Telluride has long been on my wishlist. Surrounded by mighty peaks, laden with a huge mining history and a short plane ride from Dallas, Telluride is a perfect blend of nature and culture. Here I have detailed the Telluride trip planning that went into making this happen. I booked three tickets in late April, one for Sonny JJ and me using American airlines miles (Mr. JJ had a small stash that we dipped into). To maintain his status on AA, we paid for Mr. JJ’s tickets. Missy JJ was on her own little adventure that week and did not join us.
Telluride is a year-round destination. For families like ours that are not adrenaline junkies, there’s still enough to do to enjoy the great outdoors. Nestled in the valley at the base of the San Juan mountain range, Telluride attracts people for its beauty, food, adventure, and history. High above Telluride resides the town of Mountain Village. The two are connected by a Gondola system, making it easier to travel between the two towns.
Shoulder season travel
I didn’t know when booking that our trip fell during the shoulder season. Or at least the end of the shoulder season. A time (typically early April to end of May) when the town and its people shut down many activities for maintenance and recharging. The Gondola was not operational until a couple of days after our landing. Many restaurants did not start in-person dining until later that week. The Telluride Historical Museum, which is one of the town’s highlights, was not open until early June. Which meant we couldn’t delve into the history of the town in leisure as we expected. Nor could we join the historical walking tour that the museum offers. Many adventure outfitters like rafting, paragliding, etc., were not open for service yet. On the other hand, we figured we would have the town to ourselves. So we wove an itinerary around what was springing back to life.
Traveling to Telluride
Travelers can reach Telluride in many ways. Most commonly, flights are routed through Denver. The drive from Denver is about seven hrs. There is a small airport on the outskirts of town (airport code TEX). United and other airlines fly from Denver to TEX on KeyLime Air. American has nonstop flights to Durango, which is about two hours south of Telluride. But we chose to fly American nonstop into Montrose (MTJ), which is about ninety mins northeast of Telluride. The drive to Telluride was picturesque and set the scene for what was to follow. For local transportation, we could have arranged a shuttle back and forth and skipped renting a car. In addition to the Gondola, a public transport option in town called the Galloping Goose allows travelers to get around without relying on a rental car. But we had plans to visit towns other than Telluride and chose to rent one, instead.
Lodging in Telluride
Visitors to Telluride have the option of lodging in Telluride or Mountain Village. Of course, there are other towns like Ridgway nearby. We thought it would be more fun to lodge in the mountains. Mountain Village has a few options like the Madeline, the Fairmont, etc. The first was way too expensive, and the Fairmont website didn’t have good options at the time of my booking. We finally chose the Mountain Lodge Telluride, which had a spacious room and great views and were happy with our choice. I also looked into using the Citi Prestige 4th night complimentary benefit, but the final costs were so similar that I chose to book directly with the lodge. You can find more detailed lodging information here.
Of course, post-COVID, travelers have been dealing with rental car shortages. Luckily we found a decent option via Avis on Expedia, but it cost us nearly 2 to 3 times what we would have paid in the past. I hope this situation changes as more travel happens. Telluride has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options. Our Lodge also had a well-equipped kitchenette, so we chose to blend eating out during the day with easy cook meals for dinner.
While our itinerary was loosely built, we had an idea of Things to do in Telluride
Telluride historical museum and walking tours, explore downtown Telluride which is about 8 blocks by 12 blocks, taste some of the local cuisines, ride the Gondola, paragliding (which we have been trying to do since 2013), off-road tours to the area mountain passes, hike local trails to view waterfalls (at least a couple, there are several in the area), visit some of the local lakes. Visit nearby Ouray, hike, waterfalls, enjoy Hot springs, drive the Million Dollar Highway. I also wanted to drive to Mesa Verde NP to see the cliff dwellings, about an hour and a half south of town. Telluride plays host to a ton of festivals, like the Mountainfilm, Jazz, Balloon, Yoga, outdoor painting festivals, etc. We saw any number of ads for upcoming events and live music posted across town.
I reached out to Ryan Taylor with Telluride Paragliding to arrange a flight, but he wasn’t open yet for the season. I tried (through the museum staff) to set up a private walking tour with Ashley Boling. He’s a local that’s a well-established expert on Telluride history and leads their tours. But our timings didn’t match. I emailed the following local off-roading tour outfitters to see who was available—Dave’s Mountain Tours, Telluride Offroad Adventures, Telluride Outside. Telluride Outside emailed back right away, and I set up a tour with them. Telluride Offroad adventures weren’t open for the season yet. There are tons of other activities like canopy adventures via Ferrata, river rafting, fly fishing, horseback trail riding, etc., that one can choose to pursue. For more comprehensive information, visit this website. Although we could have driven to Mesa Verde, atleast 3 or 4 of the cliff dwellings tours were closed. Only three were open but all were long booked. Visit recreation.gov for tickets to national park tours.
Places to eat in Telluride
I came across the following recommendations for places to eat in Telluride and Mountain Village. 221 South Oak for American fare with several vegetarian options, Siam for Thai food, Baked in Telluride, The Butcher and the Baker, Rustico Ristorante (Telluride). Allred’s, Altezza at the Peaks, Telluride coffee company, Siam Talay Grille (Mountain Village). Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list.
Colorado did not require a pre-trip covid test. Until May 21st, the local authorities had a strict mask mandate for businesses. It was rescinded following CDC and state guidelines just before our trip.
Join us next few days as we explore Telluride and its surroundings!