Four wheeled drive is recommended . We had a car which was really fine . However if you want to drive off the beaten path your best off with one . There are certainly alot of opportunities but it's not a must .
Durango is a good stopping ground to explore other areas near -by .You have a choice of going North to Silverton and Ouray . or east to Mesa Verde and maybe north from there to Telluride. i guess it depends what your looking for and how much time you have . Both are worth a trip . You can even go to Four Corners and Canyon de Chelly in Arizona as side trip (very full long day!!!!!) .
This all depends on your schedule. Those who want to get here fast and have some money to throw around should simply fly into the Durango/La Plata County airport. Flights arrive daily from Denver, Grand Junction, Albuquerque, and Phoenix, with limited jet service from Dallas-Fort Worth and Denver.
For those of you with more time, I reccommend flying into Albuquerque and driving on US 550 North until you reach Durango. This route has always been the fastest, but recently they upgraded the whole 200 mile stretch from two to four lanes and increased the speed limit, so it is even faster than before, and is the fastest land approach. However, for those of you with still more time, there are several other ways to get from Albuquerque to Durango, including a trip through the Bistai Badlands on NM 371, or a cruise through Santa Fe, Espanola, Chama and Pagosa Springs on US 84.
The most time consuming, and the most beautiful trip is to fly into Denver, then take US 285 (or I-25, but 285 is much prettier) south until you get to US 160, then simply head west on that highway until you reach Durango. If you take 285, after a already long drive through the rockies, you will have the most breathtaking view of the San Luis valley, the largest mountain valley in the lower 48! This valley was carved by the Rio Grande and is so massive, it looks like a big chunk of the great plains, surrounded by mountains! The Sangre de Cristo mountains are on the east, and the eastern most ramparts of the San Juan mountains are on the west. The last big obstacle for this route is Wolf Creek Pass. At 10800 feet in elevation, only a handfull of passes surpass it in height, and few of those are on such a well traveled path. But its height isn't what makes it dangerous, it's the orientation of the pass. Traveling roughly southwest to northeast, the pass is perfectly situated to get lots of snow. If you are traveling in winter, call the Colorado State Patrol about road conditions before attempting the pass.
I drove from Salt Lake City to Durango, CO. I believe that the car or motor home is the best way to travel to Durango because it allows you to experience the west a bit. You will see ghost towns, georgous mountains, and coal trains so long, they require three engines!!
CAR...Some of the best steakhouses are outside of the city limits!
To me, the best way to get around Durango is to walk wherever you go. Safe streets (from drivers and crime), sunshine (300 sunny days a year!), clean air, a city trail system (some sections under constuction, get a map!) and the small size of the town make it a good place to go for a stroll, even at night (take a friend, it's always a good idea. Low crime does not mean crime free!)
There are, however some places that are just too far for the average person to want to walk, so for these situations there are two options. There is the Durango lift, a small bus on loops designed with locals in mind (going to the college, Wal-Mart, and residential areas), but with a price that is not (a dollar per trip! grrr...), and there is the main street trolley. It is much more affordable and goes up and down main street, the most heavily touristed area. In the winter there is also a shuttle bus that takes passengers to Durango Mountain Resort, formerly Purgatory Ski Area.
Of course there is a lot about Durango that is not IN Durango! Mesa Verde National Park, the San Juan Skyway, and millions of acres of public lands (San Juan National forest, Weminuche Wilderness, BLM lands, etc.) almost require that you rent a car. The other ways to get around are just ways to not rack up the miles on the rental.
I reccommend going to the Chamber of Commerce on the way into town. They will have all of the maps you will need. I reccomend a city trail system map, bus/trolley stop map, San Juan National Forest map (has all kinds of back roads and trails if you REALLY want to get away from it all) and any others that you think you may need. Just on more tip: at the Chamber, they REALLY HATE IT when you ask, 'How do I get to the train?' If you just keep going into town, it is around the VERY NEXT CORNER!!!!! Be patient!