Telluride | Everyone’s Favorite

Telluride | Everyone’s Favorite

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like Telluride, Colorado.  If I had to recommend one Colorado mountain town to visit, it would definitely be Telluride.  There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy. Besides, how could anyone resist a place where there’s usually a herd of elk in a meadow on the edge of town welcoming visitors to the area?

We’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past several years, and we were never disappointed. First off, Telluride is beautiful. It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs with the impressive Bridal Veil Falls seen at the far end of the canyon.

Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining settlement. By the 1970s, the extensive mining in the area was replaced by ski tourism, and by the mid-1990s, Colorado’s best-kept secret was discovered by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and Oliver Stone.

Although Telluride is well-known for outstanding ski slopes, the summer months have become even more popular with tourists as the town hosts a variety of festivals all summer long, including film festivals and endurance events.

Telluride, Colorado
Looking down Colorado Ave (main street) in Telluride, CO

Continuing with our Top 5 Favorite Colorado Mountain Towns

In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they are just too much fun not to.

Telluride, Colorado

Telluride’s festival season kicks off at the end of May and is host to a variety of festivals held each weekend. The diversity of festivals range from Music to Brews to Wine, Yoga, Film, Sports, and more.

There’s also no shortage of summer activities available for individuals and families alike. One of my favorite things to do is hike to Bridal Veil Falls. There’s a hiking trail that takes hikers from town all the way out toward the falls. The trail allows me to admire the beautiful architecture along the way, which is a unique blend of old and new.

The colorful Victorian-era homes that I pass always captivate my attention. These Victorian-era homes help preserve Telluride’s historically significant architecture. The town of Telluride is just eight blocks wide and twelve blocks long and is designated a National Historic Landmark District due to its role in the history of the American West.

Tidbit:  The famous bank robber, Butch Cassidy, committed his first recorded major crime in Telluride by robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 and exiting the bank with over $24,000.

One of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat is at the Smuggler’s Brew Pub.  Al particularly enjoys their brew called Debauchery. I think the name speaks for itself and considering its high alcohol content combined with Telluride’s high elevation, one drink is usually enough … that is, if your goal is to be able to still walk straight. Picking up a bite to eat at the Friday morning farmers market is also a fun option, and of course, we never head home without picking up a few fresh items. And I never miss the opportunity to take the gondola ride up and over to Mountain Village … a bonus not to be missed.

Mountain Village

Mountain Village, Colorado
Mountain Village

The Town of Mountain Village is a European-style village that was founded in 1987 and sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet.

The architecture and feel between the two towns of Telluride and Mountain Village are vastly different. Where Telluride offers that old town historical western feel, Mountain Village offers a feel of polish and elegance that reeks of money – in a good way. I absolutely love the architecture around here.

The two towns are connected by a 13-minute gondola ride that is the only free public transportation system of its kind in the U.S. This popular scenic attraction provides access to hiking and biking trails during the summer and the ski slopes during the winter.

But Telluride isn’t the only mountain town worth visiting in this part of Colorado.  Nestled in the San Juan Mountains are three more quaint and scenic towns, each with its own vibe and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them as a must-visit.

Other must-visit mountain towns near Telluride; Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway

No visit to this part of Colorado and the San Juan Mountain range would be complete without visiting the beautiful little mountain towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway. As the crow flies, Ouray and Telluride are less than twenty miles apart, but taking the shortcut would require a four-wheel drive vehicle and a few hours to spare. The regular car route between Telluride and Ouray is around 50 miles and will take about an hour.

horses near Ridgway, Colorado

Ouray, Colorado

Not only is Ouray known as the Switzerland of America, but it’s also considered the Jeeping Capitol of the World with over 500 miles of accessible high country 4WD trails.

Tidbits: Ouray is pronounced ‘your-ray’ … hurrah for Ouray! I don’t recommend using a GPS in this part of Colorado. First, these three mountain towns are located along Highway 550 and as long as you stay on the paved road, you won’t need a map let alone a GPS to find your way around. Second, with miles and miles of former mining roads, some GPS view these roads as accessible, leading many a visitor astray. Don’t be fooled and turn off that GPS!

