If your travel plans take you anywhere near Durango, Colorado, the Strater Hotel is a must-see piece of history. This is not a "make believe" old west hotel, it’s the real deal. Built by Henry Strater in 1887, it opened as the Strater House on August 31st, 1888. Back then, it featured fifty guest rooms furnished with enameled steel furniture and wood burning stoves.
Lucky for current guests, the Strater was purchased by Earl Barker Sr. in 1926 and when his son, Earl Jr., took it over in 1954, he set about renovating it top to bottom in Victorian style. Closets and bathrooms were added to make the rooms more comfortable to modern guests.
Modern comforts and antique style
Rooms are outfitted with marble-topped dressers and washstands. Wallpaper was carefully chosen to match the old west Victorian theme and ornate mirrors, crystal lamps, end tables and chairs too. Each of the ninety-three guest rooms are unique, from the Louis L’Amour suite, to the smallest full-bed "Classic" guestroom. All have:
Air-conditioning (only available seasonally) cable TV, clock radio, complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV’s, individual bathroom, unique antique furnishings, and more. Hot water is plentiful and the water pressure good in the showers for washing off the dirt from a long hike. An elevator takes guests up to the second and third floors, saving your strength for the mountain activities that abound in the area. You will find an enthusiastic staff helping you make the most of your time at the Strater.
A real western town
The Strater borders Main Street and 7th Street giving guests several rooms with a view costing just a bit more than the inside rooms. For true luxury, ask for the Louis L’Amour room #222 or #322, (one of the honeymoon suites). Both look out over Main Street and 7th Street, giving guests sweeping views of this historic town and mountains.
Each room features sitting areas with dining tables, robes, more elaborate wallpaper and window treatments as well as larger bathrooms. If you can bear to leave the room, the Strater has many nooks and crannies to explore, not unlike a living museum. Guests are encouraged to check out the antique display cases, old west art and antiques on each floor. The lobby is especially well appointed, and the front desk still has an old cash register and key boxes behind the counter.
Bicycling year round
Over the last twenty years, mountain biking has become popular in Colorado mountain towns year round. I saw this mountain bike parked outside the Mahogany Grille on Main Street after a snow storm passed through. Try the seven mile long Animas River Trail to get a good overview of the area on a bicycle. This shared-use pathway follows the sparkling river through town and is easily accessed from the Strater Hotel. Several parks, like Santa Rita, Bank, and Rotary Park line the trail providing rest stops or picnic areas.
Where it is and how to get there
You can get to the Strater driving in from all directions. It’s scenic and full of picture postcard moments. Durango is about six and a half hour drive from Denver, or four hours from Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Four Corners region of the U.S. The airport is only twenty minutes away if you choose to fly in, which I recommend in the winter.
If you come in the off-season, they have some great lodging deals to save you money. I recommend October for the best weather, and lower than summer room rates. At around 6,500 feet elevation, the October days are warm and the nights cool. Perfect for outdoor fun and a visit to this hotel run by Rod Barker, the third generation of Barker’s making memories for all lucky enough to have stayed in this authentic Victorian hotel.