While visiting the town of Montrose, Colorado, we took a day trip to the lovely town of Telluride, located amongst the San Juan Mountains, in the Uncompahgre National Forest. The drive there was about an hour-and-a-half and was full of gorgeous, mountainous views. When we eventually pulled into Telluride, we couldn’t wait to explore this little town that we had heard so much about.
When we arrived mid-morning, the town was already alive and well, full of plenty of hustle and bustle. As expected, we saw lots and lots of dogs, since we had heard from several people that Telluride is super dog-friendly. This was reassuring, since we had decided to bring our border collie, Max, along for the day trip. Spoiler alert: he had a blast!
While we could have easily spent weeks in this beautiful city, we only had a single day there. However, we saw as much as we could in about six hours time, and it was one of our favorite day trips to date. If you are planning a trip to Telluride (for one day only or longer), we highly recommend the following activities for the quintessential Telluride experience.
1. Explore downtown
The first thing we did in Telluride was to walk Main Street and explore the downtown area. While not a huge area, there are so many shops, restaurants, and more, all located along this strip of road running straight through the center of the city. Most places are dog-friendly, and if they are not, there is ample puppy parking for your dog to wait while you go inside! We had so much fun wandering the various outdoor gear shops and checking out the old town and it’s Western architecture. Max enjoyed it too!
2. Grab a meal, a drink, or a coffee
After wandering Main Street, we stopped at The Coffee Cowboy, a small, bustling coffee cart on a well-decorated patio. Since it was warming up, we both grabbed iced coffees and brought them to the nearby downtown park to enjoy them in the sunshine.
While in Telluride, we didn’t eat at any restaurants, but we have heard amazing things about La Marmotte and Brown Dog Pizza. If we were to return to this little town, we would definitely make the time to eat at one of these two restaurants.
3. Check out the town park
Just off of Main Street is the Telluride Town Park, where we briefly stopped to enjoy the sunshine and views from a park bench. Here, there is a little fishing pond, a playground, ample seating, and plenty of bike trails. This is also the location of the festivals and concerts that frequent Telluride in the warm summer months.
4. Stroll along the riverwalk
Adjacent to the Town Park is a beautiful and well-maintained walkway beside the San Miguel River. This trail crosses a few bridges and is totally dog-friendly. Max had a blast splashing in the river, as we enjoyed the mountainous views around us. The river was pretty tiny in mid-July, but we have heard that it is much larger and more powerful in the spring months.
5. Ride the FREE gondola (dog-friendly and bike-friendly!)
Our favorite part of our visit to Telluride was riding the free gondola. Yes, you heard that right. The gondola is totally free to ride, and, to top that off, it is dog-friendly to boot! This gondola is used as a form of public transportation in Telluride, and transports visitors from the city of Telluride to Mountain Village on the other side of some tall peaks. There are racks for bikes on every car, and gondolas arrive every fifteen to thirty seconds or so, leaving little wait time.
The views ascending and descending are vast and sweeping, and we would have rode the gondola for the views alone. Max wasn’t the biggest fan of the swinging car, but he did just fine, and he made some new friends each time we rode.
6. Explore Mountain Village
Once you arrive on the other side of the ridge, you enter Telluride’s sister city of Mountain Village. This lovely town is home to year-round residents, retirees, vacationers, and the like. It is a bit quieter than the city of Telluride, but there is still plenty to do. Restaurants and shops abound, as well as lots of hiking and biking trails. If you wish to go even higher, there are lots of ski lifts which can transport you and your bike to a much higher elevation. And, obviously, this is the hub for the famous Telluride winter sports that we would so love to return for.
7. Hike or bike a trail
From the top of Mountain Village, there are tons of hiking and biking trails. We opted for a two-mile downhill hike on the Ridge Trail, which begins at Station San Sophia, a stop halfway between Telluride Station and Station Mountain Village. The trail then descends about a thousand feet through aspen forests with plenty of views, ending back at Mountain Village. It is for hikers only, which is ideal for a popular mountain biking area. As is everything in Telluride, it is very dog-friendly, and Max was able to hike with us off-leash.
If you are into mountain biking, this is also an ideal area, filled with tons of trails. The gondola makes it very easy to descend many downhill trails, without ever having to deal with uphill climbing. We heard from several mountain bikers with whom we shared gondolas that they could easily bomb eight to ten trails in a single day.
8. Hike to Bridal Veil Falls
Another popular activity in the Telluride area is to hike to Bridal Veil Falls. We didn’t have time for this during our visit, but we have heard that it is a beautiful hike, especially in the springtime when the snowmelt makes the falls roar. The trail is 3.6 miles in length and ascends 1,600 feet to a 365-foot tall waterfall. It is a family-friendly and dog-friendly trail that is very popular with both tourists and locals.
Alternatively, you can drive to the top of the falls with a 4×4, high-clearance vehicle. From the top, you can hike to the waterfall basin or just observe the roaring water from above.
Laughably, we read online that the town’s name comes from a phrase uttered by locals in the nineteenth century, “to hell you ride,” which eventually morphed into the name “Telluride.” To us, there was nothing hellish about this area, but we could see why people of the 1800s would consider the drive here frightening. At one point, Telluride was only accessible via a series of alpine mountain passes, that are considered off-roading challenges to this day. A popular trail is Imogene, an eleven-mile trail from Ouray to Telluride which takes upwards of four hours to drive.
We really loved Telluride and even remarked to each other that we could see ourselves calling these mountains home one day. The year-round outdoorsy culture and beautiful views make this an ideal spot to vacation or just visit periodically. We met some vacationers who told us that they have been visiting two times a year for the past eight years and have not yet grown tired of the plethora of things to do. I think that speaks to the town’s fun and lively culture, and I am already looking forward to returning here for a longer visit one day.
Have you been to Telluride, Colorado? How was your experience! Feel free to share your thoughts or anything fun to do in the area that I missed below!