16 Best Things to Do in Telluride, CO

Telluride, CO
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Telluride has become quite a well-known destination for its rich history and downhill skiing, but this town is also famous for having many cultural events throughout the summer and offers a wide variety of interesting activities to do outdoors as well.  

Another thing that remained true for Telluride, Colorado, is its genuine mountain character, natural view, and celebration of four seasons of adventure on the Rocky Mountain.

Nestled into a box canyon with 13,000-14,000-foot peaks surrounding it, Telluride’s history is so entwined with that of the pioneer West, leading to it becoming a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Mixing brightly colored Victorian-era homes, historical buildings, and clapboard storefronts now mix with art galleries, boutiques, a few places to dine with outstanding gourmet cuisine, and other endeavors.

Telluride Ski Resort is a lovely place featuring uncrowded slopes for all levels of skiers and riders, including some of the best backcountry terrain found in Colorado with exciting hike-to opportunities.

The destination serves more than just carving turns; there is also plenty to do outside on the mountain, including Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, fat bike touring, or sleigh riding.

While there are so many things that you could do in this fantastic mountain town, here are the top 15 things to do in Telluride, Colorado:

Bask in the Beauty of the Gorgeous San Juan Mountains

Highway with a view of San Juan Mountains
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The San Juan Mountains are one of the most spectacular mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountains in northwestern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado.

Some of the most diverse scenery can be found throughout the San Juan Range.

Stretching across the continental divide, this majestic mountain range boasts a host of jagged volcanic summits.

Aerial view of San Juan Mountains
Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nestled between these lofty peaks are many pristine lakes, gorgeous waterfalls, sparkling streams, and even the source of the Rio Grande River.

Adventure trails in the San Juan Mountains include many great ones, such as Arrastra Basin, which is 3.8 miles long, 2,750 feet, and includes a large lake, extensive old mine ruins, and a stony track of a rough trail that leads to it all.

San Juan Mountains reflecting on a lake
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Come to Telluride Film Festival

The National Film Preserve holds the Telluride Film Festival in the scenic town of Telluride, Colorado.

This event became possible due to the collaboration of a host of partners who work tirelessly to bring film enthusiasts and filmmakers together in one exceptional location to discover and celebrate the best in the film industry.

Telluride Film Festival takes place annually in Telluride, Colorado, that showcases the best of what the U.S. and international cinema have to offer over Labor Day weekend.

Every year, tens of thousands of filmgoers descend on the area to view more than 80 short films, feature films, and revival programs from 29 countries; see special artist tributes; and participate in panels, festivities, conversations, and student programs.

Trek Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail and Immerse Yourself in an Alpine Hiking Experience

Hiking trail of Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail
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The Jud Wiebe Trail is a beautiful and magical 5 km round trip hike for everyone who wishes to stroll along one of Colorado’s spectacular scenes.

The trail offers plenty of options for recreation and has the most to offer from May until October.

And you can bring along your dog/s so long as you keep your furry friend on a leash.

Tall trees along Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail
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The Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail is a gorgeous path offering breathtaking views of Telluride and the surrounding mountains.

It's a blend of muddy, dry, and icy sections that are perfect for trekking or hiking with poles for some added assistance with the icy spots.

A trek to this Telluride trail offers enough elevation to make it somewhat challenging for those unaccustomed to challenging hikes.

Flowers along Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail
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Roam around Telluride Town Park

Telluride Town Park is a very well-known landmark that serves as the hub for most of the town's activities.

The town park holds many music festivals and hosts a full-scaled frisbee golf course, soccer fields, campgrounds, sand volleyball courts, and softball fields in the summer.

Public outdoor swimming pools, the skate park, horseshoe pits, tennis courts, the kid's fishing pond, Imagination Station playgrounds, basketball courts, and many more also come alive.

In the winter, you can go for some Nordic skiing at a groomed trail or one of the two rinks.

Telluride Town Park winter activities are under the management of the town of Telluride through its sport and recreation division.

