If you can’t imagine visiting Telluride during one of its many crowded summer festivals or winter Hollywood star-studded ski seasons, then I’ve got the perfect solution for you – autumn.
September and October in Telluride are glorious. The cerulean sky, the verdant valley floor, and the fluorescent yellow aspen provide a perfect backdrop to a relatively quiet, mellow town that seems to bask in its solitude during this time of year.
Telluride’s spectacular location is breathtaking. The town is situated in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains at the bottom of a box canyon, enclosed on three sides by several heaving 13,000-footers. A pristine valley floor, which has recently been protected from development by the heroic community, surrounds Telluride. And, the entire town is a National Register Historic District because of its large number of intact Victorian buildings.
Telluride’s fantastic natural setting, combined with charming, authentic architecture, make it one of the true great places in America.
Originally a booming mining town in the 19th-century, Telluride developed into a hot cold weather destination with the development of the Telluride ski resort in the 1970s. Soon, the town became a magnet for the glitterati, some of whom still call Telluride home, at least part of the year.
I’d like to think that Telluride is home part of year, too. With cheap off-season rates, that’s easy to achieve.
Lodging prices plummet during September and October. Rooms at the perfectly acceptable, no-frills Mountainside Inn are less than $100 per night. The Inn is tucked into the base of the ski resort alongside the tiny San Miguel River, just a short walk to the town’s main drag, Colorado Avenue. A swell hot tub with picturesque view of the incredible box canyon is included in the low rate, too.
A plethora of restaurants and bars line Colorado Avenue and its side streets. During the fall season, it’s easy to get a bar stool at the Last Dollar Saloon, Brown Dog Café, or Cornerhouse Grille (unless the Broncos or Buffs are playing), and the pool tables at the New Sheridan hotel are usually quite lonely. The New Sheridan Chop House is the perfect place for an elegant meal, as is Honga’s Lotus Petal. The Coffee Cowboy, the town’s unofficial hub, serves steaming hot beverages from their shiny horse trailer until it gets too cold to sit and sip outside.
Shopping in the excellent bookstores, galleries and clothing stores – check out Between the Covers, Telluride Fine Art Gallery, Down to Earth, Two Skirts, and Alpen Schatz – is a great way to spend your time.
But for most visitors, Telluride is all about being outside. Fall is an excellent time for hiking and biking along the area’s trails or taking a Jeep tour of the mountain passes and nearby ghost towns. Bridal Veil Falls and Bear Creek trails are easy hikes from town, and both provide spectacular photo opportunities. (Don’t forget to let your body acclimate to the altitude before you attempt one of these hikes. Drink and bring plenty of water.) A white-knuckle Jeep tour with one of the local outfitters is a great way to see inaccessible areas and get a glimpse of some high altitude sights.
And, the town’s free gondola runs until midnight, perfect for a ride to Mountain Village and a leisurely walk or mountain bike ride back down into town on the grassy ski slopes. You can always ride the gondola back down, too, of course.
So, spend a weekend, or spend a week. Check out the town’s official website, www.telluride.com for more information and details.