The Back Road to Telluride

Telluride, Colorado has been on my radar for quite sometime.  Although I’ve called Colorado’s Front Range home for nearly eighteen years, between work and children there never seemed to be enough time to explore Colorado’s Western Slope until now.

Lost Dollar

Last Dollar Road on the way to Telluride, CO

Al and I review the atlas and peruse all the info we picked up at the Ridgway State Park Visitor center.  From Ridgway State Park to the mountain ski town of Telluride should be about an hours drive if we stick to the main roads.  Hmm, we have all day.  What’s the hurry?

TellurideThis southwest part of the state of Colorado was a buzz of mining activity in the 1800’s.  Even Telluride’s logo is that of a miner’s pick.   This mining activity created a multitude of back roads throughout the picturesque San Juan Mountains.  Today these back roads are available for jeeps and OHV (off highway vehicles).

Some of these back roads are assessable by regular automobiles, but most require high clearance, and others demand 4 wheel drive capabilities.  The roads might be gravel, dirt, rock or any combination of the three.

Last Dollar Road

Last Dollar Road – this road is classified as “easy”

My little red 4 wheel drive Toyota Tacoma should be able to handle most of the roads we researched.  However, Al and I err on the side of caution and pick a couple of “easy” roads to explore this week.  One of which is called the “Last Dollar Road”.  As far as mileage goes, this should be a shorter traveling distance to Telluride than taking the main roads.  However, time wise…..double.  Obviously, I won’t be taking this puppy at 60 miles per hour.

Last Dollar Road

some ruts were a little deep, but no problem for us.

For the most part, it was an easy drive even though we veered to the left at a fork in the road.  The publication informed us a left at the fork would be a little more challenging.  Some of the ruts, mud, and water would definitely present a problem for a vehicle without a high clearance.  For us, it wasn’t a problem and the drive presented some amazing scenery complete with wildflowers.Telluride



It’s the end of July and the wildflowers are starting to wane, but I’m still thrilled with the tuffs of color here and there.  All the more reason for us to return to this area next July during the peak of wildflower season.Telluride

The drive from Ridgway State Park to Telluride took us about two hours and that included all the stops for photo ops.  Not bad, and it sure was pretty.

TellurideOnce in Telluride, we stop at the visitor center.  Al always likes to ask locals where they enjoy eating.  We find ourselves at a kind of sports bar  housed in an old house off a side street.  It appears to be a favorite among locals.  Lunch was delish!

After lunch we head over to the Gondola station for a free Gondola ride up and over the summit to Mountain Village.  On our walk to the Gondola, we encountered a farmer’s market and quickly took notes as to some potential purchases on our return to the vehicle.  No sense in carrying stuff for the next hour.

GondolaThe Gondola operates year round free of charge and is a common form of transportation for workers, school children, mountain bikers, and hikers….and then of course there’s folks like Al and me – tourists.  Oh, and it’s pooch friendly as well.

The Telluride side of the mountain is pretty darn steep.  The Mountain Village side appears to be more moderate.  That’s where these two young boys are headed.  They’ll disembark at the summit and ride their bikes back down toward the town of Mountain Village.  We also saw quite a few hikers doing this as well.  We saw very few heading down on the Telluride side of the mountain.Telluride


With our ‘tourist’ day coming to an end, we pick up some goodies at the farmer’s market and promise each other a return trip to this beautiful mountain town.  We take the highway back to Ridgway State Park and arrive in about an hour.  I’ll admit, even the scenery via the highway was lovely……not quite as beautiful as the Last Dollar Road but lovely just the same.  It’ll be tough to top this awesome day!Telluride


58 thoughts on “The Back Road to Telluride

  1. Pingback: Hooray for Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado - Food, travel, music: A Table For One, Please!

  2. What a beautiful scenic day you two had! The pictures are terrific and capture the sense of your tourist day… And, I really enjoy your writing.

  3. This took me back to our camping trip years ago. Your photos are simply beautiful Ingrid. Colorado has to be one of the most beautiful states in this country.

    • I still think you should do some posts on some of your past travels. I for one, would love to hear about them. Just a thought…..but then again, perhaps you’ll just need to revisit 🙂

  4. Gorgeous shots, Ingrid. Telluride is one place I’ve always wanted to see. We made it close on one trip, but ran out of time. Such a loss.

