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Our Favorite Hikes & Trails Near Telluride

KG
Kelli G
8 min read

When it comes to exploring the breathtaking beauty around Telluride, we’ve got the inside scoop on the must-try hikes and trails. Lace up those hiking boots, and let's dive into the scenic wonders that make Telluride a hiker’s paradise!

Some people are hiking The San Juan Mountains surrounding Telluride are often referred to as the Switzerland of America with craggy peaks, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes commonly seen in the Alps. Whether you’re a seasoned mountaineer or a casual hiker, here’s why Telluride deserves a top spot on your adventure bucket list.

Trail-Ready Essentials: What to Bring and How to Dress for your Telluride Hike

Before you hit the Telluride trails, make sure you’re geared up for the adventure! Telluride’s trails are high alpine and remote. While recreating, emergency and rescue services are often limited or non-existent. Be prepared to enter into the backcountry and consider hiring a local guide to ensure the best experience. Know before you go, plan your routes and don't count on your cell phone to navigate your way through. For tech-savvy travelers, mobile apps like AllTrails, Gaia GPS, CalTopo, and COTREX (Colorado Trail Explorer) offer digital mapping solutions. These apps provide detailed maps, trail information, and GPS tracking, which makes it easier to navigate the trails and backcountry areas. Remember, cell service can be spotty in remote areas, so having a physical map as a backup is always a good idea. With the right tools and preparation, your journey through the San Juan’s will be both safe and enjoyable.

As for dressing the part, layer up for changing mountain weather like moisture wicking fabrics and sturdy footwear. Sunscreen, a hat, and lots of water are your friends at higher altitudes.

Breath-Taking Hikes: How to prepare for High Altitude Adventures in Telluride

Elevate your adventure in Telluride by preparing for high-altitude hiking! Start hydrating well before your trip and acclimate gradually to the elevation. Pack essentials like extra water, snacks, and sunscreen. Thunderstorms can roll in quickly so check weather and start hiking early. The southwest is prone to monsoon season so during the July and August months, you can count on afternoon thunderstorms. With a mindful approach, you’ll be able to enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of Telluride's high altitude trails.

In Town Treks: Exploring the trails accessible from the Heart of Telluride

This picture is of a trail going over the waterfall Telluride boasts trails right straight from town ascending to new heights with endless vistas. Take a leisurely stroll along the river or to some of the many picturesque waterfalls surrounding Telluride. Embark on a scenic loop with mountain views at every turn and discover the magic of exploring the beauty of Telluride.

  1. Jud Weibe Trail- A Telluride gem and local favorite, this intermediate loop is immersed with aspen groves, wildflowers, and panoramic vistas that look toward the ski runs of Telluride Ski Resort and into Bear Creek. The invigorating uphill climb is rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the box canyon and the iconic Bridal Veil Falls. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a trail enthusiast, Jud Wiebe Trail promises an adventure that captures the essence of Telluride’s stunning landscapes.
  2. Bear Creek Trail- The trail's gentle incline and well-maintained paths make it accessible for various skill levels, treating hikes to stunning views of the surrounding mountains. As you ascend, the rustle of leaves and babbling creek create a serene ambiance. Reaching the endpoint, a sense of tranquility envelops you as Bear Creek Falls reveals itself.
  3. Idarado Legacy Trail- Step back in time and explore Telluride’s mining heritage on the Idarado Legacy Trail. The historic trail meanders along the river toward the end of the canyon through the remnants of the Idarado Mine, offering a captivating blend of nature and history.
  4. Bridal Veil Trail- Chasing waterfalls in Telluride’s backyard. With a moderate level of difficulty, this trail welcomes seasoned hikers and those seeking a memorable nature walk. The 2.2 mile out-and-back leads you up through remote single track crossing over rocks and roots with picturesque stoops including multiple waterfalls and swimming holes. Capture the mist on your face, breathe in the crisp mountain air, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Telluride's own natural masterpiece. The final stretch reveals the majestic Bridal Veil Falls in all its glory- a breathtaking 365-foot cascade against the rugged cliffs. Adjacent to Colorado’s tallest free-falling waterfall is the Bridal Veil power plant which generates about 25% of Telluride’s demand for electricity, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hikes and Trails with Waterfalls, Rivers, or Lakes

Some people are hiking towards the lake Telluride is surrounded by stunning natural features with a multitude of trails leading to waterfalls, rivers, and lakes.

High-Alpine Lakes

  • Blue Lake- A stunning alpine lake situated above the town of Telluride. This 5.7 mile trail starts at the Top of Bridal Veil Falls, so be sure to take that into consideration when planning your hike for the day.
  • Hope Lake- One of the top hikes in the area, it is a 5 mile round trip adventure ending at one of the region's most beautiful high alpine lakes. You will get views of high-country wildflowers, Trout Lake, and the Lizard Head Wilderness.
  • Navajo Lake- A more strenuous 9.7 mile out and back hike in the Lizard Head Wilderness. The lake is situated below multiple 14,000 ft peaks. Great for a backpacking excursion or a base camp for summiting the surrounding 14ers.
  • Columbine Lake- This off the beaten path Lake takes some effort to get to from Telluride but well worth the jaunt. These glacial waters provide a turquoise prism etched out by the rugged peaks above. This trail offers a degree of solitude not often found in such a beautiful location. If you have a 4x4 vehicle, you can access the trailhead from driving Ophir Pass toward Silverton.
  • Ice Lake- Accessible from Ophir Pass this 8.3 mile out and back is generally considered a challenging route but well worth the effort. Throughout your journey through the Ice Lake Basin, you’ll pass waterfalls, meandering creeks, and one of the most beautifully sapphire-colored lakes you will ever see! Departing from the South Mineral Campground, the Ice Lake Trail has two common destinations - lower and upper basins. The upper basin is surrounded by awesome peaks, such as Vermillion Peak, Fuller Peak, Pilot Knob, and Golden Horn
  • Island Lake - After you hike to Ice Lake you can continue your journey over to Island Lake. This Lake got its name from the flat-topped rock that is visible whenever water levels ebb. The aqua blue hue makes you question whether your in the Rocky Mountains or the Caribbean. On the 4-mile trail to the lakes, hikers pass several legacies of the fortune-seekers who settled Silverton in the late 1800s — mines and equipment abandoned when the price of metal fell in the 1920s. The entire basin is known as an alpine-wildflower wonderland during the summer months. Its position amid several jagged 13ers.

