12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Telluride, CO
Colorado is beautiful – and then there is Telluride. There is nothing quite like the quiet, powerful majesty of the San Juan Mountains in this part of the Colorado Rockies. Surrounded on all sides by 13,000-foot peaks, the historic mining town of Telluride sits in a box canyon, the same as it has for more than 100 years. Today, while known primarily for skiing, the chic, action-packed modern-day village is brimming with exciting and cultural things to do. It's no wonder it is one of the best places to visit in Colorado.
The tiny town is just eight blocks wide and 12 blocks long. It dates back to the 19th century, when it was one of the most famous mining towns in Colorado. Over the years, however, it has transformed to become the gateway to some of the best skiing in the world. Winters are simply electric in Telluride, but the summers are equally impressive.
Telluride is peppered with boutiques, restaurants, historic hotels, parks, trails, and more. It is even home to the annual Telluride Film Festival, which is held during Labor Day Weekend each year. Outside town are miles upon miles of trails, scenic drives, and some of the tallest peaks in the Colorado Rockies.
Whether you're an experienced outdoor enthusiast, an avid camper, a lover of fine food, or simply someone who appreciates a good view, get the most out of your visit, no matter the time of year, with our list of the best attractions and things to do in Telluride.
1. Ski the Slopes of Telluride
If you're looking for the best places to ski in Colorado, the list is woefully incomplete without mentioning Telluride. In fact, Telluride is likely one of the top places to ski in the entire country.
Nestled within the San Juan Mountains, Telluride Ski Resort has more than 2,000 acres of lift-accessed terrain. If you're looking for the ultimate ski slopes, look no further than the more than 4,400 feet of vertical, which are webbed with 19 lifts and 148 runs. The maximum elevation is 13,150 feet, and Telluride receives more than 280 inches of snow per year, on average.
You'll have no trouble fitting in on the slopes – Telluride has trails that range from beginner to expert, including four hike-to terrain areas. The longest run in the mountain area is 4.6 miles.
2. Hike the Lush, Green Mountains
Telluride sits at 8,745 feet above sea level, surrounded by the towering San Juan Mountains. As you can expect, it is one of the best destinations in Colorado for hiking. The town is tucked at the head of a box canyon, entirely surrounded by vertical walls that climb more than 13,000 feet. If you're a hiker, Telluride is one of the best spots in Colorado to call home base.
Telluride Valley is the gateway to the Uncompahgre National Forest, with miles of hiking trails that range from beginner to experienced backcountry adventures. Start in town at the Mud Wiebe trail, which begins right at Aspen Street and climbs 2.7 miles through aspen forest. Or you can attempt the Sneffels High Line, one of the most challenging hikes in the area that climbs into the high country of Mount Sneffels Wilderness.
Other trails lead to lakes and waterfalls, while others plunge down into valleys and run along local creeks. Telluride truly has something for every level of hiker, as well as some of the most beautiful scenery to entertain during all four seasons.
3. Explore Downtown Telluride
If you've never been to Telluride, chances are you've never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world. The small, historic mining village is nestled in a box canyon, surrounded on either side by the towering, 13,000-foot peaks of the San Juan Mountains.
Today it is a buzzing haven of culture, art, boutiques, fine dining, and, of course, unparalleled natural beauty. Even if you've been wowed by the majesty of Colorado towns like Aspen and Vail, you will still find room for amazement when you visit Telluride's downtown.
The historic downtown dates back to the mid-19th century, and many of the facades still tell the story of the gold mining days. Inside, however, the story is much more modern, with chic après-ski spots, shopping, and boutique hotels.
No matter the season, downtown Telluride is always humming, whether it's with holiday shoppers and skiers, hikers looking to unwind, or film high society grabbing appetizers in between screenings during the Telluride Film Festival.
4. Explore Telluride Town Park
When it comes to the beating heart of Telluride, it can all be found within Telluride Town Park. This is the center focal point of the historic town, and often is the host venue for many of the town's events year-round.
The lush 36-acre park, wreathed in trees and surrounded by the town's towering peaks, plays host to the music festivals and sporting events, but it also is the home for a calendar's worth of recreation. You'll find soccer fields, a volleyball court, a fishing pond, swimming pool, basketball courts, and even a campground. For snow bunnies, the park features two ice rinks and a trail for Nordic skiing.
It's impossible to miss the park – it's just at the end of East Colorado Avenue, a short walk away from Telluride's most buzzing thoroughfare.
5. Ride to Mountain Village
At nearly 10,000 feet, just outside the box canyon historic village of Telluride, is Mountain Village. The European-style village was built in 1987 in 2,000 acres of aspen forest, all at the doorstep to the Uncompahgre National Forest.
To get to Mountain Village, visitors can take a gondola ride up from Telluride, which is not only a convenient way to access the village, but is also a really beautiful thing to do in Telluride. Gondola Plaza is hopping, too, brimming with restaurants and boutique shopping.
Once you reach Mountain Village, the sky's the limit. Mountain Village has miles of biking and hiking trails, frisbee golf, fishing opportunities, spots for bouldering, ice-skating, ski and snowshoe trails, and plenty of opportunities for dining and shopping. Mountain Village turns Telluride into a two-for-one destination, and is certainly worth a day trip up the gondola to check out.
6. Wander San Miguel River Trail
You don't have to be a master hiker to enjoy the outdoor beauty of Telluride. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and easy access to the San Miguel River Trail. This strollable path meanders alongside the San Miguel River through the historic village, and a bit outside, as well. It's a favorite way to explore the area for both locals and tourists year-round.