Nestled between the Bear Creek and San Miguel River on the town’s east end, Telluride Town Park Campground offers everyone a chance to camp under the stars coupled with fantastic mountain views and a picturesque setting.

The campground welcomes campers from mid-May to mid-October and serves as the only place where you can stay in your RV if you're planning to spend an overnight stay in Telluride during summer (and only if you’re within town limits).

Ski to One of the Best Ski Resorts in North America

People preparing to ski at Telluride ski resort
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Located in Mountain Village, Colorado, the Telluride Ski Resort that sits next to the town of Telluride is a ski resort that offers 300 days of sunshine per year without waiting in line for some epic snowboarding and skiing.

Telluride Ski Resort is a popular winter destination in southwestern Colorado.

This ski resort is home to North America’s most concentrated mountains, located right in the northwestern San Juan Mountains of the Rocky Mountains.

Sunny day at Telluride Ski Resort
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Resting between Colorado’s new alpine society of Mountain Village and the old town of Telluride, Telluride Ski Resort boasts more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain.

This National Historic Landmark District began in the late 1800s as a mining camp and is now home to some of the most exciting skiing in North America.

People skiing downhill at Telluride Ski Resort
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Watch the Latest Movies at the Nugget Theater

Nugget Theater is not only the finest space for moviegoers in Telluride, but the movie theater also serves the best popcorn in the region.

This is a really cute old-fashioned establishment on Telluride’s main street where movie fanatics can have a blast in the past.

First built in 1892 by Lucien Lucius (L.L.) Nunn, the Nugget Building housing the Nugget Theater was once the Old First National Bank Building where offices of the Telluride Power Company and the First National Bank reside.

When you come and see a movie at the Nugget Theater, you can go to a window to get your ticket and walk in through a door 30 minutes before the movie begins.

Here, you’ll also find a small kiosk where you can buy some popcorn and candies to enjoy while watching the movie.

Hike Bear Creek Trail and Indulge in a Serene Escape

Small waterfall at Bear Creek Trail
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Bear Creek Trail near Telluride, Colorado is a 5.10-mile moderately challenging loop trail that will generally take you about 3 hours to complete.

This is a very popular area among campers and hikers who like to get outside and enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and those who enjoy getting out there on horses.

You can hike Bear Creek Trail year-round and visit this beautiful place any time of year.

A butterfly on a flower at Bear Creek Trail
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If you’re thinking of bringing your dog with you, you can do so provided that you’ll keep them on a leash at all times.

You’ll encounter some snow, some skiers around, and pretty sights and hear all of the sounds that Mother Nature has to offer as you hike this trail.

It's usually pretty cold in the shady areas of Bear Creek Trail but once you climb out and into the sun, it starts to warm up.

But make sure you don't get too close to where you’ll find a waterfall when you reach the top; because this part is prone to avalanches.

Scenic view of Bear Creek Trail
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Explore Telluride Transfer Warehouse

In the heart of the town’s National Historic Landmark District lies yet another historical landmark—the Telluride Transfer Warehouse.

The building’s construction was completed in 1906, and it then served as a venue for various gatherings and an axis for regional transportation until 1979, when its roof tragically collapsed.

A decade passed before it was able to be used again but with no heat and numerous structural issues needing to be repaired, ongoing deterioration ensued.

In the 1930s, the Telluride Transfer Company was responsible for bringing in and out anything that happened to come to and from the area.

Horses, mules, buggies, and trucks carrying goods such as silver, gold, mail, cash, groceries, and steel over the treacherous mountain passes by day where they would be stored at the warehouse by evening.

The building kept its main role within the community for the past century serving multiple purposes from a garage to a filling station.

In 1968, Joe Zoline, Telluride Ski Resort founder, acquired the property along with station the hauling permit of the Transfer Company.

Since then, the building served as a means to transport skiers from Telluride to Mountain Village.

And then Telluride Arts acquired it in 2017 planning to transform the space into an affordable venue for community culture.

