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If you consider yourself an adventure junkie, Telluride must be on your bucket list. This small hamlet in a box canyon in the San Juan mountains is jampacked with outdoor fun like hiking, mountain biking, and backcountry camping. Telluride is the kind of town where visitors return many times simply because there’s nothing quite like it.
Whether you want to learn Telluride history, enjoy the spectacular views, or go camping and hiking, the list of cool things to do in Telluride is endless, and in this guide, I will share some of my tips on how to make the most out of your trip to Telluride.
What is Telluride, Colorado known for?
Telluride is a spectacular mountain town that is known for its year-round outdoor opportunities and a world-class ski resort. Tucked in remote corner of Southwest Colorado, Telluride offers a charming atmosphere that few other places do.
A brief history of Telluride, Colorado
Telluride is a former gold-mining town that dates back to the 19th century. It retains much of its charm with historic facades along the 12-block downtown, while it has transformed into one of the most famous skiing destinations in the world.
Downtown Telluride is always brimming with activities whether you are visiting Telluride in summer, fall or winter.
Several hiking trails like Jud Wiebe and Ballard Mountain begin from downtown Telluride. You can enjoy many mountain biking trails in Telluride without leaving the town.
Best things to do in Telluride, Colorado
1. Explore downtown Telluride
Even if you have visited other places in Colorado, there’s nothing quite like downtown Telluride! This is a quaint historic downtown surrounded by 13,000 feet mountain peaks of the San Juan Mountains.
Telluride was established as a mining town but has transformed into outdoor heaven with some of the best skiing in Colorado, and all sorts of opportunities for the outdoors.
Downtown Telluride is also a cultural hub where you can learn about the city’s colorful past, shop in local boutiques, and grab a bite in one of the local restaurants. In summer, the city hosts the annual Telluride Film Festival that brings many indy screenings to town during the Labor Day weekend.
Unlike other popular mountain towns in Colorado, Telluride has free parking, so you can leave your car for a few hours to explore the place on foot.
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2. Pop into Telluride Historical Museum
One of the best things to do in Telluride for history buffs is Telluride Historical Museum sits a short distance from the main drag in downtown Telluride. This small museum boasts many cool artifacts and provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of Telluride.
Here you can find various exhibits that feature many things from artworks to historical records and objects from Telluride’s mining past. Here you can also find some artifacts that focus on the Ute Native Tribes that lived in the area for thousands of years before Telluride was developed into a morning community and later became a world-class ski resort.
Address: 201 W Gregory Ave, Telluride, CO
3. Take a gondola to Mountain Village
Located above Telluride, Mountain Village gives you a nice break from its downtown. Mountain Village is a mix of resorts, stores, and restaurants, which has a more modern feel than downtown Telluride.
Taking a gondola is one of the best free things to do in Telluride, and you will love the spectacular views of the canyon as you go up the mountain in a cable car!
It also offers many hiking and biking trails and has places for bouldering, and mountain biking trails. In winter, Mountain Village in Telluride provides good opportunities for ice-skating, skiing, and snowshoeing thanks to many trails in the area. If you are staying in downtown Telluride, all you need to do is catch a free gondola to make your way there and back.
4. Hike Bridal Veil Falls
Hiking to Bridal Veil Falls is one of the best things to do in Telluride in summer. This is the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado that plummets down 365 feet. The hike to Bridal Veil Falls is 1,8 miles one way and gains about 1,650 feet. It’s a popular hike, so be prepared to share space with other visitors, especially if you are hiking on a bright sunny day.
For the best experience, hike to Bridal Veil Falls early morning before it gets busy. This way you could skip the afternoon sun and have this place to yourself.
5. Alta Ghost Town
If you are curious about what life looked like in mining communities around Telluride back in the day, head to Alta Ghost Town, a historic mining town where you can also find a few alpine lakes and hiking trails from where you can enjoy the views of Bald Mountain, Silver Mountain, and Telluride Ski Resort.
Whether you just want to roam around old mining buildings or hit the trails, remember that you are in the backcountry. This means that the facilities are limited and your phone signal might be spotty. The only way to reach Alta Ghost Town and the nearby Alta Lakes is by taking Alta Lakes Road, which requires a high clearance vehicle.
Visiting Alta Ghost town is one of the best things to do in Telluride in summer because high mountain roads are often impassable during winter.
