Smelter Mountain is a rewarding out and back hike, to steal a spectacular view of Durango, watch the fireworks on the 4th of July, or catch a stellar sunset as the city lights begin to glow.
With close access from town, it's also a terrific short trail run opportunity that climbs and drops more than 800 feet.
Part of the Bodo State Wildlife area, mountain lion, bobcats, bear, mule deer, porcupine, coyote, snakes and lizards all call Smelter's arid desert environment home. The birding is also spectacular, as is the bird's eye view of the Animas River Valley as it leads north to the San Juan Mountains.
Smelter and its surroundings were once heavily populated by ancestral Puebloan peoples and the archeological record of the area is astounding, dating back centuries.
The trail is primitive, rocky and fun. There are a few technical stair-case sections interspersed between smoother trail, and the nature of the hike is a climb up and descent down. Odd, weathered tree trunks and water shaped rocks take peculiar form along the path, and in addition to turkey vultures or peregrine falcons, paragliders have been known to take clandestine flights from the mountain.
Under a mile to its main overlook, higher ground can be gained by a social trail, but the popular point is an obvious overlook marked by a small cairn.