Keep in mind that this isn't a trail to take if you are looking to be lost in the wilderness. It is very much a residential community trail that meanders past private residences and the road. But the river itself is absolutely lovely, peppered with waterfalls and the possibility of the occasional elk sighting.
7. Visit Bear Creek Falls
Among the many hiking trails available near Telluride, the hike to Bear Creek Falls is one of the most popular. The trail can be reached from downtown at the end of South Pine Street. The dirt road is primed for both hikers and mountain bikers and winds its way through 325 acres of the Bear Creek Preserve.
The trail climbs for two miles up to the waterfall, where it links up with the Wasatch Trail and Bridal Veil Basin. But the waterfall itself is simply spectacular and can certainly delight as its own activity.
Along the way, the trail weaves in and out of aspen forests, opening up to viewpoints that overlook Ballard Mountain and some of the other peaks in the area. The best spot to view the falls is from a giant boulder that overlooks them; however, you can certainly hike farther in for a closer look.
8. Drive Black Bear Pass
Caution: This is not for the faint of heart! Known as one of the most challenging drives in the world, Black Bear Pass is definitely not your typical Sunday drive. In fact, it is marked by a sign that states, "You don't have to be crazy to drive this road – but it helps." That said, it is one of the most visually stunning roads, with so many opportunities to see Telluride like never before.
This route is a highly challenging pass that is definitely not for inexperienced drivers. Known for its steep switchbacks, the road begins at State Highway 5550 at the Red Mountain Pass and escalates to Black Bear Pass about three miles up. The road then descends down into the Ingram Basin and passes Ingram Lake and the Black Bear Mine.
At about 5.5 miles in, the road descends what are known as the "Steps" – a series of steep rock steps, which means a four-wheel-drive car is not only recommended, but likely required. Tight, and extremely narrow, the switchbacks continue until the road reaches the Bridal Veil Falls Powerplant.
While it is certainly not an easy drive, the route does reward with spectacular views of Bridal Veil Falls, Ingram Falls, and the entire Telluride Valley. Needless to say, this road is not open in the winter months. It is one of the highest roads in Colorado.
9. Camp amid the Peaks
Telluride is surrounded by the towering, impressive San Juan Mountains. Some of the most magnetic and imposing mountains in the Colorado Rockies, the San Juan Mountains and Telluride have some epic spots for setting up your tent and kicking back with nothing but silence and gorgeous mountain views.
Camping also happens to be one of the more affordable ways to explore Telluride, as hotels can get particularly pricey, especially during ski season or the summer and fall festivals. Campgrounds are available within the town of Telluride itself, as well as within a half-hour drive in almost any direction.
Some campgrounds to consider in Telluride include the Alta Lakes Campground, which is dispersed camping, as well as the Mary E. Campground, the Matterhorn, Priest Lake, Sunshine, and Woods Lake.
RV parking is available in the Town Park, but keep in mind the maximum length here is 30 feet, which includes the length of your transport vehicle. There are no electrical hookups, either, so if you're looking to camp in Telluride, your best bet may be to actually rough it.
10. Explore Alta Lakes
Colorado does many things very well. But historic mining towns and alpine lakes are definitely at the top of the list. When you're sightseeing in Telluride, be sure to make a stop at Alta Lakes for a taste of both.
Outside the town of Telluride, Alta Lakes combines the abandoned mining town of Alta with several picturesque alpine lakes and hiking trails nearby, which make for a great day trip. The lakes sit at 11,300 feet not far from the ghost town.
From the three lakes, you will be able to have views of Bald Mountain, Silver Mountain, and Telluride Ski Resort. Just bear in mind that you'll be in the backcountry, so facilities are rather limited. But this is a great place to drink in the scenery, pitch a tent for some dispersed camping, or book a room in the beautiful Observatory Lodge.
Alta Lakes Road is the only way to reach both Alta and the lakes, and you will definitely need a high-clearance vehicle to make that trek. The road is closed in winter, if that's any indication of the conditions.
11. Climb Ajax Peak
If you're looking to flex your trail skills, Ajax Peak may be the one mountain you need to tackle when you're staying in Telluride. The challenging hike is roughly four hours and will take you up the 12,785-foot mountain summit in the heart of the San Miguel Mountains.
Not for the faint of heart, the trail has an elevation gain of more than 2,700 feet. It's a challenge to even get to the trailhead. The trail begins at the top of Bridal Veil Falls (worth a look on its own!), and then heads toward Ingram Falls. Past Ingram Falls are a series of stone stairs that lead towards the trailhead.
It's a switchback city along the way, but worth it for the spectacular views of Bridal Veil Basin, Silver Lake, Imogene Pass, and Savage Basin. You won't need any serious gear for the hike, but be prepared for steep inclines and a very long day, even for the most experienced hikers.
12. Marvel at Bridal Veil Falls
If you're looking for spectacular waterfalls, Telluride has them. In particular, seeing Bridal Veil Falls is one of the best things to do in Telluride. These are among the tallest free-falling falls in Colorado, believe it or not.
Plummeting from 365 feet, the falls are an easy 1.8-mile, one-way hike along the road with an elevation gain of 1,650 feet. Once you're there, be prepared for some mesmerizing scenery. No matter the time of year, the Bridal Veil Falls draws a crowd. Even during the winter, you'll find the most adventurous climbers doing an ice climb at the falls and in the surrounding forest.