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Telluride Transportation & Navigation Advice

Nestled in the heart of the awe-inspiring San Juan Mountains, Telluride beckons with its stunning vistas, historic charm, and a unique blend of outdoor adventures. Navigating this picturesque town, surrounded by towering peaks and steep slopes, requires a bit of insider knowledge. Telluride is a remote town, and you won’t find access to Uber or Lyft here (the apps exist here, but drivers are few and far between), but there are other transportation methods that make getting around Telluride easy.

The hardest part about visiting Telluride is often getting there. Unlike most of the Rocky Mountain ski towns, Telluride is quite far removed. Most visitors flying to Colorado arrive via Denver International Airport, which is more than 6-hours-drive through the mountains from Telluride.

The town does have its own airport, Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX), although flights into here can be more expensive than flying into Denver. Still, doing so means you won’t have to rent a car to get to Telluride, which is not necessary for getting around if you just plan to travel between the downtown and the ski area.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the various modes of transportation available, highlight the best ways to get around, and offer valuable tips for exploring Telluride with ease.

Getting Around in Telluride

People are visiting Telluride Telluride boasts the only free public gondola transportation system of its kind in North America. The gondola connects the town of Telluride with the Mountain Village. It is a convenient mode of transport that also boasts breathtaking panoramic views along the way. This is the best way to get between the two areas, and I never get tired of riding Telluride’s gondola.

Taking a Shuttle

Various shuttle services operate within Telluride, offering convenient transportation to popular destinations, ski areas, and trailheads. These services cater to both locals and visitors, ensuring easy access to key attractions. Shuttle services are also necessary if you are traveling between the airport and the mountain village or downtown, as taxis are not readily available.

Telluride Express is one popular shuttle service. It offers shared ride and private ride services. Mountain Limo is another, more upscale, shuttle service in Telluride. Its fleet includes limos, luxury SUVs and small transport vans. You will need to make reservations for both companies.

Using Public Transportation

The Galloping Goose is Telluride's public bus system and operates a loop around the town. The bus service is free, and it loops through town every 15 to 20 minutes. It's a reliable option for those looking to explore the town without the need of a car. It is especially handy on cold nights when you don’t want to walk home after dinner.

[LINK to Telluride: Our Local Expert's Visitor Guide]

Renting a Car in Telluride

If you want to explore beyond Telluride’s immediate vicinity than renting a car is probably the best option. This is especially true if you want to take a day trip to Ouray or Silverton (I highly recommend both towns while you are in this region). It also makes sense if you plan to do a lot of hiking or mountain biking and don’t want the added expense of adding in shuttle services to reach the trailheads.

Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, and Alamo are the four national companies with a Telluride presence. You will want to reserve well in advance as there are not as many cars available in Telluride as in other Colorado ski towns. Car rentals fill up very fast during ski season and in the summer, especially on festival weeks. All four companies offer a range of rental options including SUVs.

There are also some local businesses in Telluride that specialize in renting out unique vehicles including 4x4s and off-road vehicles, these are ideal if you want to explore Telluride’s stunning backcountry at your own pace and not on a tour. Diff Auto Rental is one such company.

Exploring Telluride on Foot

The best way to explore Telluride is on foot. The historic downtown is compact and easy to walk around. Colorado Avenue is the town’s main street and here you will find numerous boutique shops, art galleries and local eateries. Also make sure to keep an eye out for hidden alleyways with vibrant mural art.

You can also check out the Free Spirit Trail, which is a self-guided walking tour showcasing Telluride’s public art scene. Along the way you will discover sculptures, installations, and murals.

The Mountain Village, where the ski resort is located, is also very walkable. You can get between the two areas via the free gondola. Once in Mountain Village, explore the pedestrian-friendly plazas, dine in al fresco restaurants, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of this mountain enclave.

Getting from Telluride to Your Tours & Activities

Jeeps are going in roads between mountains If you don’t have a car, there are several ways to get between your hotel and whatever tours or activities you have booked. Telluride is famous for its outdoor adventure activities including 4WD tours into the mountains. Many of the tour companies will offer transportation included in their rates and will pick you up and drop you off at many of the resorts around town.