So, with all these former mining roads to explore, renting a 4×4 vehicle in Ouray won’t be a problem, but you’ll need to wait until the month of July before these roads are somewhat clear of snow. I highly recommend stopping in at the visitor center in Ouray and picking up a map of the backcountry roads and checking up to date road conditions.

During previous visits, Al and I have taken the Toyota Tacoma on a couple of the “easy” 4×4 roads.  The map info is very helpful in rating these roads and we wanted to start easy and work our way up.  We’ve taken Last Dollar Road to Telluride and Owl Creek Pass to Silver Jack Reservoir.  Both drives were enjoyable and neither road took us above tree line. During our explorations, with the exception of a couple of rutted areas, a Subaru or CRV could handle these two 4×4 roads. BUT please check recent road conditions before attempting. Weather can and will affect road conditions drastically.

This map might be a little fuzzy. You can Click here for a clearer image and more road information.

If hiking is more to your liking, Ouray has no shortage of trails to choose from. The most popular is the Perimeter Trail. It’s a five-mile well-marked trail that circles the town of Ouray. Al and I have hiked portions of this trail and look forward to returning to hike the total perimeter. May and June you’ll need to keep snowmelt in mind as all creeks and streams run dangerously fast and furious and trails can be muddy. July into August is stunning as the meadows are dotted with wildflowers. Then there’s September when gold can be seen … yellow Aspen leaves.

Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon….the bottom of the falls can be seen in the lower part of the photo

One section of the Perimeter Trail that we loved is the hike to Box Canyon Falls. Box Canyon Falls is known as Ouray’s own wonder of the world.  The waterfall is created from the combination of Canyon Creek narrowing into a rock canyon and then plummeting 285 feet, spilling thousands of gallons of water per minute.  The word ‘dramatic’ sums it up nicely. As you hike further into the canyon, the roar of rushing water becomes more deafening and the dirt trail quickly turns into a slatted iron bridge complete with rails.  The temperature drops, the humidity rises, and the sun is hidden. Al and I both agree this is a unique find and experience not to be missed.

Silverton, Colorado – Is it worth the drive?

Hold on, as the only road to get to Silverton, Colorado from Ouray is not for the faint of heart. This stretch of Highway 550 is known as the Million Dollar Highway. The road twists, turns, bends, goes up, goes down, and meanders through the San Juan Mountain Range. It’ll help if you have some mountain driving experience and aren’t afraid of heights. There’s a notable lack of guardrails and you’ll want to plan on taking around 45 minutes to drive the twenty-five-mile distance between Ouray and Silverton.

Silverton, Colorado
Highway 550 aka the Million Dollar Highway

If driving mountain roads isn’t your thing and you happen to be near the town of Durango, consider taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  The rail route is even more scenic than the highway and the train pulls right into the town of Silverton.

Durango & Silverton Train

SilvertonOnce in Silverton, you’ll find the town has a natural beauty that’s steeped in Victorian charm and mining history.  Gold was discovered here in the 1860s.  The town was platted in 1874 and by the late 1800s, the main business section was built.

On the “other side of town”, is notorious Blair Street.  At one point, Blair Street was home to 40 saloons and brothels.  Many of the original buildings are still standing today and have been turned into quaint gift shops and restaurants.

Tidbit: During the mining boom, Silverton boasted a population surpassing 2,000. Today the year-round population is less than 700. Although tourism has replaced mining as the current economic engine, conjecture is someday mining will return.

Silverton is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmark District.

Silverton, Colorado

With mining heavily ingrained in the area’s history, the backcountry is dotted with remnants of abandoned mines and ghost towns.  If you have a high clearance vehicle (or rent one), the old mining roads are great fun to explore.