6. Imogene Pass
Telluride is surrounded by many mountain passes that are perfect for off-roading. All you need to do is rent a high-clearance vehicle and get on the road! One of the most popular mountains passes near Telluride is Imogene Pass just outside of town.
This is the second-highest road in Colorado that is popular for off-road driving. This 17-mile pass stretches from Telluride to Ouray and provides incredible views of the surrounding mountains. To travel on this pass you will need to rent a 4X4 vehicle in Telluride.
You can also hike this pass (or a portion of it), and there is even a race here called Imogene Pass Run that takes place every September!
… 7. Or Black Bear Pass
If you know how to handle challenging terrain, Black Bear Pass could be a real adventure.
This mountain road has gained fame as one of the most difficult drivers in the world, and there’s a reason it’s marked by the sign that says
“You don’t have to be crazy to drive this road – but it helps.”
If a challenge doesn’t deter you, and you are ready to conquer the steep switchbacks, twists, and turns, this drive provides incredible views of Telluride that most people don’t get to see!
The journey begins at State Highway 5550 at the Red Mountain Pass and turns into Black Bear Pass in about three miles. The road later passes Ingram Lake and the Black Bear Mine. You will have to rent a four-wheel drive for this road, as you will have to drive on a series of rock steps and brace narrow switchbacks, which are not for the faint of heart.
8. Get some adrenaline going at Via Ferrara
If you are ready for a dose of adrenaline, try Via Ferrata, a brainchild of Chuck Kroger, a local climber, and outdoor enthusiast. Providing incredible views of Bridal Veil Falls and downtown Telluride in the distance, Via Ferrate is the ultimate challenge:
Via Ferrata runs along a sheer cliff with steel rungs to hold onto. This is a technical climbing route that faces the wall of the Telluride box canyon and requires technical skills and special equipment. Climbing Via Ferrata is possible only with one of the local guides who will walk you through the process and give you a safety briefing before you begin the climb.
Although Via Ferrata is a fun experience, it shouldn’t be taken lightly: Even a minor accident can result in fatal consequences.
9. Climb Ajax Peak
If you are looking for the ultimate challenge, hiking to the top of Ajax Peak is one of the best things to do in Telluride in summer. Located 2,5 miles outside of Telluride, Ajax Peak takes an average of 4-5 hours to climb thanks to a combination of steep elevation gain of 2,785 feet and a challenging trail.
Although this is a not technical hike, and you will not need things like a helmet or any rock climbing equipment, you should come prepared with good hiking shoes, many layers, and plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated.
The hike is well worth the effort, as you will be treated to jaw-dropping 360-degree views of Bridal Veil Basin, Imogene Pass, and Silver Lake.
10. Take a day trip to Ouray
Nicknamed “Switzerland of America,” Ouray is a less-famous sibling of Telluride.
This small town makes for a perfect day trip from Telluride, but if you love the outdoors, there are plenty of things to do here to keep you buys. The area boasts plenty of hike trails like Bear Creek National Recreation Trail, historic mining ghost towns and opportunities for backcountry camping and off-roading. Some of the best
And don’t forget to visit the famous Ouray hot springs, one of the best hot springs in Colorado to relax after a day of exploring.
11. Go on a hike
Surrounded by towering peaks, Telluride is considered a top destination for hiking in Colorado.
Located at an altitude of 8,745 feet above sea level, Telluride is a quintessential getaway to adventure. Summer is the most popular time to visit Telluride since you can enjoy hiking – one of the best things to do in Telluride.
Telluride is also a gateway to the Uncompahgre National Forest, which offers many hiking trails and opportunities for backcountry camping. And you don’t have to go too far to enjoy the spectacular views. For example, you can hike the Jud Wiebe Trail which begins at the end of Aspen Street in downtown Telluride and has a steep ascent which is perfect for testing your hiking skills.
If you are an experienced hiker and have already conquered some high Colorado mountains, you can try the Sneffels High Line, one of the most difficult hikes near Telluride in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness.
Other trails lead to lakes and waterfalls, while others plunge into valleys and run along local creeks. Telluride has something for every type of hiker, and some of the most beautiful scenery during all four seasons.
Best hikes in Telluride:
- Bear Creek Falls – 4.4 miles – located within the narrow Bear Creek Canyon, this trail starts on South Pine Street and passes through Aspen forests and rolling meadows.
- Cornet Creek Falls – 0.6 miles – one of the best easy hikes in Telluride that leads to the 80-feet Cornet Falls.
- Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail – 3 miles – one of the most easily accessible trails from Aspen Street in downtown Telluride, Jud Wiebe is a challenging but extremely rewarding trail that provides an overview of Ajax Peak and Bear Creek.
- San Miguel River Trail – 4,5 miles round trip – The San Miguel River Trail connects to Telluride’s Idarado Legacy Trail, where you can explore the town’s mining legacy, and the Pandora Mill, a well-preserved historic mining site.
- Ballard Mountain – 6.4-mile roundtrip – a challenging hike that takes an average of 6 hours to complete, Ballard Mountain is a 12,800 peak that looms over Telluride.
12. Spend the night camping near Telluride
Surrounded by the towering San Juan Mountain, Telluride offers camping as no other place does. With clear dark skies at night and a serene atmosphere, this is one of the best destinations for camping in Colorado.
All you need to do is to set up your tent and enjoy the incredible 360-degree views. Camping is also one of the best things to do in Telluride if you are on a budget since hotels in Telluride tend to be expensive.
Best campgrounds near Telluride
Although there’s a campground right in the heart of Telluride, it fills up very fast, so it can be hard to get a spot. You can also try campgrounds near Telluride like the Alta Lakes Campground, the Mary E. Campground, the Matterhorn, Priest Lake, Sunshine, and Woods Lake. Some of these campgrounds are dispersed camping which means there are no facilities available and no running water or electricity.
13. Drive on San Juan Skyway
If you have a few days in Telluride, take a drive on the San Juan Skyway, a 235-mile loop that takes you through mining ghost towns, and features some of the most scenic places in all of Colorado. This scenic route takes about 7 hours to complete and comes with some challenges as you will need to navigate steep drop-offs and hairpin turns.
Allow extra time for your journey, as you will want to stop along the way, take some photos and explore the many places along this drive.
14. Marvel at Blue Lakes
Blue Lakes is one of the most beautiful places to visit in all of Colorado, and it has become popular in recent years.
Tucked between Ridgeway and Telluride in the Uncompaghre National Forest, this trail leads to the pair of stunning alpine lakes surrounded by jagged peaks (Don’t confuse it with the Blue Lakes trail above Bridal Veil in Telluride).
The trail to Lower Blue Lake is rated moderate, but it feels more strenuous as you climb steep switchbacks before you arrive at alpine meadows with bright wildflowers (during June and July).
The area around Lower and Upper Blue Lakes has plenty of space for dispersed camping, so grab a tent, a sleeping bag, and some warm clothes (it gets chilly at night) for the ultimate experience!
- Lower Blue Lake: 6.3 miles roundtrip, moderate
- Upper Blue Lake: 8.2 miles roundtrip, strenuous
- Blue Lakes Pass: 11 miles roundtrip, strenuous
How to find Blue Lakes, Colorado
Take Highway 62 toward Telluride and turn left on County Road 7 marked as Dallas Creek. The unpaved road brings you to the parking lot where the trailhead begins. While it’s better to come here in an SUV, a smaller vehicle will do just fine, but it might take you longer to get there on a bumpy road.
Best restaurants in Telluride
Downtown Telluride has plenty of restaurants from vegan eateries to casual diners and more upscale options. Here are some of my favorite restaurants in Telluride:
- Brown Dog Pizza – some of the best pizza I’ve ever tried! Brown Dog Pizza is located along the main drag and has a good selection of pizzas as well as sandwiches, salads, and a good selection of local beer.
- Butcher and Baker – a casual restaurant that serves a variety of pastries, soups, and comfort food that you can grab on the go.
- Lunch Money – is one of the best restaurants in Telluride when it comes to healthy options. Lunch Money offers sales, wraps, sandwiches, snacks, and sweet treats.
Things to know before visiting Telluride, Colorado:
- Get outside – You already know that some of the best things to do in Telluride revolve around the outdoors. To experience the best of what this place has to offer, get outside.
- Bring the right gear – Don’t get on a trail in your flip-flops! If you are serious about hiking in Telluride, you should come prepared. Bring good hiking shoes, and layers and, if you plan on conquering high altitudes, consider bringing hiking poles.
- Plan for all weather – Mountain weather is unpredictable and even if the forecast calls for clear skies, it can sometimes rain. It’s a good idea to carry a waterproof jacket in your bag as well as wear waterproof shoes if you plan on hiking in Telluride.
- Drink plenty of water – Telluride is located at a high altitude, and if you don’t drink enough water, you can quickly get dehydrated and get a headache.
