Telluride, an old mining town tucked into a box canyon surrounded by towering mountains, is simply Colorado’s most beautiful town. The quaint streets are filled with gingerbread Victorian houses and brick buildings, and it’s host to a world-class ski resort by winter and a mountain paradise by summer. A weekend in Telluride is about getting outside by fishing in high mountain rivers, jeeping over passes, hiking and biking aspen-lined trails, and reveling in the clear mountain air. Here’s the plan for your perfect weekend in Telluride.
Day 1—History, Mountain Village, Hiking Trails, and Alta Lakes
It’s a long drive to Telluride from the Colorado Front Range, so you’re going to be hungry when you roll into town. If you crave a cup of joe, hit up Coffee Cowboy for a steaming cup or an iced mocha. For a sit-down breakfast, try Baked in Telluride for a sandwich or pastry, The Butcher & Baker Café, or the Chop House Restaurant at the New Sheridan Hotel.
Spend the morning visiting the Telluride Historical Museum, housed in a 1896 hospital, to learn about the town’s rich mining past. Exhibits, photographs, and programs detail geology, Native American life, gold and silver mining, and the railroad. Afterward, take a self-guided historic walking tour around town and look at mining relics and Victorian buildings.
Head over to Oak Street and board the free gondola, which whisks you from Telluride to Mountain Village at the base of the Telluride Ski Resort in 13 minutes. The scenic ride offers an eagle’s-eye perspective of Telluride in the valley below. Spend the rest of the morning in Mountain Village, which offers trails for mountain bikers and hikers, a man-made block for bouldering, a disc golf course, fishing in Elk Pond, playgrounds for kids, and golfing at Telluride Golf Course, an 18-hole course at 9,500 feet.
Burn calories by hiking in the early afternoon. Telluride is surrounded by waterfalls, so check out one of the best by hiking 2.5 miles to Bear Creek Falls, a gusher surrounded by cliffs. If you’re up for a longer hike, the moderate three-mile Jud Wiebe Trail, a local favorite, climbs past wildflower-filled meadows, golden aspen groves, and spacious views. An easier family-friendly hike is the San Miguel River Trail, a trail along the river through Telluride and down the Valley Floor. The west segment is mostly level and paved. It’s great for biking or walking. The east section passes Town Park and climbs to the Idarado Legacy Trail.
If you’re ready to get even higher into the alpine, take CO-145 South toward Mountain Village. After almost 5.5 miles, turn left onto Alta Lakes Road and follow a twisting dirt road to Alta Lakes, three sparkling lakes in a cirque below 13,470-foot Silver Mountain. The stunning area offers dispersed campsites, mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, canoeing, and spectacular views of the Ophir Needles and the San Miguel Mountains. Be sure to visit the ghost town of Alta, which flourished as a mining hub from 1877 to 1948.
Dinner is in Telluride. Condé Nast readers list Telluride in its top 20 Best American Cities for Foodies—high praise for a place that’s not a city. There are plenty of options, so pick what fits your taste and budget. Recommended eateries are La Marmotte, Chop House Restaurant, Cosmopolitan, 221 South Oak, and there. Later, stroll down Colorado Avenue. Check out the schedule at the Sheridan Opera House if you want live music or the Last Dollar Saloon, nicknamed The Buck. This 1889 dive bar is perfect for late night drinks but bring cash.
Day 2—Via Ferrata, River Rafting, Jeeping the Passes, and Canyon Scenery
Grab a quick breakfast like a donut or pastry at Baked in Telluride and head to Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado’s tallest waterfall at 365 feet. The spectacular falls plunge off a cliff in a spray of mist. Hike or bike for 1.8 miles up an old road to the top of the waterfall and dramatic views.
For more adventure, try climbing the Telluride Via Ferrata, an “iron road” of cables, metal rungs, and ladders that traverses a vertical cliff near Bridal Veil. The most exposed part is a 300-foot section over 200 feet of air. If you’re not an experienced climber, hire a guide at San Juan Mountain Guides to stay safe.
Stop by The Market at Telluride for fresh fruit, cheese, and baguette for a picnic lunch at the Town Park, then head out for an afternoon among the peaks. One of the best ways to see the mountains is from a 4×4 vehicle. Narrow jeep roads over high passes are the miners’ legacy to Telluride. The best tracks are over Imogene Pass and Ophir Pass. The 17-mile Tomboy Road, climbing past Tomboy ghost town, climbs to the top of 13,114-foot Imogene Pass before dropping to Ouray, while the Ophir Pass Road edges to its 12,789-foot summit. Dangerous Black Bear Pass, descending one-way to Telluride, is an extreme steering-wheel adventure. Rent a 4×4 in town or take a guided trip with Telluride Outside.
Finish your Telluride getaway by driving north on the 133-mile Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway to Grand Junction. Pick up state highway 141 and the byway at Placerville. The lonely road passes a historic hanging flume built in the 1890s, twists up a deep gorge carved by the Dolores River, and finishes through Unaweep Canyon, the only canyon with two mouths in Colorado. It’s a fitting end to one of the best Colorado weekends of your life.