Ridgway, Colorado

If you’re a John Wayne fan like my husband, then a stop in the little town of Ridgway is a must. During one of our day excursions from Ridgway State Park to Telluride, we took the Last Dollar Road. This gravel/dirt road takes travelers past the Ross Ranch, one of several film locations that took place in Ouray County from the movie True Grit. The road is accessed about 10 miles outside of Ridgway. Last Dollar Road is rated as an easy 4WD road. At the top of Dallas Divide, the road offers majestic views of the backcountry without traversing any extreme switchbacks or sheer drop-offs that are commonly found driving some of the more difficult backcountry roads.

historical western buildings in Ridgway Colorado

Camping and lodging

Camping:  Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we love camping at Ridgway State Park, which is about a one-hour drive away.  The park offers sites accommodating tents and large RVs alike.  Ridgway State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds in Colorado.

camping at Ridgway State Park

For those interested in full hook-ups, the Centennial RV Park near Montrose is a consideration. When we weren’t able to find an available site at Ridgway State Park, we’ve stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge (members only). There are also private campgrounds with full hook-ups in the town of Ouray, but they like to pack’em in tight … a little too close for our taste.

Tee PeeMuch closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground;  Sunshine Campground.  We would love to stay here due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride, but unfortunately, we might only fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than what we think we could navigate. The campground is super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.

Further down the road is the Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground and this place has several sites that can accommodate just about anyone … that is IF you can snag an open site.

For those traveling with tents, vans, or small RV’s, the perfect place to camp and really immerse yourself into the Telluride lifestyle is the Telluride Town Park Campground.  Nestled in a grove of pine trees along a creek, it’s within walking distance to festival venues, restaurants, and shops.  Obviously, where there are trees, there are low branches and tight turning radius’.  Thus, we feel it’s not an option for us.  Once again, small RV’s have the advantage.  Note; during festivals, this campground is jam-packed making it difficult for even a Honda Civic to navigate.

And when it comes to other types of lodging, Telluride has it all.  Click here for more info and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂

four-wheeling
The view along Last Dollar Road

Western Colorado is definitely one of my favorite places to visit. You’ll take in some jaw-dropping beauty as you pass mountains, lakes, and streams.  And when the wildflowers are blooming in July and August or the Aspen tree leaves turn golden in September … oh … my … gosh!!!  Let’s just say, it’s a sight to behold and photographs rarely capture the enormity of such a spectacular and stunning sight.

Between the majestic San Juan Mountains and the small-town mountain lifestyle, it’s no wonder this area of Colorado is a favorite with many.

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Over too fast!

Our time near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, was over before we knew it and unfortunately obligations had us moving on.  We could have easily stayed another week or two….. or even three and been quite content.  My view every evening……ahhhh!sunset in Colorado

Alas, we needed to return to Grand Junction for some appointments.  Let’s check out our new antenna flying proud as we mosey on down the road.  Although we don’t need to raise and lower this new antenna, it is a good idea to have the pointy end of the boomerang design pointed forward for aerodynamic reasons.RV travel in Colorado

With all the fixes on the RV complete, we scheduled some normal maintenance in Grand Junction for the F-250, the Tacoma, and hubby.  In early April when Al initially contacted the VA for his yearly physical, he was told they couldn’t get him in until September and then low and behold an end of May opening became available.  I’m sure this whole VA investigation stuff had something to do with the timely opening.

Regardless, Al is in tip top shape.  The trucks are in tip top shape.  The RV is hopefully in tip top shape and we’re antsy to embrace our summer travels.  Fingers crossed all the mishaps are behind us because I’d like to go back to feeling excited on moving day instead of feeling fear or dread….. “Will Murphy get us today?”RV cartoonThat said and appointments behind us, we find ourselves back in one of our favorite spots; Ridgway State Park.  The San Juan Mountains are still covered in a deep layer of snow making for a beautiful sight.Ridgway State ParkWe have some hiking planned and social get togethers scheduled.  Should be a fun week….Ridgway State Park

A Favorite Spot

With a light morning breeze blowing through the RV, I glance out the window toward a view of the Colorado National Monument….well, kind of a view….as I peek around, up, and over other RV’s there sits the Monument in the distance.  Ah, the RV experience; it is what we make of it.  Unfortunately for now, I don’t have the views or space I have become accustomed to.

