The town of Telluride is a scenic historic landmark, and it has come a long way since being founded in 1878. Once a Victorian mining town, modern Telluride is more than 8,000 feet above sea level, set in a box canyon amidst the world-famous Rocky Mountains. Its historic architecture and wonderful landscapes make it a top destination in Colorado. During the winter, it’s also one of the go-to spots to practice skiing.
Telluride neighbors the town of Mountain Village to the west. This world-class getaway is a little over an hour from the mountainside towns of Ouray and Silverton, and about four hours away from iconic Aspen and the state capital of Denver.
You can rent a cozy place right next to the river like the Riverside Condos, or a luxury cabin right near a ski center like Slopeside at Sundance. You can also go for something close to the town center but equally beautiful, such as Mountain House East.
From spectacular views to outdoor activities that adventure enthusiasts will never forget, there is no shortage of fun things to do in Telluride year-round. Read on to discover the top things to do in Telluride so you can start planning your dream vacation with unmatched confidence.
Experience picturesque downtown Telluride
Telluride may have started as an old mining camp, but today it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the USA.
The beating heart of Telluride runs through the town east to west: Main Street or Colorado Avenue.
Mainstreet represents the epicenter of downtown Telluride. Here, you can find a variety of shops, bars, cafes, boutiques, bakeries, and more. There are dozens of dining options available to visitors, like the fabulous Cosmopolitan Telluride or the cozy Baked in Telluride bakery.
You can enjoy all sorts of mouth-watering cuisine downtown, like French pastries, Italian food, bison, African fusion, and even some unusual delicacies like rattlesnakes.
After you eat, pay a visit to the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art to take in the paintings, sculptures, photography, and local artwork. Then, relax in a comfy stay like AvantStay’s Spruce and recharge your batteries for your next adventure.
Conquer the San Juan Mountains
Millions of years ago, two massive continental tectonic plates crashed into each other to create a fault – a rupture between rock blocks. That fateful crash is how the San Juan Mountains were born.
Ancient glaciers carved steep mountainsides into the rock and created distinct U-shaped canyons like the box canyon surrounding Telluride.Here you can explore the tallest, most spectacular peaks in North America. There are more than 20 peaks that soar above 9,000 feet in the San Juan mountains.
The San Juan mountains were home to native Ute tribes for centuries before the arrival of European settlers in search of a fortune during the Goldrush. In recent years the mountain range has become a go-to destination for millions of tourists and outdoor adventure enthusiasts.
With so many beautiful mountains and slopes available to enjoy, it is no wonder that Telluride is considered a paradise for skiers from near and far.The Telluride Ski Resort is home to some of the steepest, most challenging mountainous terrain. You could also try snowboarding or snow skiing down the scenic mountain slopes instead.
Traverse breathtaking hiking trails
There is much more to the San Juan mountains than just winter activities.
You will find some of the most legendary Colorado hiking trails in the mountains surrounding Telluride, ranging from single-day hikes to epic adventures spent scaling 14,000-foot summits.
Hikers from everywhere come to experience the tranquil mountain views of the beautiful Telluride mountains. In the fall, the trails burst into bright explosions of yellow and gold that brighten up the mid to late-October landscape.
Bridal Veil Falls
The San Juan mountains are home to the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado, Bridal Veil Falls. The falls are 365 feet high, and every year millions of visitors flock to Telluride to explore the beautiful wilderness surrounding them.
Whether you bike, hike, swim, or ice climb, you will never be bored at Bridal Veil Falls. The trailhead also leads to Lewis Lake, Blue Lake, and other points of interest in the gorgeous Bridal Veil basin.
This hike follows a jeep road that grants gorgeous views of Bridal Veil Falls, as well as the historic power plant at the top of the falls and the entire Telluride valley. The road will also take you to Lewis Lake, Blue Lake, and other locations in the Bridal Veil basin.
If you want a good view of the falls from further away, you can try your hand at the Telluride Via Ferrata. This hybrid hiking and climbing experience is not for the faint of heart. At some points, the trail gives way to sheer cliffs, where you climb across steel rungs anchored into the rock. To take on the Via Ferrata, you will need the services of a trained guide.
Bear Creek Falls
About 6 hours up Bear Creek Canyon, you will find Bear Creek Falls. Bear Creek Trail leads you through a lovely route full of rugged cliffs that end with a stunning waterfall view.
The San Miguel Conservation Foundation works with Telluride to preserve more than 320 acres of land in Bear Creek Canyon as public open space. Here you will find an easy hike that the whole family will love.
Jud Wiebe Trail
When springtime comes to Telluride, the Jud Wiebe Trail is one of the first hiking trails to thaw out, though some avid hikers still traverse Jud Wiebe in the wintertime. The popular trail stretches for more than 3 miles and can take about 2 hours to complete. Dogs are welcome to join you on this trail as long as they have leashes on.
From May to October, this trail is also great for mountain biking and horseback riding.
Sneffels Highline Trail
If you want a more challenging hiking route, then give the Sneffels Highline Trail a shot. Explore every inch of this 13-mile loop named after the massive Mount Sneffels to the north.
The trail doesn’t take you up the mountain, but you can experience the dramatic cliffs between Mount Dallas and Mount Gilpin. On average, this trail takes just over 9 hours to complete.
Don’t be surprised if you run into fellow hikers, campers, and backpackers up there, but this is certainly an experience where you can find some peace on the trail.
The San Juan Mountains aren’t just for hiking. You can also enjoy plenty of off-road adventures and scenic driving routes along the way.
The Imogene pass is a very popular spot for high-adrenaline driving thrills, and it’s no surprise. The high mountain pass is more than 13 thousand feet tall and crosses a ridge that connects Telluride with Ouray. It is the highest pass in the San Juan Mountains and the second-tallest drivable mountain crossing in the state.
