Telluride – Alpine Gem

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While Celia was on the East Coast visiting family, I made my way to the town of Telluride, which is over 8,700 feet in elevation, from our base in Montrose, Colorado. It is an hour and a half drive from Montrose with beautiful scenery along the way. Looking at a map, you do not realize how long a drive it is between some of these towns that are nestled among the San Juan Mountains.

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Telluride is perhaps the best known town in the region and is a destination within itself. It is a famous ski town but is very busy in the summer as well. It appeared that many folks were here for extended stays enjoying the cooler high-altitude weather. Many pedestrians greeted passersby by name as they walked down the main street.

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Telluride, like many of the towns in this area, began as a mining town. It was founded in 1878 after gold was discovered in 1875. It was originally named Columbia but the post office insisted on a name change due to confusion over a California town by the same name. Mining continued to be the sole focus of the town until the 1970’s when a ski lift was built in Telluride. Hundreds of thousands of visitors later, the town is a tourism mecca, aided by visits from the rich and famous such as Oprah, Ralph Lauren, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Jerry Seinfeld, and many others.


The town is more “upscale” than any we have visited in Colorado. People strolling down the streets in nice dress clothes intermingled with those in hiking attire. The numerous Victorian homes from its mining town days also gives Telluride a stately feel but not pretentious. I wonder what the locals think of Kia Motors calling a SUV: “Telluride.”

Telluride, being a tourism “hot spot,” also means things are a bit pricey. I asked some construction workers if there was a place in town where I could get a burger for under $20 and their answer was, “Being honest with you, no way. I just bought a $16 burrito and it is nothing but rice, sorry.”

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The town is very walk-able and one of the highlights is taking the free gondola ride to Mountain Village which is on the other side of the mountain from Telluride. The 13 minute gondola ride offers excellent views of Telluride and the San Juan Mountains.

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Mountain Village is the resort center for skiing and is a modern styled town with housing, shops, restaurants, etc.

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In the summer, it is also a mecca for mountain bike riding. The ski runs become the downhill trails for the numerous bikers that take advantage of this sport.

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The gondola advertises that it is very dog friendly and I snapped a photo of a “canine friendly gondola” ad.

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I took the gondola ride up to Mountain Village and walked around a little. The gondola has a “stop” halfway up when it reaches the top of the mountain (10,535 feet). You can get off there to take in the views and then later hop back on. It turns out there is a trail back down to the town of Telluride. I decided to hike down instead of taking the gondola. The downhill path weaves back and forth under the gondola towers and offers great views of the valley. You can even see some of the area waterfalls in the distance. By the time I reached the town at the bottom, my sore feet reminded me why there is a gondola!

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take the hike I had traveled to Telluride to do. I was told at the visitor center that the road to Bridal Veil Falls was currently closed for repairs that week. The region had large amounts of snow this year and some of the roads have been damaged and needed work. It was the only time this summer that visitors could not see the falls. We rarely leave an area without things we would like to do “next time.” I will have to put Bridal Veil Falls on our “to-do” list for our return trip.

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I think anytime would be a perfect time to see Telluride, but I noticed that there are aspens everywhere, so the fall season must be an amazing time to visit. The bright yellow aspen leaves against the mountain backdrop would be beautiful.

As I traveled back to Montrose, Colorado I knew I would be passing through the quaint town of Ridgway. I said to myself, if there is an ice cream sign I am stopping! Sure enough, as entered the town, there was a very large wooden graphic of an ice cream cone. Here was my sign. I sat on the western-style wooden sidewalk and enjoyed my favorite treat. What a perfect finish to a memorable day in the San Juan Mountains.

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