Smelter Mountain Live Cam

Part of the La Plata Mountains range


The La Plata Mountains, located near Durango, Colorado, have a rich history tied to the region's mining and settlement activities. Here are some key points about the history of the La Plata Mountains in the Durango area:

Mining Boom: The late 19th century saw a mining boom in the La Plata Mountains, with prospectors and settlers drawn to the area in search of precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper.

Animas River: The Animas River, which flows through the La Plata Mountains, played a crucial role in the mining industry. It served as a transportation route for ore and a source of water for mining operations.

Ghost Towns: Several mining towns sprang up in the La Plata Mountains during the mining boom. These included places like Animas City, which eventually became part of Durango, and other smaller settlements. Some of these towns are now considered ghost towns, as the mining activity declined over the years.

Railroads: The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad played a significant role in connecting the La Plata Mountains to broader transportation networks. The railroads facilitated the movement of minerals and goods, contributing to the economic development of the region.

Durango's Growth: Durango itself, situated at the base of the La Plata Mountains, owes much of its early growth and development to the mining activities in the surrounding mountains. The town served as a supply center and transportation hub for the mining operations.

Recreation and Conservation: Today, the La Plata Mountains are not only historically significant but also valued for recreational opportunities and conservation efforts. The region offers hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities, and efforts have been made to preserve its natural beauty.

Top Tourist Attractions

La Plata Mountains offer a variety of outdoor and recreational activities for visitors. While the La Plata Mountains themselves may not have specific designated tourist attractions, the surrounding area and its natural beauty draw visitors for outdoor adventures. Here are some top tourist attractions and activities in the vicinity:

  • San Juan National Forest: The La Plata Mountains are situated within the San Juan National Forest, providing opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Numerous trails, such as the Colorado Trail and the La Plata Canyon Trail, offer stunning views of the mountains.
  • La Plata Canyon: La Plata Canyon, located in the La Plata Mountains, is known for its scenic beauty. Visitors can drive or hike through the canyon, exploring its rugged landscapes, old mining remnants, and waterfalls.
  • Haviland Lake: Haviland Lake, nestled in the mountains, offers a picturesque setting for boating, fishing, picnicking, and hiking. It's a serene spot for enjoying the natural beauty of the region.
  • Mesa Verde National Park: While not directly in the La Plata Mountains, Mesa Verde National Park is a short drive from Durango. This UNESCO World Heritage Site preserves the archaeological heritage of the ancestral Pueblo people, featuring well-preserved cliff dwellings and artifacts.
  • Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: Take a historic train ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. While this attraction is more closely associated with Durango itself, it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and Animas River.
  • Rock Climbing and Backpacking: The La Plata Mountains attract outdoor enthusiasts for activities such as rock climbing and backpacking. The rugged terrain provides opportunities for both experienced and novice climbers to enjoy the thrill of the mountains.
  • Winter Sports: During the winter months, the La Plata Mountains offer opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Nearby Purgatory Resort provides downhill skiing and snowboarding.
  • Ghost Towns: Explore the remnants of old mining towns in the area, such as Animas City. These ghost towns provide a glimpse into the region's mining history.

The climate in the La Plata Mountains is generally characterized as a mountainous climate with distinct seasons. Here's an overview of the climate in this region:

  • Summer (June to August): Summers in the La Plata Mountains are typically mild and pleasant. Daytime temperatures can range from warm to cool, with average high temperatures ranging from the 70s to 80s Fahrenheit (around 21-32°C). Nights tend to be cooler, and rainfall is relatively low.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall brings cooler temperatures and the changing colors of the aspen trees in the mountains. Daytime temperatures can vary, with highs ranging from the 50s to 70s Fahrenheit (10-26°C). Nights become colder, and there may be occasional precipitation.
  • Winter (December to February): Winters in the La Plata Mountains are cold, and the region may receive significant snowfall. Daytime temperatures often range from the 20s to 40s Fahrenheit (-6 to 4°C), while nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing. Winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy activities such as skiing and snowshoeing during this season.
  • Spring (March to May): Spring is a transitional season, with temperatures gradually warming up. Daytime highs can range from the 40s to 60s Fahrenheit (4-20°C), and nights remain chilly. Spring may bring some precipitation, including rain and occasional snow.
  • High Altitude Considerations: It's important to note that the La Plata Mountains feature higher elevations, and the climate can vary depending on the specific location and altitude. Higher elevations generally experience cooler temperatures, especially in the evenings.
  • Weather Variability: Mountainous regions can experience rapid weather changes, and conditions can vary depending on the specific location within the La Plata Mountains. Visitors should be prepared for potential weather fluctuations, even during the summer months.

When planning a visit to the La Plata Mountains, it's advisable to check local weather forecasts and be prepared for changing conditions, especially if engaging in outdoor activities. Additionally, the climate details provided here are generalizations, and specific weather patterns can vary from year to year.


The La Plata Mountains are a mountain range located in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Colorado, near the city of Durango. Here are some key aspects of the geography of the La Plata Mountains:

  • The La Plata Mountains are situated to the northwest of Durango, forming part of the San Juan Mountains. They extend approximately from the Animas River Valley to the Dolores River Valley.
  • The La Plata Mountains feature rugged and diverse topography. The terrain includes high peaks, deep canyons, and alpine meadows. Elevations in the range vary, with some peaks exceeding 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) in height.
  • A significant portion of the La Plata Mountains falls within the San Juan National Forest. This forested area encompasses a variety of ecosystems, including coniferous forests, aspen groves, and subalpine meadows.
  • The Animas River, which originates in the San Juan Mountains, flows through the La Plata Mountains. The river and its tributaries have played a historically important role in the region, supporting mining and providing water resources.
  • La Plata Canyon is a prominent feature of the geography, offering scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. The canyon provides access to high mountain peaks and contains remnants of historical mining activities.
  • The diverse habitats within the La Plata Mountains support a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, black bears, and various bird species. The area is valued for its biodiversity and is popular among nature enthusiasts and wildlife watchers.
  • The geography of the La Plata Mountains lends itself to a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and winter sports. There are numerous trails and backcountry areas for exploration.
  • The La Plata Mountains are located near the city of Durango, which is often considered the gateway to the San Juan Mountains. Durango serves as a base for visitors exploring the La Plata Mountains and offers amenities and services for tourists.

The combination of diverse landscapes, recreational opportunities, and historical significance makes the La Plata Mountains a notable geographic feature in the Durango region. Visitors can enjoy both the natural beauty of the mountains and the rich history associated with the area.