Get Haunted by the Past at Alta Ghost Town

A house at Alta Ghost Town
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In the Rocky Mountains, tucked between Rico and Telluride, is a small ghost town called Alta.

With an 11,800-feet elevation, this ghost town has several original buildings still standing allowing passersby to reminisce about what was once a thriving mining town.

In the good old days of when full-on mining activities were conducted in this town, a small community of hundreds lived here.

Empty Alta Ghost Town
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This place was used to be the center for mining operations in the Alta-Gold King area between 1877 and 1948.

In 1948, Alta became lively again for a short period before the mill was burned down that same year and the townsite was put out of business permanently.

Today, nearly a century later, the town hasn’t lost its notoriety as the first place to use one of Tesla’s greatest inventions, the AC transmission Power system.

It was coal that once powered the mines, requiring 4 miles of daily pack mule travel to reach them before building a powerplant and using electricity to make things better.

Wooden house at Alta Ghost Town
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Give Ursa Ravus a Bear Hug

Also known as Telluride Penny Bear, Ursa Ravus is the tallest penny sculpture standing 15 feet tall in 15 skyward at 635 East Colorado Avenue.

This 6000-pound grizzly bear was the first sanctioned piece of public art built for the town of Telluride, Colorado, and commissioned by the Gluckstern (Judy and Steven).

Roughly 187,000 pennies embedded in concrete make the fur of Ursa Ravus with a steel tubing frame and carved Styrofoam for its body.

It took four months with the help of self-taught artists and a Ferguson Welding Service blacksmith welder who made the bear’s claws and nose to finish the sculpture.

Ursa Ravus' glass-blown eyes are the works of Canada’s Bee Kingdom Glass of Calgary.

Get a Sense of Telluride’s Fascinating History

Exterior of Telluride Historical Museum
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Nestled within a former 1896 hospital, the Telluride Historical Museum will take you on many aspects of geological and regional history including the cultures of the miners, Ute, and settlers.

Featuring exhibits on town histories such as transportation and skiing, high-altitude innovations, and more, you’ll appreciate this visually stimulating museum experience which also reflects upon it being a miners’ hospital once.

The museum serves as a historical landmark of Telluride and serves as a reminder of Telluride’s surprising change and growth.

With its rotating gallery exhibits, 'Museum' shop, and ten thematic rooms, you’re treated to an exciting experience while learning about Telluride's remarkable history.

The museum displays its eclectic collection in beautifully styled, personal, and inspiring settings—using three forms of telling the stories with dramatic groupings of exhibits including hands-on interactive features.

There’s a variety of workshops for kids here as well, where the young ones can get their hands dirty trying out a variety of mining-related skills or digging up hidden gems using an outdoor mining sluice.

The museum also has a retail store and an online shop for novelty items and historic photos on sale.

The Telluride Gallery of Fine Art is located on Colorado Avenue in the Historic District of Telluride.

Established in 1985, the gallery has since then showcased established artists based in and around the region.

The gallery then decided to broaden its focus in 2017 and now presents post-war contemporary and modern art by leading renowned national artists with LA and Californian specialties.

This art gallery continues to put up exhibitions featuring works of progressive, visionary creative minds that work in various mediums but possess a unique perspective or signature style.

Young creatives who look up to inspiring artists like Tony Berlant, Maya Lin, and Edward Moses as their role models come to this art space to marvel at and get inspired by their idols’ works.

Other art galleries worth checking out in Telluride include the Rinkevich Gallery in Mountain Village, the Ital Col LLC in Lost Creek Lane, and Colorado Avenue's MiXX Projects + Atelier, Lustre Gallery, Tony Newlin Gallery at Telluride, Naturescapes Gallery, Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, Slate Gray Gallery, Telluride Studio & Bistro.

Catch a Performance at the Sheridan Opera House

The Sheridan Opera House is one of the best theaters in the country and was even added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Home of the Sheridan Arts Foundation (SAF), this large playhouse can comfortably seat up to 238 guests.