Rivers

  • Valley Floor River Trail- This 4.1 mile out and back is an easy trail with very little elevation gain so great to do if you are still getting used to the altitude.
  • Keystone Gorge- A 2.2 mile hike that follows along the hazardous section of the San Miguel River, unrunnable in any form of water craft. This is a popular trail for birding and has a steep technical section. As the river descends over boulders, logs, and cascading falls, the roaring sound of whitewater will sooth your soul.

Waterfalls

  • Bear Creek Falls
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Mystic Falls- An Off the beaten path gem for the adventurous route finder.

14ers & Peaks to Climb Near Telluride

Mount Sneffels

Mount Sneffels, at 14,158 feet, towers above the rest of the Sneffels Range in the San Juan Mountains. The jagged peak can be seen as you drive towards Telluride across the Dallas Divide. Mt. Sneffels is a great 14er choice because of the varying route possibilities and two access points: Yankee Boy Basin and Blue Lakes.

The Wilson Group - Wilson Peak

If you have ever examined the label on a Coors bottle, you may recognize it as Wilson Peak. This 14,023 foot peak is located in the Lizard Head Wilderness. There are multiple ways to summit this peak, but the most popular routes are Rock of Ages and the Kilpacker Trailhead. It's popular due to the possibility of traversing El Diente, Mount Wilson and Wilson Peak all in one trip. There is climbing involved in this hike, so a partner and helmets are recommended.

Ballard Mountain

Ballard Mountain is a beautiful hike that offers views of the entire Telluride area, as well as Silver Lake. Ballard Mountain towers almost 13,000 feet above the town of Telluride, with unbelievable access right from town. This hike is considered strenuous and is not for the faint of heart.

Vestal Peak

Right in the center of the Weminuche Wilderness this is one of Colorado’s most sought after Centennial 13’er climbs, and the Wham Ridge (III, 5.4) is quite possibly the best route in the entire Grenadier Range. The rock is of a much higher quality than the rest of the San Juans, and offers wonderful climbing at altitude.

Where to Shop for Outdoor Clothing & Hiking Gear in Telluride

  • Jagged Edge- An independent, family-owned specialty outdoor retail store in Telluride, Colorado. For over 18 years, Jagged Edge has been a dependable presence in this small mountain town with a reputation for helping locals and visitors navigate the world of outdoor apparel and equipment. Located on the East End of Colorado Avenue, on Telluride’s Main street.
  • Alpineer- Located in the heart of downtown Telluride, this new location offers a large selection of outdoor equipment.
  • Bootdoctors- Known for high quality customer service and expertise in selling footwear, this outdoor shop specializes in building custom orthotics. Located in the Mountain Village Plaza, you will find hiking apparel, mountain biking equipment, and a large selection of outdoor equipment.

Other Outdoor & Adventure Activities in Telluride

Some people are having an adventure

  • Via Ferrata combines the best of both worlds—hiking and rock climbing—thanks to a system of fixed cables, ladders, and bridges. It's like a real-life obstacle course suspended high above the valley, offering a unique perspective of the region that few get to experience.
  • Rock climbing is considered the foundation of mountaineering and alpine climbing. Gaining proficiency in rock climbing will aid in your ability to progress towards more challenging objectives and will also help you to develop a well-rounded understanding of the basic safety principles and mechanisms of summiting mountains.
  • Electric pedal-assist mountain biking is a great way to get out and explore the far reaches of the backcountry.
  • Mountain Biking- whether you are looking to lap the chairlift accessible downhill trails or riding cross country, there is something for everyone.
  • Jeep and off-roading- Whether you are accessing a hard to get to trailhead or simply going for a technical drive, there are many off-road trails that will get you deep into the backcountry.
  • Rafting - Rafting in Telluride caters to both thrill-seekers and those looking for a more laid-back adventure. With a variety of rivers and difficulty levels, you can choose the experience that matches your comfort and excitement levels. It’s the perfect blend of heart-pounding moments and serene floats, ensuring there’s something for everyone.
  • Fly fishing- Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the rivers edge. Practice your casting and learn about the native species of fish in the area.
KG
Kelli G
Kelli is no stranger to outdoor adventure travel. Born into a family with strong ski heritage, she committed her earlier years to ski racing and big mountain freeskiing competitions. After she graduated with a Finance degree at the University of Denver she moved to Telluride, Colorado and worked up the ranks in the family-owned ski business. During her tenure, she wore all hats of the retail business and became one of the few female ski hardgoods buyers in the industry. For over 10 years she was a ski tester for Ski Magazine and was involved in multiple product development projects for various ski manufacturers. During the pandemic, she traded her skis for sails and spent a few years traveling the world on a 35' sailboat. She enjoys connecting to nature through whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, skiing, sailing or globe trotting. She loves to share her passion for adventure and travel with others.

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