Destination: Telluride, Colorado
About: This mining town is now the spot for music festivals, hiking, and skiing in Southwestern Colorado
Route: See all options below
Distance: 361 Miles from Denver
Time: 6 1/2 hours
Trip Length: Overnight
Season: Summer, Fall or Winter
Sleeping: AirBnb or Hotel
To-Hell-U-Ride – Telluride has always held a special place in my heart. When I was little we went on a great ski trip here. We flew into the scariest airports in the world on top of a mountain and I left blanky on the flight from Salt Lake! Our bags didn’t make the trip either but they magically our bags and blanky arrived in the middle of the storm with a big thump on the door – then you baggage man for bringing me my blank!
Anyway, Telluride is a historic mining town founded in 1878 in 1972 the first ski lift was installed and the town’s identity and the population shifted from mining to tourism and mining families to hippies, outdoor adventurers and the rich & famous.
Telluride is absolutely beautiful and beautiful in a way that no other mountain town in Colorado can compare. Telluride sits in a Box Canon meaning you enter from a tiny slit in a 4 walled canyon but this canyon is totally vertical. The San Juans are straight up so wherever you look in Telluride you are looking directly at mountains and then up to the sky. Totally different vista than Breck or Crested Butte where you sit in a wide valley with big skies and big mountains.
How to Get to Telluride
Telluride is not easy to get too. Over the years Telluride has become a place for the rich and famous to vacation, live and retire. But it is by no means Aspen! Telluride still holds on to its cowboy mountain town roots even if the real estate is astronomical. But once you make the trip there you will understand, it was all worth it.
To get to Telluride you will most likely need to rent a car however depending on where you fly in there are shuttles to Telluride.
Denver to Telluride Driving – 6 ½ hours
Denver to Telluride Flying – 1 hour 15 mins flight but limited airlines
Montrose to Telluride – Closest major airport – 1 hour 20 mins
Gunnison to Telluride – 2 ½ hours
Grand Junction to Telluride – 2 ½ hours
The Lay of the Land
Telluride is split into two areas, Town and Mountain Village. Since the town is in a box canyon there is only so much space to expand. Mountain Village sits on the backside of the ski resort. This is where you will find the ritzy hotels, ski lodges, huge mountain homes, and the golf course. It takes about 15 mins to drive between the through mostly because it’s going out to town then up a mountain. You can also take the Gondola from town to Mountain Village which I highly suggest.
If I had my choice I would always stay in Town but we have stayed in Mountain Village multiple times for Bluegrass and weddings and it’s never an issue.
Just double check when the last gondola runs so you don’t get stuck in town. Yes, sometimes the line is long but you will get up eventually and the singles lines moves pretty fast too!
When to Visit Telluride
Winter for skiing, Fall for hiking & scenic drives, Summer for all the fun. Spring is for skiing. Don’t come in late April and May, this is not the time to be in Colorado.
If you are wanting to hit one of the major festivals like Bluegrass, Ride Fest, Blues & Brews or a big holiday like the 4th then you will need to plan in advance. Tickets sell out almost immediately and Airbnb starts booking up a year out.
Telluride Bluegrass is hands down one of my favorite weekends of the year, Telluride is already magical but the place really comes alive that weekend and the town is just a buzz – read my guide to Telluride Bluegrass to plan your trip.
Where to Eat & Drink in Telluride
Truth be told most of the time I’m in Telluride is for Bluegrass and I am eating dumplings in the festival. Seriously, there is an amazing dumpling stand! Note that there are two small grocery stores in town. I suggest stopping in Montrose for all your supplies as a selection in town can be pricy.
- Baked in Telluride – Breakfast, baked goods, pizza, and some groceries
- The Sheridan – Drinks on the New Sheridan rooftop, dinner at the chophouse, pool & more drinks at the Sheridan bar.
- Rustico – Delicious Italian dining and a great patio
- Brown Dog Pizza – Best pizza in town
- Smugglers Brewery & Restaurant – In 8th grade this was my first meal after a 5-day backpacking trip. Great food and patio away from the hustle and bustle of the main street.
- Wood Ear – Ramen & Tacos, odd combo but it works.
- There – For a fun dinner – good for groups!
- The Butcher & Baker – Breakfast
Where to Catch Live Music
What to do
Hiking in Telluride
Like I said most of the time we are in Telluride is for Bluegrass so not much time hiking but here are a few I have done and loved.
Bear Creek Trail – This hike is a gorgeous, perfect early morning hike before brunch or lunch. You start right from town and mostly hike in evergreens before making a steep but short ascent to Bear Creek Falls. The view looking back from the falls is gorgeous!
Bridal Veil Falls – This is the gorgeous waterfall you can see from town. You can hike or drive with a 4 wheel drive vehicle. This is a really fun hike/drive to see the 365-foot waterfall up close and the Historic Powerhouse that sits up there too.
Jud Web Trail – Part of this trail was closed so we didn’t do the full loop but this hike will get your heart pounding as you hike up from town for epic views of town.
Check out more hikes on All Trails and Telluride.com
Skiing in Telluride is some of the best in the country especially for advance skiers but if you’re a noobie they have great runs for you too!
I skied here as a little girl and the trip was so memorable. I didn’t have goggles and a couple on the ski lift was very concerned and gave me their Glasses – wtf Sonny! I also skied like a boss and loved this one run in the trees so much! I remember flying out one time down the hill pass these teenage boys who said “WOAH look at that kid rip” then they saw my ponytail as I flew by added “And its a girl!!!” – Life made, honestly probably why I have the confidence I do – LOL.
My parents told us to meet them at the gorgeous Peaks Hotel after skiing for Apres ski and swimming. My brothers and I got there really early and order Shirly temples (this was our go-to fancy drink order) and ate bar snacks and charged them to some random room. In retrospect, my parents probably got there and paid for them but I do remember my brother giving the waitress a fake room number hahaha. When my parents got there then we went to the pool. Omg, this pool is next level. It has an indoor two-story slide!!! DOPE so so DOPE. Like I said best freaking ski trip!
Fall in The San Juans
The San Juans are home to some really impressive aspen groves. The Million Dollar Highway is an absolutely stunning drive from Durango to Telluride in the Fall. I did the trip a few years ago and can’t wait to take Clay back someday – it’s unreal. If you’re staying in Telluride you can go from Telluride > Oury> Silverton> Durango and come back the same way or continue the loop from Durango to Telluride. Durango to Telluride is pretty long at 2 hours and only about half of it is really pretty. This could also be done the reverse – Telluride >Durango>Silverton> Ouray. Just check google maps and see which way you want to do. I would suggest stopping off in Ouray at their incredible hot springs!
Floating, Swiming, SUPing and Kayaking in Telluride
The San Miguel River – This pristine river flows right through town. If the water level isn’t too high (ask around in town) grab a tube and head to Town Park and float through town. Or grab your camping chair and find a place along the river to make a little beach and enjoy the day.
Trout Lake – I have only driven by Trout Lake but it looks like a freakin dream! I had never driven past the turn to Mountain Village and was blown away by how stunning this lake was. You can rent kayaks or Sup on this gorgeous alpine lake. Definitely on my bucket list for next year.
I hope you make the trip to Telluride it’s seriously worth every penny! Check out my other Colorado Mountain Town Guides.