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Things to do in Telluride

Telluride boasts the most spectacular setting of any Colorado town. Its population of 2,300 is nestled into a box canyon surrounded by the jagged San Juan mountains. Telluride, with its pastel Victorian houses, 1886 Courthouse, New Sheridan Hotel, and Sheridan Opera House, retains an Old West charm and boasts one of top ski resorts in North America. People say that the name “Telluride” came from a compound found in gold, or maybe it’s from the call of the miners heading down to this remote canyon, “To hell you ride!” they were said to shout. The town began as a rowdy mining town in 1875 and flourished until the 1893 silver crash shuttered the mines. By 1930, the population hovered at 512, even though $60 million of metals was extracted from the district at the turn of the 20th century.

Snow, abundant during Telluride’s winters, saved the town and created a new gold rush. From humble beginnings, Telluride Ski Area was born and by the 1980s, when the airport opened, it became a full-fledged ski resort. Now Telluride’s casual attitude, homespun glitz, superb skiing, and stunning mountain scenery put it at the top of the A-list for outdoor fun.

Winter activities in this region include downhill skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, dog sledding, and ice climbing on Bridal Veil Falls for hardy adventurers. The Telluride Ski Resort has terrain for every level of skier, including some of the best in-bounds expert runs. The area offers 148 runs on over 2,000 acres with a vertical drop of 4,425 feet and an astounding 309 inches of snow every winter. Galloping Goose, its longest run, is 4.6 miles long.

After the snow melts, Telluride gears up for summer fun. The surrounding mountains are ground zero for alpine recreation with hiking trails, peaks to climb, bouldering and rock climbing areas, lakes and streams for fishing, mountain bike trails, scenic drives, waterfalls, hot springs, historic sites, ghost towns, 4×4 road adventures, camping, and festivals that celebrate Colorado.

Hiking, with over 100 nearby trails, is Telluride’s most popular activity. West of town rise three Fourteeners —Mount Wilson, El Diente Peak, and Wilson Peak — along with Lizard Head Peak, Colorado’s hardest 13,000-foot mountain. A host of great trails, including Sneffels Highline Trail and Deep Creek Trail, explore the hills north of town. A maze of paths threads through the Mountain Village Area, along with Bear Creek Trail to Bear Creek Falls.

If you’re an off-road enthusiast, the Telluride area yields some of Colorado’s best 4×4 tracks for jeeps and ATVs. The one-way Black Bear Pass Road, climbing over a 12,840-foot pass, is reputedly the state’s scariest trail and only for experienced drivers. Tamer tours cross 13,114-foot Imogene Pass, one of Colorado’s highest roads, and Ophir Pass. The area also abounds in scenic drives, with the best the San Juan Skyway, a giant loop through Cortez, Durango, and Ouray.

Climbers head to Telluride to test their nerve on Ophir Cliff above the old town of Ophir, or on bolted sport routes on cliffs by Telluride. A popular and safe outing is the Telluride Via Ferrata, a horizontal climbing route with cables, ladders, and big bolts that begins near Bridal Veil Falls.

Other great Telluride outings are visiting waterfalls, including Cornet Creek Falls and Bridal Veil Falls; hiking to gorgeous lakes like Navajo Lake, Hope Lake, and Blue Lake, fly fishing in the San Miguel River northwest of town, driving the Last Dollar Road, taking a nine-mile raft trip on the Lower San Miguel River, and playing a round of golf at the scenic Telluride Golf Course.