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Our Favorite Things to Do & See in Telluride

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Becca B
9 min read

Located within the embrace of the San Juan Mountains, Telluride stands as a testament to nature's grandeur and human perseverance. The town got its start in the late 1800s during the Colorado gold rush, and today retains a lot of its yesteryear charm. It has also carved out a niche as a year-round haven for outdoor enthusiasts, music and festival lovers, and those seeking respite from the fast pace of modern life in the heart of majestic mountain landscapes. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the myriad of things to see and do in Telluride, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this mountain paradise.

Our Local Experts' Favorite Things About Telluride

Telluride is one of my favorite Colorado towns. It has a wild and remote location and is surrounded by jagged mountain peaks in all directions. I love how Telluride is a year-round destination with much going on in winter and summer. Between November and April, Telluride Ski Resort boasts amazing powder skiing for riders of all ages and skill levels. And because of its remote locale, Telluride doesn’t get as busy as some other Colorado resorts like Aspen, Vail, and Breckenridge.

Festival Town

In summer, Telluride is home to numerous festivals. The famed Telluride Bluegrass Festival, held in early June, celebrates its 50th year in 2024, and is always a good time. Other notable summer festivals include Telluride Jazz Festival in August and the Telluride Yoga Festival in late June. Summers in Telluride are also perfect for hiking and mountain biking. I love the hike to Bridal Veil Falls, which is Colorado’s tallest free-falling waterfall.

Hot Springs Soaks

One of all-time favorite activities in southwest Colorado is devoting a day to soaking in hot springs. Although Telluride itself doesn’t have any hot springs, there are a couple of great hot spring options within an hour drive via the magnificent San Juan Scenic and Historic Byway (also known as the San Juan Skyway) on the way to Ouray.

What to Do & See at Night in Telluride

A beautiful night scene in telluride

There is plenty to see and do at night in Telluride. The town pays homage to its wild gold rush days with a vibrant nightlife scene. Take a stroll down Telluride's charming Main Street and discover its historic bars and pubs. From the lively atmosphere of the New Sheridan Bar to the cozy ambiance of the Last Dollar Saloon, each establishment tells a tale of Telluride's rich history.

Live Music and Brews

The historic Sheridan Opera House also comes alive at night. It features live performances ranging from intimate acoustic sets to boisterous concerts. Check the schedule for upcoming shows.

For something lower key, head to the Telluride Brewing Company to experience the local craft beer scene in relaxed environs. The brewery often hosts events, such as trivia nights and live music.

Apres Ski Scene

During winter, Telluride has a lively après-ski culture in the Mountain Village. Whether you choose to unwind with a craft beer at Tomboy Tavern or sip on a hot cocoa by a roaring fire at Gorrono Ranch, you’ll find a scene as diverse as the ski runs here.

Telluride Arts Walk

Usually held on a night in the first week of the month, Telluride Art Walks are another popular nighttime experience. During the art walks many of the town’s galleries stay open late, allowing you to peruse a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, and other artistic expressions.

Fun for All Ages in Telluride

People enjoying together There is fun for all ages to be had in Telluride.

Telluride Ski Resort

Telluride Ski Resort is one of the top reasons to visit in winter and provides fun for all ages. Boasting more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, Telluride caters to snow riders of all abilities, from beginners to seasoned experts with diverse terrain. There are plenty of gentle, green runs to learn the basics on as well as a ski school.

Adrenaline junkies can tackle challenging double black diamonds. Experienced riders can also get their kicks skiing Telluride’s backcountry terrain, where you’ll find lots of steep chutes and untouched powder. Guided tours and avalanche safety courses are available for those looking to explore the wild and untamed beauty of the surrounding mountains.

Getting between the ski resort area, known as Mountain Village, and Telluride’s historic downtown is a breeze thanks to a free gondola that operates year-round. The gondola makes it easy to book lodging in town and easily ski the mountain or vice versa. Mountain Village has its own set of upscale shops, high-end restaurants and vacation rentals and hotels.

Jeep Tours

In summer, exploring Telluride’s rugged scenery by 4x4 is another unique experience.Telluride Offroad Adventures is the top Jeep tour company in town. It runs a variety of excursions lasting between two hours and all day. These take you to ghost towns, waterfalls, over mountain pass summits and into wildflower filled alpine basins. Jeep tours can be booked as private adventures or as group trips, and most of the tours are designed for all ages.

Unique Experiences in Telluride

Telluride is filled with unique experiences year-round.

Telluride Via Ferrata

One of Telluride’s most unique experiences is to challenge yourself on the Telluride Via Ferrata. It is a mountain route equipped with fixed cables, ladders, and bridges that allow you a rock-climbing experience that is less challenging than just using a rope – it is considered a “technical hike.” You can book a private Via tour with San Juan Outdoor Adventures.

Walk the Historic Downtown

I love taking a walk around downtown Telluride because it feels like stepping back in time. Victorian-era architecture lines the streets, and a palpable sense of history hangs in the air. The main street is a delightful mix of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, each contributing to the town's unique charm. While downtown, check out the Telluride Historical Museum. It provides an immersive journey into the region's mining history, offering insights into the challenges faced by its early settlers.

Festivals Galore

Beyond its natural beauty, Telluride is a cultural hub with a calendar filled with festivals and events throughout the year. The Telluride Film Festival attracts filmmakers and cinephiles from around the world, showcasing cutting-edge cinema against the backdrop of stunning mountain vistas.