Named “The Crown Jewel of Telluride” and “Telluride's Living Room”, this historical landmark has become a nonprofit event space for the Telluride community, local charitable organizations, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and small businesses.

The Sheridan Opera House has played host to the wildly successful Telluride Comedy Festival since 1999.

And on warmer months, a week before Independence Day, the Sheridan Arts Foundation would bring in around 20-25 leading national Plein air artists to the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride to take part in a 7-day outdoor art show.

Celebrate Fire Festival and Inherit the Will of Fire

FIre display at Fire Festival
Dianajuhn, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rocky Mountain Arts are the best way to experience fine art and fire artists in a multi-day weekend getaway.

This event allows you the opportunity to experience real creative fire dancing and view heartwarming sights of all types of fire arts.

When you think of fire in art and a festival to celebrate it, you might envision it to be a disaster, but this celebration in Telluride will prove you wrong as the Fire Festival serves as an opportunity to nurture and expand artistic minds while maintaining tradition.

The Fire Festival attracts all kinds of individuals to varying workshops on either building, painting, manipulating, or even participating in various incendiary art events.

It was the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Arts managers Chris Myers and Erin Ries who co-founded this unique festival seven years ago.

What inspired them to create Telluride’s own Fire Festival was the popular festival in the Nevada Desert called Burning Man that promoted flammable self-expression and art pieces.

People from near and far come together to watch flame artists like Dominic Del Signore perform incredible acrobatic skills on a Cyr Wheel during Rocky Mountain Arts’ Fire Festival.

Celebrate Telluride Jazz Festival

For over 40 years, the stunning high-altitude terrain of Telluride, Colorado has been accommodating a diverse array of art installations and performances in an extravagant annual festival.

The Telluride Jazz Festival is one of the world’s finest jazz fests with such outstanding live music experiences to enjoy annually.

It's been celebrated since 1977, attracting visitors from around the world who are looking for an optimal listening experience.

Not only does it offer top-notch musical performances but also lets attendees take part in exciting outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.

The Telluride Jazz Festival is a 3-day, 2-night jazz music event that takes place in the late summer every year.

Each event centers itself on providing an intimate small festival format surrounded by the untamed mountains of Telluride Town Park.

The relaxing ambiance of this natural backdrop allows for that once-in-a-lifetime sound to play out, one provided by acclaimed artists, cutting-edge innovators, Grammy Award winners, rare super-groups, and some of Colorado’s best student bands.

The laid-back atmosphere of local patrons, dedicated residents, and curious tourists makes for a welcoming environment where you can feel free to get cozy in your chair or let loose on the dance floor.

Browse Some Oddities of Telluride Free Box

Telluride’s Free Box is the showpiece of Telluride Town.

A collection of cubbies situated at the heart of town, it serves as an equalizer between residents and visitors alike.

It is here where one can simply dispose of unwanted items or, more interestingly perhaps, one can find new treasures where they least expect it.

This outdoor giveaway rack has been a very big hit in the local community and should have revamped its name to more accurately reflect what it really is.

The Telluride Free Box is a tradition that started in the 1970s.

Back when the town was smaller and more hippie-ish than it is today, people would drop off anything they no longer used towards the end of the day in the Free Box.

This tradition of course invited those who like free stuff, to browse the Free Box, and take what fancied them.

Even until now, Telluride Free Box is still here and some people still visit it to find what they think is a treasure to them for free.

This tradition has endured because it brings out a sense of community for resort goers by giving them a way to "give back" to others and connect with their peers, if only through discarded items.

Final Thoughts

Colorado offers an array of natural sights and sounds.

And if you happen to find yourself in the state of Colorado, a place like Telluride is certainly somewhere you should visit.

Let the majestic peaks of Telluride impress you with their cold grandeur.

A quaint town with restaurants, boutiques, parks, historic hotels, art galleries, and trails surround your company!

If you're planning a trip to Telluride soon but are craving more information on this historic mining town, get back to this guide to make your vacation as carefree and exciting as possible.