened as it was closed for the 2021 hiking season due to the Ice Fire in 2020. You can find more information here.) These trails are free and open to the public, so a summer activities pass is not needed to enjoy this activity.
#10: Even More Adventurous Summer Activities at Purgatory
Given our kids’ ages, we didn’t get to experience these activities yet, but they looked like so much fun and we are excited for them to partake in these activities in a few summers.
Video of the Adventurous Summer Activities at Purgatory
Tips for Planning Your Summer Activities at Purgatory
- Tickets for the Summer Activities need to be reserved and purchased in advance, and can be purchased here.
- Reservation slots are currently divided into morning and afternoon. Given the unpredictability with afternoon weather and thunderstorms in Colorado, I recommend reserving the morning slot so you get the chance to experience all of the activities. The scenic ride, slide, and coaster will pause operations if there is threat of thunderstorms. The slide cannot run in while it’s raining.
- Get in line for either the Inferno Rollercoaster or the Alpine Slide before it opens (if you have morning tickets) as lines can get long for these attractions. If you choose the afternoon slot, the lines for the slide and coaster are much shorter at the end of the day.
- The summer activities continue to operate until October 10th (on the weekends only after August 15th), and Fall is a beautiful time to visit with the changing of the Aspen leaves.
- Be sure to check out the nearby town of Durango for even more adventure, such as riding the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Where to stay in purgatory
- There are lodging options throughout the surrounding area, but I recommend staying at the Purgatory Lodge or at one of the condos at the base of the mountain in order to be closest to the action and to epic hiking.
Our 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom 1,000 sq. ft. East Rim Condo (Top Floor of Building A) is just steps to the lifts and is located across from Purgatory Lodge in an ideal location offering ultimate all-season convenience.
This condo’s location is unbeatable! The East Rim complex is centrally located to the main skier plaza and is just a short walk to the fastest and biggest high speed lift on the mountain, Purgatory Express. Located just a step away from the hustle and bustle, restaurants, shops, and skiing amenities of the primary base village at Purgatory Resort, it offers the convenience of a central location, with the privacy of a mountain-side retreat. With its unbeatable views and cozy interior, our condo is the perfect escape after an epic day on the mountain. This newly furnished and remodeled residence will not disappoint!
I hope you get the chance to experience the summer activities at Purgatory Resort and if you do, be sure to let me know which adventurous activity is your favorite!
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