Fruita Colorado
Colorado National Monument photographed from James Robb State Park Fruita

The month of August finds us parked in a full-fledged RV Park in Grand Junction, Colorado.  We normally gravitate toward State or Regional Parks.  For now, we have no fantastic views or hiking trails out our front door….bummer.  I think I’ve become a little spoiled.  The Junction West RV Park in Grand Junction is an ok place to call home while Al and I do a little organizing and repairing on the RV.    The Junction West RV Park is conveniently located to shopping, restaurants, AND my brother’s house.  It also offers nice spacing between rigs, showers, laundry, and free WiFi.  Yep, this will do while we tend to the business at hand.

Junction West RV Park
Junction West RV Park, Grand Junction, CO

San Juan MountainsI’ll admit, I sure wasn’t ready to leave Ridgway State Park or the views southwest Colorado has to offer.  I’m always hesitant to make a recommendation on a location or campground.  I’ve come to realize, the personal element quite often plays a major role in ones overall experience, as does weather.

For example; let’s say the weather is nasty for your entire stay or you and your partner aren’t getting along or you become ill, the best scenery in the world cannot compensate for any of these examples or a combination of negative factors. Thus, your experience might be one you wouldn’t care to repeat or recommend.

On the other hand, when the stars are aligned, all is well in your little world, your life is filled with joy, you and your partner are in harmony…. the most mediocre view, so-so weather, and an ok location can conjure up the most pleasant of memories; such fond memories, that it becomes a place you hope to return to as well as recommend to your friends.  Then your friends go and can’t figure out whatever were you talking about.

When we first pulled into Ridgway State Park I wasn’t overly impressed.  I couldn’t figure out why everyone talked so highly of the place.  However after my eight day stay, I would put this place at the top of my list of favorite places.  What made MY stay so enjoyable that I would call it a favorite and even recommend it?  Well, I’m pretty sure the stars were aligned and hubby and I were in harmony, so that helped….LOL, but the real reasons why I fell in love with Ouray County;

  • The views….the photos say it all…..talk about beautiful country!San Juan Mountains
  • Location; lovely Ouray, Ridgway, and Telluride are nearby

    Ridgway
    Ridgway, Colorado
  • hiking and biking trails out our front door and beyond are abundantRidgway
  • beautiful lakes; enjoy water activities or sit lakeside and ponder lifeRidgway
  • family and friends; my brother and his wife joined us plus we met up with fellow RVer’s / bloggers

    Ridgway
    Al on the left, sister-in-law middle, my brother on the right…..good food, good company
  • weather; cool nights for sleeping – comfortable daytime temps for hiking – the occasional storm to add drama

    Ridgway
    mountain storms can be scary and pretty at the same time!
  • excellent spacing between campers; campsites are well spaced

    Ridgway
    Plenty of room around camp for everyone to warm their toes
  • plenty of interesting history;  the movie “True Grit” staring John Wayne was filmed around Ridgway.  Ghost towns and remnants of old mines are readily found in the backcountry.Ridgway
  • nature……nature aboundsGrand Junction
  • A 4-wheelers paradise; exploring the backcountry via a jeep or ATV, miles and miles of gravel and dirt roads take you up and over mountain passesRidgway

I’m sure I’m missing something, but I think you get the idea of why this area has become a favorite spot of mine.  Yes, I’d say there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this southwest part of Colorado.  I think it’s one of those places worth visiting at different times of the year.  I know I’m hooked.  I foresee a revisit in my near future!

Ah, but first……those RV repairs…..  😥

Mt. Sneffels

Ridgway

Curiosity Piqued

I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a most spectacular view during our week at Ridgway State Park.  There’s a curiosity that stirs within me as I watch the mountain range to the east change with the light of the sun or better yet an impending storm.

Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain in the far background.  San Juan Mountains, Colorado.  Us to the left in the Laredo.  My brother and sister-in-law in the trailer behind my red truck.  Some shy folks from Minnesota on the right.    Ridgway State Park
Courthouse Mountain
Another storm rolling in over Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain

Before departing this little slice of heaven I’ve been privileged to call “home” for a week, I must explore.  I’m torn between wildflowers or Chimney Rock.  Fellow blogger, Mark over at Box Canyon Blog says the wildflowers are still plentiful up Yankee Boy Basin but are starting to wane….not much longer before they’re gone for the season.  Ah, but the pull of Chimney Rock strengthens with each glance her way.

