Ascending into the town of Telluride, surrounded by the sheer peaks of the San Juan Mountains, the sparkling lights of the town awaited us. We arrived at the dawn of light, and adventure was ripe for discovery.
To begin to understand who Telluride is today, one has to look at it's roots — then the town can charm you the way it did me. You see, it started before the mining days, when the Ute Indians inhabited the valley for the summer season and for good reason — a land plentiful in feed, untouched beauty, and a retreat. From here, somewhere between the mining days and those in search of new land, comes much of what is left today. Brick historic buildings, saloons, and old mining camps sprinkled through the mountains, shows that the remnants of the wild west that are still alive today.
Telluride, Colorado is a place that refuses to change (and I hope never does) — it's wild, it's not for the faint of heart when speaking of adventure, yet all the while, it's place where the community is close and the locals welcoming.
When I speak of adventure, I speak of the kind that will invite you to push yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Whether you're hiking up the steep elevation of the mountains or navigating down the sheer snowy slopes of Telluride — there's a challenge for everyone. Perhaps the adrenaline rush is not the cup of tea for everyone, and that's okay. There's plenty more of scenic adventure by way of stand up paddle boarding, fly fishing, guided 4-WD tours, and peaceful walks.
In the historic part of Telluride, there is this humble appreciation of well crafted things. It's mostly found in the artisan fare and craft cocktails at the plentiful choices of restaurants, cafes, and bars. With no expectations of what the food on offer would be in this small town, I left amazed by how many spots I couldn't get to. Decision time meant having to pick between this or that, here or there, and the list was long. Each establishment encountered had something similar to it — a warm welcome as if you were stepping into someone's home. The food tasted all that much better.
Telluride, Colorado cast it's enchantment on me and I, after leaving the scenic town, found myself replaying all the memories lived and seeking for more. Discovering the history, soaking in nature, and brushing shoulders with locals in food establishments was just the tip of what's to be experienced. The town is everything that is far and familiar — the perfect marriage of being able to seek solitude in the mountains, or be amidst a movement of bodies in a cozy space.
As I set out to Telluride, I came to discover the best experiences in adventure, food, and stay. I sought high and low, in every corner, craving a chance to capture the best a Telluride adventure trip had to offer.
Have a look at what was found...
How to get there:
- I always thought getting to Telluride was unaffordable by air and not reachable — I couldn't have been more wrong. My first and foremost suggestion is to take advantage of the flights on offer from major cities throughout the winter season that gets you to Telluride the fastest. The local airport Telluride/Montrose (MTJ) services air from SFO, LAX, DEN, IAH, LAS, LGA, and other major hubs from airlines such as American, Delta, United, and Allegiant. The direct flights are fast and easy, getting you to the wonderful destination in a heartbeat. (See here to get the full schedule details best for your city of choice.)
- When on ground, I would suggest getting a car if you're planning to explore the area. There are tons of gems nearby and having a car will come in handy — though, with that said, the downtown area of Telluride is all walkable with access to the village and slopes via the complimentary gondola.
Where to stay:
- New Sheridan Hotel: Set in the bustling area of downtown Telluride, this historic hotel is the place to call home if you're looking for charm and comfort. Only a short, five-minute walk to the gondola to access the slopes, it has a location second to none. With onsite amenities like fine dining cuisine in the Chop House, a parlor for breakfast, and a rooftop bar — it's the place you could never leave. (See the full review here.)
Where to eat:
- Chop House at New Sheridan: Whether you're outside watching strangers walk by, or inside taking in the historic building, the Chop House is memorable. With highlights across the menu like the yellowtail sashimi, bruschetta trio, and the elk — all dishes are a sure winner.
- The Butcher & the Baker: A local hang spot to grab a cozy breakfast in the morning before hitting the slopes, or even come back for the colorful happy hour.
- The Coffee Cowboy: The old horse trailer, now coffee go-to counter is the place to get your daily caffeine fix.
- Brown Dog Pizza: We found this one by way of a local — he told us this was the place for the best pizza, and we can confirm. Try the deep dish, or go simple by the slice at the bar. It's no wonder they took first place at the Pizza World Championships in Italy.
- Grilled Cheese Cart: If you're looking for something simple on-the-go, but super tasty, the grilled cheese cart across from the New Sheridan Hotel is a sure winner.
- The deck at the Peak's Hotel: Cap off the day with an epic sunset over the mountain peaks with a Moscow mule in hand.
- Allred's Restaurant: At the top of the gondola, a gem awaits for a view over the sparkling lights of Telluride. The cozy bar has the menu fit for a great après-ski with roots in local game and drink.
- Cosmopolitan: Their happy hour will get you in the door and will make you stay much longer — $5 cosmos and good sushi to kick off the night followed by entrees centered around a bit of surf and turf.
- 221 South Oak: Set in a quaint, Victorian House, Chef Eliza (as seen on Top Chef) is giving the menu a flare rooted in local, fresh ingredients and fine dining.
- La Marmotte: A classic French restaurant taking dishes to an elevated experience. There bar is a lively place to dine and there dining room is a cozy place to call home for a few hours over delicious cuisine.
- Last Dollar Saloon: Telluride is historic, and it's bars? Well, an institution. Take a peak at where the true locals can be found.
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What to experience:
- Stand Up Paddle Board lesson with BootDoctors: With a local guide in tow, head up to the alpine Alta lake where you explore crystal clear waters by way of a stand up paddle board. One of the most incredible experiences I've had. Centered around a pristine lake in a peaceful setting.
- Hit the back roads by way of a jeep tour with Telluride Outside: High country is ripe for exploration and with a guided 4-WD tour it can be seen. Along the tour you learn the tales and history of the mining culture that founded Telluride, all the while taking in soaring views from over 13,000 feet.
- Hike endless trails alpine lakes like Hope Lake, Blue Lakes of Colorado, and Navajo Lake. We took the harder of the hikes to Blue Lakes to see the three scenic lakes (pictured above). With a roundtrip of 10 miles, this tough hike pushed us physically but was completely worth it — could not recommend it enough.
- Raft the San Miguel River aboard a half day trip on class II or III rapids with Telluride Outside .
- Winter or Fall Fly Fishing with Telluride Outside: You can take a break from the winter slopes or a break from your fall adventures with a peaceful guided trip to the best fly fishing around. Guides are available year-round to give you insight on a well-loved activity.
Just a few of the Winter activities:
- Ski/Snowboard the slopes at Telluride Ski Resort
- Take a day trip to Dunton's Hot Springs to relax the muscles
- Helicopter ski with Helitrax for a rush of adrenaline.
- See the stunning back country by way of dog sledding with Rothschild Design
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*Bon Traveler was a guest's of many of the vendors and worked in partnership with Visit Telluride. As always, all opinions are own.