Even though we’re staying near Durango, our first Colorado adventure was in the small mountain town of Telluride. We rarely take long day trips, but since we plan to stay in the same place for next few weeks, a wider range of exploration was easily justified. Telluride is one of the towns that we skipped over last year. We would like to stay there this year, but since there’s only one campground in town- a place that is notoriously difficult to get into- who knows if it will happen. So we decided to drive up and spend the day. The two hour drive was beautiful of course. For most of the journey we traveled through a valley next to a rushing stream. We passed many places where we would love to camp, including about 5 or 6 different national forest campgrounds, and some boondocking alongside the river where we spotted a couple RVs. Sadly, these deep mountains valleys tend to prohibit any kind of usable cell service, which means we won’t be staying here anytime soon.
As we neared our destination the mountains grew taller and the presence of snow more prolific. Soon we were at the top of Lizard Head Pass. Somehow I didn’t get a photo of the prominent mountain peak that is said to resemble a Lizard head. Probably because it was out the driver’s side window, and I was too busy snapping pics out the passenger side. More great boondocking up here in the pass. Same deal though with the lack of cell service.
We crested the top of the pass at 10,222′ and began our descent into town. More mountains appeared in the distance. The mountains in Colorado are endless. I can’t help but think about those explorers who first traversed this state by foot and on horseback. It must have seemed like a never ending maze of giant peaks and valleys, followed by more giant peaks, and then a river to cross, and then another giant peak. At least these days we know that after climbing up a tall mountain pass, we’re almost guaranteed to find a small town in the valley below with a store selling cold drinks.
Telluride looks exactly like I thought it would. The town is nestled down in a narrow box canyon with a picturesque main street full of old victorian style buildings. The surrounding streets are packed tightly with charming houses that grow larger and larger as they creep up the hillside. In comparison to some of the other Colorado ski towns that we’ve visited, I would say it’s less commercial than Breckenridge, but more tourism focused than Crested Butte. We easily found a parking spot on the street (free on Sundays), and spent about an hour wandering around town. One of the places we wanted to check out was the Town Park where they have a campground. This is the only campground/RV park in town. Word is that to get a spot there in the busy season you generally have to wait in line in the morning – and hope it works out. The campground is closed to the public when it is used as an event venue. These events happen quite frequently throughout the summer. In fact, there was one going on when we visited. The Telluride Bluegrass Festival is one of the largest events in town, and even though it hadn’t officially started yet, the campers had definitely arrived. We walked through the campground and it was a complete zoo. Tents, tents, and more tents were set up on any available surface, with a few RVs wedged in here and there. Because of the chaos it was hard to see what the actual sites looked like. Who knows if we’ll make it back to try for a site later in the summer.
After walking around town we decided to take a trip up the mountain on the FREE gondola. Yup, free! Unbelievable right? Nothing like that is ever free. A few weeks ago in the tiny town of Red River they tried to get us to pay $17/person to ride up their charlift. Umm…no thank you. The Telluride Gondola is really cool because it not only takes you to the top of the mountain where you can get off and ski, hike, mountain bike, have a picnic, dine at the mountain top restaurant, or just gaze at the view, but it’s also a method of public transportation that travels between downtown Telluride and the Mountain Village. Pretty cool right? We rode to the top of the San Sofia section where we got off and had a little picnic while taking in the views.
Next we headed over to the far end of town for a hike up to Bridal Veil Falls. At 365 feet in length, these falls are the tallest in Colorado. That building you see at the top of the falls is the Bridal Veil Powerhouse. This historic building has been around since 1907 and is still in operation today, providing power to the town of Telluride 1,400 feet below.
The road up to the top of the falls is open to 4-wheel drive vehicles, OHVs, hikers, and bikers. The majority of visitors on this busy sunday elected to drive to the top, but our goal was to get a little exercise, so we parked and hiked. The hike up was not terribly strenuous, and only 1.8 miles long. About half a mile short of the top we arrived at the bottom of the falls where the wind blown falls showered down on us. We scrambled through the woods for a close up view, risking the cold water for a photo. At this point we decided not to go the rest of the way up the trial. It was getting late in the day and we still had a two hour drive home. Besides, we were pretty happy with our close up waterfall view.
On the way down we enjoyed another look at the town below.
Our day in Telluride ended with dinner at Brown Dog Pizza. We chose this placed based solely on the name, and ended up with a so-so pizza that cost more than it was worth. The salad was really good though, and the atmosphere lively as the place was filled with locals watching the World Cup. All in all we had an excellent day in Telluride and hope to make it back for another day trip, or maybe even a week at the campground if we’re lucky.