Music lovers can revel in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Telluride Jazz Festival, where world-class musicians grace the stage, creating an unforgettable auditory experience. These events infuse Telluride with a dynamic energy, bringing together art, music, and film in a unique celebration of human creativity. [LINK to Telluride Bluegrass Festival article]

Explore Mining Ghost Towns

To truly appreciate Telluride's present, one must delve into its rich mining history, which dates to the late 1800s gold rush and is another unique to the region experience. Take a drive to nearby ghost towns such as Alta and Tomboy (these can also be visited on jeep tours) where well-preserved remnants of the past stand as silent witnesses to the challenges and triumphs of the early settlers in the San Juan Mountains. The crumbling structures and abandoned mines provide a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era, adding depth to Telluride's narrative.

Fun on a Budget in Telluride

Some people climbing the mountain There is no question, Telluride is not the most affordable Colorado mountain town, but despite its air of luxury, savvy travelers can still have fun on a budget in Telluride. From exploring the great outdoors to indulging in affordable local delights, Telluride invites you to revel in its beauty without breaking the bank.

Go for a Hike

First example? Lace up your boots and go for a hike. Telluride is a haven for hiking enthusiasts, offering a myriad of trails that cater to all skill levels, and won’t cost you a dime. From the iconic Bridal Veil Falls to the scenic Bear Creek Preserve, the options are endless. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on an adventure through the breathtaking landscapes.

Free Festival Performances

If you want to experience Telluride’s festival vibe, but don’t have the cash for a ticket, keep an eye on the events calendar of what you are looking to attend. Many festivals offer free entry to certain performances, workshops, and screenings allowing you to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere without denting your budget.

Affordable Eateries

While Telluride boasts a range of upscale dining options, there are also affordable eateries that showcase the town's diverse culinary scene. Baked in Telluride is a long-time local favorite, and where I always go for breakfast before hitting the slopes. It cooks up reasonably priced breakfast and lunch selections.

For affordable Mexican food, La Cocina de Luz is one option. Taco Del Gnar is a food truck that has gained popularity for its creative tacos. It is a great choice for a tasty and affordable meal on the go. Crazy Elk Pizza and Brown Dog Pizza are two popular, budget-friendly pizza joints.

Day Trips from Telluride

The journey to Telluride is as spectacular as the destination itself, and another great way to have fun on a budget is to go on a scenic drive. The San Juan Skyway, a 236-mile scenic loop drive, runs through Telluride. It is one of the most magical drives in the U.S. and driving a section of it will only cost you gas money. From Telluride, I recommend driving southwest to Ouray, about an hour away. [LINK to San Juan Mountains Expert Guide]

The highway takes you past breathtaking Rocky Mountain vistas and Ouray is a wonderful little town to wander around for a few hours. Located in a box canyon, it is known as the “Switzerland of America.” It got its start as a silver and gold mining camp in the 1800s and many of its historic buildings remain. The town is also famous for its hot mineral springs. [LINK to Ouray Experts Guide]

Romantic Things to Do for Couples in Telluride

Couple enjoying romantic moment If you are visiting Telluride on a romantic vacation, there are plenty of things to do for couples. In winter one of the top romantic things to do is to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride under the stars. Snuggle under warm blankets with your loved one listening to the sleigh bells jingling and inhaling the fresh mountain air for an enchanting experience.

Spend the Day at the Spa

Another romantic thing to do is indulge in a couple's spa experience at one of Telluride’s luxury resorts. Many offer treatments designed especially for couples including massages and body scrubs for two.

Romantic Dining

Telluride has some great restaurants for a romantic dinner. Allred's Restaurant, perched at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, is one of the town’s most romantic restaurants for couples. With stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the town below, this culinary gem offers a luxurious dining experience that captures the essence of Telluride. You can also experience intimate, candlelit dinners at 221 South Oak and La Marmotte.

Go Stargazing

If astronomy is your thing, then head to Telluride Town Park on a clear night for some fantastic stargazing. Bring a blanket and a bottle of wine, lay back, and marvel at the constellations above with your loved one.

Natural Wonders in Telluride

A man enjoying natural view

Waterfall Hikes

Telluride is filled with natural wonders. When the snow melts in late spring, Telluride’s many hiking and biking trails become accessible. Bridal Veil Falls, the highest free-falling waterfall in Colorado, beckons nature lovers to witness its awe-inspiring beauty. It is just one of several waterfalls around Telluride. Bear Creek Falls and Cornet Creek Falls are two other waterfalls accessed via hiking trails.

Get Out on the Water

Another way to experience the natural wonders around Telluride is to book a rafting trip down the class II-II whitewater of the San Miguel River. Telluride Outside is one company offering these trips in summer. The company also runs family-friendly, SUP tours that teach you the basics of paddling and get you out on the water. Fly-fishing trips are also popular in summer.

Winter Fun

In winter, besides skiing, active outdoor adventures include guided snowmobile tours that take you into the backcountry to marvel at the natural beauty surrounding you. Telluride Outside runs tours that range from family-friendly half day trips to advanced tours meant for riders with previous experience.

Telluride Adventures is another tour operator offering a variety of active outdoor adventure tours year-round. In winter they run snowshoeing, ice climbing, and backcountry skiing adventures.

More on Telluride

Looking for more travel advice from our local experts in Telluride and the rest of Southern Colorado? Then check out these pages:

When to Visit Telluride Weather Telluride Visitors Guide Telluride Transportation & Navigation

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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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