Uncompahgre National ForestUpon further research, my map indicates a lake on the other side of Owl Creel Pass which is near Chimney Rock.  Perhaps I can see Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain up close as well as a mountain lake surrounded by wildflowers.  Now that’s a win win!  The road is classified as easy and should be gravel the entire distance.  No 4-wheel drive necessary.

The Yankee Boy Basin Road is classified as moderate and 4-wheel drive is recommended.  Mark says we shouldn’t have any trouble driving Yankee Boy Basin with the Tacoma, but it will be a rougher drive than Owl Creek Pass.

Hubby’s been recovering from an injury incurred during the move and although he’s feeling tons better, he’s hesitant about a rough ride.  With that in mind, we opt for the easier drive and I’ll just have to return next summer to satisfy my quest for mountain wildflowers.  No arm twisting necessary.

San Juan Mountains
Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain

We catch County Road 10 just a couple minutes south of our camp and head east toward Chimney Rock.  We pass some of the most beautiful ranches with unbelievable views.  Somewhere along this stretch is the field where they filmed John Wayne taking on the bad guys in the movie “True Grit”…..reins in teeth and guns a-blazing.Courthouse Mountain

We pull over at the scenic vista for me to stand and stare in awe.  It truly is a sight to behold and my photos don’t come close to doing her justice.  If you have an interest in hiking this beauty, head on over to Mark’s post…..click here.  The hike he and Bobbie took, looks awesome.

Owl Creek PassWe continue our trek up and over Owl Creek Pass toward Silver Jack Reservoir.  The road is gravel and in great shape.  However, I’m disappointed once we started descending.  That means the lake will be at a lower elevation.  I was hoping for a high, mountain lake…. perhaps above tree line.

This is a great day trip for anyone who has a problem with altitude, because it doesn’t go much above 10,000 feet.  Although initially disappointed, the disappointment was quick to fade.  I even managed to see a fair amount of wildflowers.

Uncompahgre National Forest

Silver Jack Reservoir and Campground is about a 21 mile drive from the main road of Highway 550.  The easier route to take for campers would be from the town of Cimarron and Highway 50. Silver Jack Reservoir

Uncompahgre National Forest
lovely place to hike and wildflowers to boot!

The Silver Jack Campground sits in a forest of Aspen and Pine trees in the Uncompahgre National Forest.  Some of the sites are large enough to accommodate our 31′ Fifth Wheel, but don’t plan on internet service.  We couldn’t even get one bar on our phones 😦

The reservoir does not appear to be easily assessable.  We found only one road leading down to the water’s edge.  There were, however, numerous hiking trails.

All this driving and exploring has us working up an appetite.  We find the perfect place to pull over for lunch.  While sitting on the truck’s tailgate, Al and I eat our lunch in silence as we admire the view.  It wasn’t long before I find myself unable to sit still.  In between bites of my sandwich, I wander off.  Photo-op here, photo-op there.

Uncompahgre National Forest
lunch with a view!

Chimney RockDuring one of my short jaunts, I become giggly and giddy like a school girl being noticed by a boy for the first time.  Al, who has remained by the vehicle and thus several yards away, wants to know if I’m ok.  With gleeful laughter, I exclaim, “I’m being buzzed by a hummingbird”.  No further explanation needed as Al had a similar experience while visiting the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson. I find these little birds adorable and to have one hover inches from my face was entertaining beyond words.

I guess it doesn’t take much to entertain us these days.  And of course, the little Hummingbird wouldn’t hold still long enough for a photo.  Perhaps I’ll douse myself in sugar next time.  Interesting image!San Juan Mountains

Silver Jack ReservoirWith lunch and laughter coming to an end, we meander our way back to camp at Ridgway State Park.  Our stay in the area has quickly come to an end.

We’ll spend the month of August in an RV Park in Grand Junction doing some repairs and reorganization.

We’ll be formulating a plan and schedule for the next six months…..

Cimarron Ridge

Chimney Rock

Ridgway

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

Telluride

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

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