Explore the Imogen pass at your own risk, as there are lots of extremely steep areas that can be very dangerous. The risk is well worth the reward for experienced drivers who are rewarded with magnificent, panoramic views of San Miguel county.
Another famous drivable mountain pass is Black Bear Pass. Found on Black Bear Road, the pass extends more than 12 thousand feet upwards to provide an epic view of Telluride below.
Explore the San Miguel River
Located in the pastoral sprawl of the famous Telluride valley floor, the San Miguel River is just east of the Telluride canyon.
The river runs through acres of wildflowers and noble evergreens in the winter. Wildlife is abundant here, and you will often see coyotes, elk, birds, rabbits, and even prairie dogs.
You can find some of the best cold-water trout fly fishing on the San Miguel River just about 45 miles northwest of Telluride. You can also cut through twisting canyons and churning rapids if you enjoy whitewater rafting. The rafting season is rather short, mostly spanning the summer months. The San Miguel rapids are not an overly technical course. They are mostly Class II, with a few Class III along the way.
Feel awestruck at Alta Lakes
Just south of Telluride you’ll find a series of enchanting alpine lakes.
The Alta Lakes are over 11 thousand feet up, and they are named after the nearby ghost town of Alta. Alta was once a tiny, prosperous mining town, but it has been abandoned since the 1940s.
When you visit Alta Lakes, you’ll find priceless views of the Telluride Ski Resort, Silver Mountain, and Bald Mountain.
Go back in time at the Telluride Historical Museum
The Telluride Historical Museum has an impressive permanent collection of artifacts to peruse, as well as annual historical exhibitions that provide a glimpse back in time to old Telluride.
You can dive right into the region’s Ute Native heritage or brush up on its legendary mining history. Walk through ten themed rooms, each showcasing a different aspect of the town’s dramatic history.
There are a lot of interactive displays to engage with, and visitors of all ages can find something to fascinate them or tickle their fancy.
No matter how much Telluride grows and changes, this museum ensures no one will forget the legacy that created the town and shaped its present iteration.
Fall in love with Telluride Town Park
If Telluride had a beating heart, chances are you would find it at Telluride Town Park.
No matter the season, you can find locals and tourists enjoying the lovely scenery of the town park.
During the summer the park hosts music festivals, camping trips, softball games, swimming lessons, tennis matches, kid’s fishing, and so much more. In the winter, you must visit Hanley Ice Rink, Telluride’s winter ice skating pavilion.
There is also a natural outdoor rink that is open from the middle of December until the middle of February. There are also outdoor warming huts for when you come off the ice.
Take a dip at Uncompahgre National Park
There are more than 1 million acres of Colorado land inside the Uncompahgre National Forest, including parts of the San Juan Mountains around Telluride. This remote national park is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Colorado, and the land is protected by the United State National Forest Service.
Unlike some of the trails and vistas in the San Juan range, Uncompahgre National Forest is usually much less crowded and has plenty of campgrounds, hiking trails, and backcountry terrain.
There are popular fishing spots here, notably Priest Lake and Trout Lake that you can enjoy for free. Both lakes offer lots of birdwatching and plenty of wildlife activity. You can also find them surrounded by colorful wildflowers in warmer months, a view that will surely bring a smile to your face.
Brace yourself for off-road mountain biking
You can travel between Telluride and nearby Mountain Village on a 13-minute free gondola ride.
This biking gondola is the first and only public transport system of its kind in the continental US and allows bikers to access some of Colorado’s best biking trails.
You can access the gondola from either town, and there is a midway point between them located at San Sophia Overlook. The ride takes you more than 10 thousand feet in the air.
The gondola runs every day from 6:30 am to midnight, and during certain events and holidays, you may find the gondola offers extended hours. Please note that every spring and fall the gondolas are closed down for regular maintenance.
Find all the best festivals
When you think of Telluride you might think of snow and winter sports, but it’s a great summer vacation destination as well. During the warmer months, the town is host to some of the best entertainment festivals in the world.
There’s the famous Telluride Film Festival, which is one of the most celebrated film festivals in the world. Every Labor Day weekend, Telluride is full to the brim with film buffs, superstars, and everyone in between.
You can also experience the legendary Blues & Brews music festival. Every fall Telluride enjoys this multi-stage festival celebrating blues, indie, funk, gospel, and soul music. Then they wash all that good music down with some of the best craft beer in the western hemisphere.
Relax and unwind in luxurious hot springs
You can find a lot of adrenaline-fueled thrills in Telluride, but sometimes you just want a tranquil place to relax and let go of all your worries. If you need a luxurious rest day, where better to find it than one of the region’s many hot springs?
These natural mineral hot springs provide relaxation and relief all year long, and many are equipped with spa services like facials, body scrubs, and massages.
You’ll find Orvis Hot springs about 45 minutes away from Telluride. Locals love to frequent this hot spring. Or you could try Ouray Hot Springs, which is just over an hour’s drive away.
Telluride looks like a magical land from a childhood fairytale. Surrounded by tall mountains and bursting with wildlife and natural beauty, it’s no wonder the town has become one of the country’s most legendary vacation destinations.
Founded during America’s rugged wild west era, Telluride has never lost its unpretentious charm and never adopted the ritzier reputation of neighboring ski resort towns in the Rockies.
The town has something for everyone to enjoy – no matter your age or what you want out of your trip. Though it is only eight blocks wide and 12 blocks long, Telluride is far from being a mundane mountain town.
You can ease into the small-town mountain lifestyle for sure, but you can also experience larger-than-life thrills on the slopes or trails. It’s all up to you.
There’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Telluride. Whatever you decide, you’ll never forget the time spent here, and you’ll want to start planning your return to a Telluride cabin as soon as possible.