If you are planning to go for a hike and the trailhead is not within walking distance, you can book a shuttle service to the trailhead. Telluride Express is one company that offers shuttle service to the hiking trail.

Transportation Options from Aspen to Telluride

There are a few different ways to get between Telluride and Aspen. Although both towns have regional airports, unless you are chartering a plane, you can’t fly between the two without having to connect through Denver. As such, it is easiest to either drive or book a shuttle or private car service between the two mountain towns.

Driving from Aspen to Telluride

The drive between the two towns is gorgeous and takes you along some of Colorado’s most jaw-dropping scenic byways. There are two main routes that all take a similar amount of time, around 4 hours and 30 minutes.

The most beautiful drive is via Highways 82 and 133, but this route has you driving over mountain passes and can be more treacherous in winter. If the weather is a concern, take the I-70 route. It is slightly longer but has you on major highways for more of the drive.

Both routes, however, have you crossing the stunning Dallas Divide as you descend into Telluride on Highway 62. It is a high mountain pass between Ridgeway and Telluride with sweeping views of the San Juan Mountains.

Shuttle Service from Aspen to Telluride

If you prefer to relax and enjoy the scenery without the responsibility of driving, shuttle services provide a convenient and comfortable alternative. Several companies operate shuttles between Aspen and Telluride, offering scheduled services or private charters. This option allows you to kick back, take in the views, and arrive in Telluride stress-free.

Telluride Express offers a shuttle service between Aspen and Telluride. If you are on a budget, you can book a shared ride. The company also offers private transfers between the two towns.

Telluride Navigation Tips for Winter Visitors

Snowing on the mountains of Telluride In winter Telluride is cold and snowy. If you have arrived by car (or rented one) and aren’t used to driving in snow and ice, you will want to take some precautions. In winter it is always best to have a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle to navigate the snowy roads and icy passes more easily.

After years of winter driving in Colorado, I can say that my best tip is to expect the unexpected. A road can look wet but it’s black ice. It can be sunny one minute and a near whiteout blizzard comes in out of nowhere making it hard to see. Due to its box canyon location, you won’t be driving on highways in Telluride.

All the roads here are two land affairs and to get in and out you’ll have to cross mountain passes. Take it slow. When roads become inaccessible the Colorado Department of Transportation make shut them down until they can be plowed properly, so keep an eye on the weather reports.

Telluride is one of Colorado’s most remote mountain resorts and transportation and navigation here is not as straight forward in many capacities as say Aspen, Breckenridge, or Vail. It is harder to reach Telluride from Denver than it is to reach the resort’s located just off I-70 and even Aspen, which is further to the west. It is between a six and seven-hour drive from Denver to Telluride, whereas Aspen is three hours from Denver and Breckenridge is under two.

Once you reach Telluride, however, it is quite easy to get around the town itself. The free gondola linking the Mountain Village with downtown Telluride makes it super convenient to get between the two areas. And once on the ground, both downtowns are compact and walkable.

Telluride vs. Vail

I find it easier to get around Telluride than many other popular Colorado resorts including Vail. Telluride is much more compact and getting around is usually quick. By comparison in Vail, if you are not staying in Lionshead or Vail Village, getting to East or West Vail takes much longer on the bus.

Telluride vs. Aspen

Telluride and Aspen are similar in ease of getting around with one exception. If you are staying in Aspen and want to ski Snowmass, Aspen Highlands or Buttermilk Mountain, the commute will be much longer as you’ll need to take a bus to all three. But Aspen itself, is easy to navigate, walkable, and has good public transportation, like Telluride.

Becca B
Writer, Editor & Telluride Local
Becca Blond lives in Denver, Colorado and is a Lowell Thomas award winning travel and lifestyle writer. She has authored more than 30 Lonely Planet travel guides across five continents over the years and her writing regularly appears on websites like Travel + Leisure, The Points Guy, Afar Media, Matador Network, Lonely Planet, Thrillist, and Planetware. Becca is an advocate for mental health disabilities and lives with an anxiety disorder for which she travels with her service dog Poppy. When not on the road she loves all the usual Colorado activities including skiing, SUP boarding, white water rafting, hiking and hot springing.

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