The Best Outdoor Activities in Telluride

While Telluride is famous for its skiing, the town also offers outdoor recreation beyond the slopes. Whether you’re seeking something low-key like a sleigh ride through the snow, or a slightly more active experience like hiking to a waterfall or fat-biking to a brewery, you can find an al fresco activity for even the most adventurous outdoorsman.

Alta Lakes Road
Just five miles from downtown Telluride and accessible by high-clearance 4x4, Alta Lakes is a sonnet-worthy area of crystal-clear alpine lakes, studded on all sides by snow-capped peaks. Camping is primitive—don’t expect running water, much less a hot shower—but it’s precisely this lack of frivolities that keeps the surrounds so pure. Area residents love Alta for its hiking and mountain biking trails, and the fact that it’s an Instagram post come to life. When you’re done exploring in nature, be sure to stop by the hamlet of Alta itself, a former mining boomtown that looks like a spaghetti western set.
Bear Creek Falls Trail, Colorado 81426, USA
For a simple day hike suitable for the whole family, head to the end of South Pine Street in Telluride and jump onto the Bear Creek Trail, a 2.5-mile path that leads to a jaw-dropping waterfall. The popular trail is as easygoing as the Telluride locals (read: it’s wide and well-marked), and gains about 1,000 feet of elevation, offering views of town along the way. Those keen to go farther won’t regret continuing on to where the path connects with the Wasatch Trail and Bridal Veil Basin.
About an hour’s drive from Telluride, Box Canyon Falls Park is totally worth the schlep, especially for its 285-foot Canyon Creek waterfall that plunges down a limestone slot canyon. That the waterfall is accessible by a hair-raising suspension bridge hovering over a gorge only makes the trip more deserving. Colorado scientists note that the waterfall gushes thousands of gallons per minute, so BYO poncho if you don’t want to leave soaked.
Misty waterfalls are like unicorns in the landlocked, high-and-dry state of Colorado. This particular one is a dead-ringer for its namesake, as it cascades over and down sheer vertical cliffs, looking as delicate as nuptial lace. At 365 feet high, it also happens to be the largest waterfall in Colorado. For a prime view, say “I do!” to the 1.8-mile hike to the top, where a historic power plant overlooks the evergreen-studded landscape, or rent a bike to explore the car-free trails in Bridal Veil basin.
650 Mountain Village Blvd, Telluride, CO 81435, USA
Colorado used to be about skiing in the winter and mountain biking or hiking in the summer, but, somewhere along the way, clever bike enthusiasts who were impatient for the snow to melt realized that, by putting fat snow tires on their bikes, they no longer had to wait until spring to ride. Since then, fat biking has become one of the most popular forms of transportation in Telluride. Bootdoctors in Mountain Village offers guided trips from town to the Telluride Brewing Company, but many people use fat bikes simply to get around.
565 Mountain Village Boulevard
Telluride is such a beloved ski destination because there’s a lot of mountain to ski and relatively few people on the slopes. However, if even just a few other people feel like too many, you can hitch a ride in a helicopter to experience pristine parts of the mountain that aren’t accessible by lifts. Open to advanced intermediate skiers and above, Telluride Ski Resort’s three-day heli-skiing school—offered in partnership with Telluride Helitrax, the only heli-skiing outfitter in the area—provides just such an adventure. Not only will you get to ride in a helicopter, but you’ll also feel like you own the mountain as you traverse down untouched slopes.
Dolores, CO 81323, USA
Despite its unusual moniker, Lizard Head Wilderness is a crown jewel of Colorado, with 41,496 acres of San Juan mountains and 37 miles of trails ripe for exploration. Among Telluride’s profusion of outdoorsy thrills, it’s an especially beloved destination for area hikers—and just ten minutes from town. Insiders ascend 13,290-foot-tall Dolores Peak to enjoy prime views of Utah’s red rock canyons.
Mesa Verde, CO, USA
For anyone who believes that truly historic architecture doesn’t exist in the states, Mesa Verde National Park will make you think again. Still standing in the park are cliff dwellings built in 600 CE by the ancestral Pueblo people who once lived in the area. A transformative day trip, Mesa Verde is nearly two hours from Telluride but well worth the drive to see its 5,000 archeological sites, from Cliff Palace (a ranger will guide you on the hike up, which involves climbing ten-foot ladders) to Balcony House (which you’ll enter via a 12-foot tunnel).
W San Juan Ave, Telluride, CO 81435, USA
If you’re heading to Telluride to ski, chances are you’ll actually be bouncing back and forth between the town of Telluride and the town of Mountain Village, where the ski resort is located. Delightfully, the main method of transportation between the two areas is a free pedestrian gondola that takes passengers on a 13-minute ride—and offers some of the best views around. Even better, the gondola runs from 6:30 a.m. until midnight so, if you’re out late enjoying the nightlife, you’ll still be able to make it back to your hotel room.
220 E Colorado Ave #217, Telluride, CO 81435, USA
Horse-drawn sleighs are typically the stuff of Hallmark movies but, in Telluride, they’re as real as the mountains out your window. Set on a 1920s ranch owned by a Spanish family, Telluride Sleighs & Wagons offers sleigh rides through the snow in winter and sunset wagon rides to a tented dinner of Basque lamb stew and pan-fried trout in summer. Did we mention that Bravo’s Top Chef filmed here? Seriously, it’s that cinematic.
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