- Budget your trip – Telluride is one of the most expensive destinations in Colorado, and you should budget accordingly. Booking your hotels and rental car in Telluride ahead of time is a good idea.
How to get to Telluride?
Telluride is a remote town with no major airports nearby, and coming here takes time and effort. Many travelers combine a stop in Telluride with other places in Southwest Colorado like Ouray, Silverton, and Durango. If you want to do this route, rent a car. I recommend DiscoverCars, one of the best car rental companies that offer a wide inventory of vehicles and flexible rates.
Driving distances to Telluride, Colorado
- Denver to Telluride – 6 hr 8 min (362.4 mi) via I-70 W
- Grand Junction to Telluride – 2 hr 24 min (126.3 mi) via US-50 E
- Ouray to Telluride – 1 hr 2 min (49.6 mi) via CO-62 W/State Hwy 62 and CO-145 S
- Durango to Telluride – 2 hr 6 min (110.8 mi) via CO-145 N
Flying to Telluride from Denver
If you want to save hours on driving, book a flight to Telluride (TEX) from Denver. This is a perfect alternative to spending hours on the road, and you can book a flight from Denver to Telluride online and rent a car after you land at the airport.
Flying to Montrose from Denver
Another option is to book a flight from Denver to Montrose Regional Airport (MJT), which is about 1 hour and 20 minutes away from Telluride.
Where to stay in Telluride
Telluride is not a cheap place to visit, and the accommodations here reflect that. Many Telluride hotels and Air-Bnb are in downtown Telluride or Mountain Village, a European-style village at the doorstep of the Uncompahgre National Forest.
Best hotels in Telluride Mountain Village
Mountain Village can be easily accessed from downtown Telluride via a free gondola. Taking a gondola is one of the most fun things to do in Telluride as you soar above the box canyon and see the majestic peaks. To find Telluride Gondola, walk toward Gondola Plaza where you can find stores and restaurants.
Telluride, Colorado: FAQ’s
How many days to spend in Telluride?
Telluride might be a small town, but don’t think that you can see the best of it in just a day. The downtown Telluride can be explored on foot in a couple of hours, but the outdoor areas near Telluride can take you weeks to explore.
From the stunning Blue Lakes to hikes near Telluride like Jud Wiebe or San Miguel River Trail, and many mountain passes where you can have fun off-roading, and backcountry camping, Telluride is a true heaven for outdoor junkies.
If you want to see the basic highlights of Telluride without venturing into the mountains, plan 2-3 days in Telluride. This is a good amount of time to see the highlights of downtown Telluride and do one or two easy hikes in Telluride like the San Miguel River Trail or Bridal Veil Falls.
How do I spend a day in Telluride?
While a day is not enough to enjoy all of the cool things to do in Telluride, it’s enough time to take a hike, stop at Telluride Historical Museum and catch a gondola to the Mountain Village before enjoying a delicious dinner in downtown Telluride.
What is the best month to visit Telluride?
Late June through early September is a perfect time for spending time outside thanks to nice temps and plenty of sunshine. To see the spectacular alpine wildflowers, visit Telluride from July through early August. During this time, you can see the stunning display of colors along many Telluride trails at high altitudes.
What is Telluride like in winter?
Telluride is also a lot of fun in winter. If you are a fan of winter sports like skiing or snowboarding, visit Telluride when it gets blanketed by snow. Unlike other popular mountain towns in Colorado like Aspen, or Breckenridge, Telluride isn’t overrun with tourists in the winter months and offers a more authentic atmosphere.
What’s the weather like in Telluride?
Telluride’s weather is similar to that of other mountain towns in Colorado. It’s snowy and sunny in winter and mostly sunny in summer. If you are visiting Telluride in summer, remember that rain storms are common in the afternoon, which means you should plan your hiking activities for the morning and early afternoon, especially if you plan on climbing to high altitudes.
If you plan on hiking in Telluride, always check the weather ahead of your trip.
Is Telluride, Colorado worth visiting?
Yes, Telluride is worth visiting! Telluride is a true outdoor Mecca with many opportunities for adventure year-round. Aside from recreational activities, Telluride also boasts colorful history that can be explored in its downtown.
Best things to do in Telluride, Colorado: final word
Telluride is one of the most magical places in Colorado. If you love the outdoors, you will fall in love with it and might not want to leave. From exploring local history to savoring yummy food in Telluride restaurants and spending time outdoors, Telluride is sure to win you over!