One of Colorado’s most spectacular mountain towns is Telluride. Situated in a secluded part of the state in a box canyon, this is Colorado’s high country at its best. Three waves of progress/development have shaped Telluride since being discovered by Europeans.
The first wave was the gold rush of the 1800s that brought miners, settlers, and business people to the area. High above Telluride are the remnants of a once thriving mining industry. The Tomboy mine was such a big venture it had over 1,200 miners and their families living on-site at its peak. Many of the existing roads and jeep trails were constructed by crews developing the mines and railways in the late 1800s.
The next wave of progress to hit Telluride was the ski area. When soldiers from the famed 10th Mountain Division returned home from World War ll, those that had trained at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado came back with skiing on their minds. What started small in the 1950s as tiny ski areas with rope tow lifts, became a burgeoning industry that spread throughout the Colorado mountains.
The Telluride ski area opened in 1972 bringing much-needed employment to the small town. Over the course of the next several decades, the Telluride Ski Area became attractive for its pristine environment and steep ski runs in deep powder.
The next wave was in the 1980s when Telluride Ski Area and the town started marketing summer activities. This successful campaign brought thousands of skiers back to see what they were missing in the summer. Currently, there are tons of choices guests can choose from for lodging, dining, and activities. Here’s a partial list of the best:
Where to eat
Allred’s is situated high above Telluride and is accessed by taking the gondola to the very top and getting off before it starts the descent to Mountain Village or Telluride. Enjoy excellent views of the town and the San Juan Mountains at either Allred’s bar or restaurant.
La Marmotte, at 150 W San Juan Avenue, is a favorite for French fare located in a quiet part of town.
Cosmopolitan, at 301 Gus’s Way in the Hotel Columbia, serves seafood to steaks. Find the Cosmo, as the locals call it, conveniently located by the gondola.
Chop House Restaurant, at 233 W Colorado Avenue in the New Sheridan Hotel, caters to the meat-eating crowd. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers a 20% discount to their hotel guests.
Taco Del Gnar, at 125 Oak St., provides affordable lunch and dinner for those who love a deliciously different taco. Try the lamb, portobello, or Korean short rib tacos, and grab a craft brew. Don’t miss the Gnar Taco Dinner combo with beans and cheese tots for just 10.50 USD!
Brown Dog Pizza, at 110 W Colorado Avenue, is one of those kinds of places you know is going to be good because it’s almost always packed. Try the Detroit pizza and a beer at this spot where the locals hang out year-round.
Baked In Telluride, 127 South Fir St., provides affordable baked goods, pizza, and vegetarian fare. It’s good for take-away or sit-down dining.
Mountain Lodge at Mountain Village offers a variety of lodging from luxury cabins, one to two bedroom condos, and lodge rooms. With an on-site pool, hot tub, bar, and restaurant this is an excellent choice year-round. Read our detailed review of Mountain Lodge here.
New Sheridan Hotel, 231 W Colorado Avenue is a survivor of the mining days long since passed. Modern comforts await guests who stay in this classic Victorian on the main drag. With a top-rated restaurant (the Chop House) on-site, this is a popular choice in the summer.
The Hotel Telluride, 199 N Comet St., is in a quiet location just off the main drag. This luxury boutique hotel is pet-friendly and staffed by a young but professional crew. Check out the hot tub area with a bar service window!
The Victorian Inn, 401 W Pacific Avenue, provides affordable lodging in an excellent location. It offers easy access to the gondola and the main drag, making this hotel quite popular.
Where to play
Telluride Ski Area is one of the best in Colorado. With a mix of challenging double-diamond black runs and plenty of gentle green slopes, this is a favorite of families, adrenalin seekers, and couples. For an extra thrill, try arriving by a commercial airline at the Telluride Airport, one of the scariest in North America.
Ride the free gondola, said to be the only one of its kind in the nation. The gondola is in its 20th year of serving the town of Telluride, Mountain Village, and the ski area. Over two million riders enjoy this high-altitude ride each year. Try catching the sunrise or sunset, and bring your camera.
Bear Creek Canyon is a favorite hike at the far end of town that leads to a cascading waterfall 2.5 miles/4.02 km at the top. Just ask any local to point you in the right direction, and be sure to wear adequate footwear to protect your feet on this rocky path. Stop at the visitor center on 236 W Colorado Avenue to enquire which of the 90+ trails fit your ability since some trails are rated difficult.
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More play options
Bridal Veil Trail at the east end of town highlights the tallest waterfall in Colorado. Hike or drive to this spectacular natural water feature on a warm summer day for one of Colorado’s best adventures. Grab a picnic lunch from Baked In Telluride and enjoy the mountain wildflowers and view.
Go four-wheeling in your own vehicle if properly equipped, or take a guided Jeep ride with Telluride Outside. The area is full of rough-and-tumble four-wheel-drive roads in high mountain meadows bursting with wildflowers. See old mine sites like the Smuggler or Tomboy Mine up close while marmots and pikas chirp warning calls.
Fishing for trout is tons of fun and Telluride has several streams and lakes nearby. Try your luck on your own or go with a local guide fishing for colorful rainbow, brook, and brown trout.
Telluride Historical Museum is housed in the old hospital building offering visitors a glimpse of the mining, prehistoric, and recent eras. It is great for a break indoors if the weather is not cooperating with outside recreation.
Stargazing is a lost pursuit thanks to air and light pollution in most of our cities. At the top of the gondola, get off and take a short hike away from the noise and lights of the gondola building where some will see the Milky Way for the first time. See planets, constellations, and shooting stars under clear Rocky Mountain nights. Bundle up as even in summer it gets cold at night.
For more information
Telluride is one of my favorite Colorado towns. Check out the city’s tourism board linked below for a more detailed list of where to eat, stay, and play.
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