  5. Isn’t it soooo nice to be able to take your time and scratch every darn itch you have? We took a back road to Cripple Creek,Co. once..Muffler loosened up on the way back and we luckily ran across an old “mom and pop” gas station owned by a young couple…He fixed it for $10..Den gave him a $20 ;-)….You and Al look wonderful…relaxed and enjoying life..That’s what it’s all about…and, as I said before…think “journal”..

    • Thanks for saying we look wonderful…..we think we look old…lol. Yeah, I’m rethinking the journal thing and you are so right about being able to take our time. We actually have to remind ourselves that we don’t have anything or anyone to take into consideration when planning our day…..strange but awesome. 🙂

  6. Stellar photographs, Ingrid! I love following your blog because you remind me of all the wonderful places I have yet to see in Colorado. Thank you for that kindness.

    • Thank you. We live in a great state but sometimes every day life seems to get in the way. Hope it doesn’t take you as long to discover the western slope as it did us 🙂

  7. I love the one of you on the mountain top! I think I have that same shirt :O) Tough looking drive but nothing going to stop you that’s for sure. And was it worth it…yes indeed! Just out of this world!!

    • Just got that shirt at Cabela’s….super comfy. Not a tough drive for Colorado back road standards AND yes worth it. Ton’s of fun 🙂

  8. Beautiful photos Ingrid. And I have to agree with your comment above. Sometimes it’s hard to take a bad photo when the scenery is so stunning but your framing is wonderful. Great to see wildflowers so late in the season. Now then, that easy road? I’d hate to see the difficult road!

    • Yeah, we actually encountered two really rough spots on that road. So we didn’t venture onto any of the more difficult ones….maybe next time. Sure is beautiful!

    • Thanks….I’m sure you’ve experienced Black Bear Pass – I’ll need to check your blogs archives 🙂 Feel free to use the photo. I think the passer by who offered to snap our photo knew what she was doing in the photography dept.

    • Why thank you… guys are looking pretty good yourselves. You and Steve need to put this area high on your list. You’ll love it 🙂

    • It’s a lot easier for us now to get out on some of the rougher roads with the little truck. Traveling with two vehicles has it’s pluses and minuses…for now it’s definitely a plus to really get off the beaten path.

  9. What a great area. I don’t think it matters which road you take out west, there seems to be beauty everywhere. But, I do like the idea of the Jeep roads, always makes the ride a lot more interesting. How neat is that gondola as means of transportation for the locals and free for everyone! What a great day!

    Love the photo of you and Al:)

    • Thanks. We’re really enjoying this part of Colorado and hope to return next summer to explore more of these back roads and hiking trails.

  10. One of my favorite things about Colorado were the fun back roads. Looks like the drive from Ridgeway to Telluride was a good one. Love that the gondola is free- and dog friendly. Beautiful photos!

    • We were surprised with the gondola. In Aspen they wanted $28 and in Telluride free (fits my budget). It’s actually a form of public transportation for locals commuting between Telluride and Mountain Village….very cool. We’re loving this part of CO.

  11. I enjoy how you stop to smell the roses and take it all in…yesterday we took a day trip and I wanted to pull off the road and check out an old barn, look at the wild flowers at 0 mph instead of 60… but I didn’t or couldn’t… I know there will come a day when it is my turn to live, laugh, rv of sorts. I can’t wait. You inspire me.. take care, keep those photos and memories coming!

    • There’s a fine line between stopping for photos and continuing onto ones destination. When I’m focused on getting somewhere, I usually don’t stop even though I think that I should have. Baby steps, vacations here and there are sometimes the best!

    • Why thank you. Hubby and I usually don’t like photos of ourselves these days, but we love this background and had such a great day, the picture is a perfect reminder.

  12. I just went back to see how long I’ve been enjoying your blog posts… almost a year now, 27 Aug I started to follow you… now I can’t wait for your next posts, they’re addictive….

  13. I think you have so many more awesome days ahead of you, you cannot count them…. I am so enjoying your (may I call it retirement?) jaunt… this place looks amazing…
    Ingrid, I ask this question with a smile on my face, have you thought of keeping this type journal of all your “jaunts”, and say at the end of the year try and publish it in book form,??? You do these little explanations so damn well that you could just take your posts and put them in a chronological order… I recon it would sell well to those that want to know a little more about the areas you’ve been to in your travels when they want to go to those areas… Al can even tell them which are the best places to eat…. Or even maybe a website with a list of the places you’ve visited and have those places link back to your blog.???? Give it some thought… you lucky couple …

  14. Love those high mountain drives in CO! What a great photo of the two of you. Looks like the lifestyle is agreeing with you!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

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