Why Telluride is My Favorite Mountain Town
To be fair, I have not been to every mountain town, but I’ve been to most of them in the western United States and can say with some certainty that a summer visit to Telluride will have you agreeing with me.
Each direction you look offers a stunning view of the mountains. The Victorian-era houses that line its main street, Colorado Avenue, are well-kept. And the vibe is super chill – local residents seem fit, happy, and friendly. I could spend all day watching the world go by while sitting on a large front deck and sipping my coffee.
To me, the best part about Telluride is its dog culture. It’s a very dog-friendly town, and many hotels accommodate good boys and girls. It took me twice as long to walk anywhere in town because I kept stopping to pet all the floofs!
Telluride became a town in 1878 after a prospector named John Fallon made the first claim on a local mine he named the Sheridan, which turned out to be loaded with zinc, lead, copper, iron, and silver. The mining rush and promise of wealth attracted characters of all kinds, including Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, who began their notorious careers as bank robbers in town at the San Miguel Bank on June 24, 1889. If you stop by the Mahr Building on Colorado Avenue, you’ll see a plaque on the door of what is now a compounding pharmacy that memorializes the event.
In 1964, Telluride was officially recognized as a National Historic Landmark District. But everything changed in 1972 when Telluride Ski Resort opened for powder prospecting and the world was awakened to its special charms. Since then, Telluride has topped numerous lists as one of the best places to ski and snowboard in the world.
Lay of the Land
The town of Telluride is only eight blocks wide and 12 blocks long, but there’s a lot of verve packed into those dimensions with colorful Victorian-era homes, boutiques, art galleries, historic buildings, quirky coffee shops, and gourmet restaurants. It’s tucked into a box canyon surrounded by the largest concentration (14,000+) of peaks in North America. That means sprawl is not a thing here because population growth is stunted at less than 2,500 people, which means it’s fantastically uncrowded. In fact, the population is less than half of what it was during the mining boom.
Don’t Make a Rookie Mistake
The town of Telluride sits at 8,750 feet, making it one of the highest towns in America.
The Mountain Village that connects to the town of Telluride via gondola is at 9,545 feet, and the ski resort top elevation is 13,150 feet. All of this is to say that the elevation matters and it will get to you if you don’t take measures to acclimate. Failing to acclimate before attempting outdoor adventures is a rookie mistake, and you will pay the price with altitude sickness, which presents itself with dizziness, fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, shortness of breath, and difficulty sleeping.
Give yourself a day or two of chill time when you arrive in Telluride—you’ll be happy you did. Get plenty of sleep, drink more water than you think is reasonable (especially if you’re going to drink), and enjoy an extra cup of coffee or two. Even after doing my best to acclimate properly, I had trouble breathing on hikes and difficulty sleeping.
One of the best things about Telluride is that there are no chain restaurants. None. I had one of the best meals of my life at The Tunnel. It’s a speakeasy restaurant that serves a six-course tasting menu paired with adult beverages. The menu changes every few weeks, but you can’t miss no matter when you go. Other noteworthy establishments were La Marmotte, Smuggler’s Brew Pub, 221 South Oak, Tacos del Gnar, Oak Fat Alley BBQ (don’t miss the succotash!), The New Sheridan Hotel Rooftop Bar, and The Chop House. There’s so much good food, wine, and beer everywhere in this town!
You don’t need an excuse to visit Telluride, but if you’re looking for the cherry on top, you should visit during one of the more than 20 festivals the town hosts during the year. The Bluegrass Festival, Yoga Festival, and Film Festival are among the best. If you’re looking for something more obscure, check out the Telluride Mushroom Festival or the WOW Festival (Workout Weekend) dedicated to physical fitness.
Things to Do
Telluride might be known as a ski town, but its autumn offerings are just as sweet. Fly fishing, hiking, mountain and road biking, and rock climbing are some of the best ways to experience Telluride.One of my favorite activities was paddleboarding on Trout Lake with our guides from Bootdoctors. We practically had the whole lake to ourselves, and it was a fun way to spend a few hours on the water.
Getting to Telluride just got so much easier. For the first time in history, Telluride Regional Airport has commercial jet service connecting from the Denver Airport. Prior to May, Telluride Airport was only available to private planes, so most visitors had to fly into Montrose and drive 65 miles to Telluride. Though, the drive is fantastically gorgeous and just six hours from Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, and Denver, so it can easily become part of the stunning adventure.