The JJ family took our first COVID trip to Telluride in May 2021. You can read all the posts from the series here. Although Telluride itself is small, there’s a ton of activities to do here, a variety of experiences to be had, and plenty of attractions to visit. In fact, there is so much here that I felt the need to write a wrap-up post outlining twelve reasons why travelers should visit Telluride.
Drive the San Juan Scenic Skyway
San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway spans a 236-mile loop (Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Dolores) through Southwest Colorado and encompasses the best that nature and humans offer. From national forests (Uncompahgre, San Juan) to national parks (Mesa Verde NP), mining towns to highway engineering marvels (Million Dollar Highway), and replete with loads of human history, the Skyway offers something for everyone! Ridgway State Park, which is on the route between Montrose and Telluride, is worth exploring on its own.
Explore the history of the town
The Telluride Historical Museum is an excellent source for exploring the history of the area. The Museum is currently open from Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays. Reservations are required for groups of six or more. The Museum also offers historical walking tours led by longtime local and historian Ashley Boling. You can make reservations via the Museum website, which costs $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Tours are 90 minutes long. Since the Museum wasn’t open at the time of our visit, we downloaded a historical walking tour of the area and used that as a guide to learn about the important people, events, and buildings of the area. Enjoy a drink at the historic bar at the New Sheridan Hotel or visit ghost mining towns.
201 W. Gregory Ave. P.O. Box 1597, Telluride, CO 81435, (at the top of North Fir Street) T: (970) 728-3344
Visit nearby National Parks.
Telluride has two national parks within 80 miles of town: Mesa Verde National Park to the south and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park to the north. I tried to make reservations for the cliff dwellings tour at Mesa Verde NP before our trip. Not all tours were open at the time, and the few that were had already been booked long before I called. If you plan to visit, you can make tour reservations at Recreation.gov. You can also use this website to book campgrounds at the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison NP South Rim Campground or even at the national forests like Uncompahgre. Other parks like the Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Utah are located about 150 miles, about a three-hour drive each way from Telluride. Explore national parks further at nps.gov.
Soak in hot springs in the area
Soaking in the naturally warmed mineral waters of a hot spring after a day of adventure is an ideal way to enjoy a Telluride vacation. We chose to end our day in Ouray with a soak in their family-friendly hot springs pool. There is a clothing-optional Orvis hot springs resort in Ridgway, en route to Ouray. Other options include Durango Hot Springs Resort and Spa. One of the couples we met on the trip had enjoyed the hot springs at Pagosa Springs. Read more about Pagosa Springs hot springs options here.
Take a hike or two!
Telluride offers several different options for hiking and all levels of hikers. At one time, I remember counting about 48 trails in or around the Telluride and Mountain Village areas within a 20-mile radius. We hiked the Bear Creek and the Bridal Veil Falls Trails on our trip. The Perimeter Trail in Ouray is extremely popular with visitors. Read all about the Telluride area trails and important safety information here, and check out the trail maps here.
Ride the free Gondola between Telluride and Mountain Village
Choose this eco-friendly option to ride free between both towns. The Gondola runs between 630 am and midnight all days and even longer on weekends. Check out their website for more information. Read about our experience here.
Experience lots of outdoor adventures
Telluride has it all, any outdoor adventure your little heart desires! Both summer and winter activities keep you busy year-long! In addition to hiking and biking, Telluride offers paragliding, river rafting, canopy adventures, the via Ferrata, fly fishing, camping, 4*4 off-roading, ATV, horseback riding, rock climbing, stand-up paddling, disc golfing, and skate parks, to name a few. And, of course, several winter activities besides skiing include snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding, ice climbing, fat bike riding, etc. We chose to do the 4-WD off-roading adventure this time. Many activities were not open at the time of our visit. Some outfitters you can explore include Telluride Paragliding, Dave’s Mountain Tours, Telluride Outside, and Telluride Offroad Adventures.
Go chasing waterfalls
Telluride is surrounded by waterfalls, each one different from the other. Some are in box canyons, others fall in stages, some are accessible by boardwalks, and others by long hikes. Waterfalls are beautiful gifts of nature and remind us to respect the power of water! We were fortunate to see the Bear Creek falls, Bridal Veil falls, Box Canon falls, and Cascade falls (the latter two in Ouray).
Drive the Million Dollar Highway
One of the most thrilling drives in the US happens to be right here in the Telluride area. The Million Dollar Highway is a spur of US Hwy 550 between Silverton and Ouray, a length of 25 miles of a narrow two-lane road cut into the cliffside with steep falls on one side, an elevation gain of almost 3500 feet, numerous hairpin bends, the lack of guard rails and nearly non-existent shoulder make this drive both thrilling and unnerving. I wrote about our drive here.
Attend festivals and events
The Mountainfilm Festival was opening at the time of our visit. This, along with other well-known festivals like the Telluride film festival, the Bluegrass Festival, Jazz Festival, call Telluride home, and others like the Telluride Blues and Brews festival that is currently ongoing. We saw posters for concerts, theater plays, and artistic events hung up across town on our visit.
Explore surrounding towns/visit a mining ghost town
There’s no dearth of interesting places to visit around Telluride, and most are within a two or three-hour drive. Ouray, Ridgway, Durango, Silverton have featured prominently in Telluride’s mining history. And they form an integral part of the loop of the San Juan Skyway with many of their own attractions like the Silverton Railroad. I would also encourage you to visit a mining ghost town like Alta or Tomboy Ghost Town or Animas Forks in Silverton.
Enjoy the food scene.
Explore vegetarian and vegan options, among others, at the variety of cuisines offered in Telluride. Some noteworthy dining options include Siam, 221 South Oak, The Chop House at New Sheridan Hotel (and the historic bar at the Hotel), There, Cosmopolitan, Baked in Telluride, The Butcher & The Baker, Tacos del gnar, Brown Dog pizza, Steamies burger bar. Up in the mountains are Allred’s, Altezza at the Peaks, Siam Talay Grille, The View Bar and Grill, Gorrono Ranch. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list by any means. Just a few starters to stoke your appetite!
One resource that I used a lot to do my research was Visit Telluride. Take advantage of its comprehensive information.