Road trip from Denver to Telluride
Taking I-70 west, you should hit Palisade, a hub for fruit growers and vineyards, right around lunchtime. For a perfect midday repast, take exit 42 and follow the Palisade Fruit and Wine Byway, enjoying a picnic lunch in one of the numerous orchards or gardens on the route, or strolling Palisade’s downtown for a good lunch spot. Stock up on locally grown wine and fruit and get back on the road. Soon after, you will turn southward, passing through high-alpine desert en route to Montrose. Stop here for gas and groceries, before continuing to Ridgway, a small town beside the Uncompahgre River, where the film True Grit (think John Wayne, not Hailee Steinfeld) was filmed. It also is the location of the last traffic light you will see on your trip.
From Ridgway, begin your climb up into the San Juan Mountains, passing Ralph Lauren’s working ranch on the left as you head up to Dallas Divide, 10,000 feet above sea level. Before you reach the top of Dallas, turn into the viewpoint on the left, perfect for taking in (and photographing) stunning scenery that includes the snaggle-toothed Sneffels Range.
Hop back in the car and carry on downhill until you reach the turn (it’s on the left) for Highway 145. With this, an extraordinary geology lesson begins. As you drive through sleepy Placerville and Sawpit, the San Miguel River on your right, note the cliffs all around, colored in variable shades of red and orange, ochre and brown, the detritus of millennia as continents drifted, mountains and seas formed, receded, re-formed and receded again, leaving behind these stunning sedimentary layers of limestone and sandstone.
Geology, however, will be the last thing on your mind as you top Keystone Hill and suddenly — gloriously — the box canyon that Telluride calls home bursts into view, the town huddled at the canyon’s east end beneath the magnificent peaks of the San Juans, with the Valley Floor (Telluride’s wild, preserved open space that serves as a kind of welcome mat) stretched before it.
Welcome to Telluride! So, what is there to do?
Quite a lot, it turns out. Telluride’s backyard is astonishingly varied. Hikes range from short walks from in-town trailheads to challenging, day-long treks that take you through wildflower meadows, forests and talus fiends, before topping out high above treeline. Bikers can cycle the mellow Valley Floor, enjoy the Telluride Ski Resort’s bike park, or go big on a more demanding route. There is climbing, including Telluride’s very own Via Ferrata, a system of iron rungs and cables on a sheer rockface above the east end of the valley. Opportunities also abound for a water-borne adventure with stand-up paddle boarding, rafting, tubing and swimming all on offer. Or try a 4x4 jeep tour and visit the ghost towns and relics from the region’s days as a mining hub. Take a break from the action by riding the free, wheelchair-stroller-, bike- and dog-friendly Gondola for bird’s eye views without the need to huff and puff.
Experience, too, Telluride and Mountain Village’s exciting and highly regarded arts, retail and dining scenes. All will have an al fresco feel this summer, as galleries, shops and restaurants move outdoors onto the sidewalks, plazas and streets for open-air living at its finest.
Telluride is clearly a place that likes a good time. To keep the good time going this summer, it has taken precautions to protect the health and wellbeing of guests and residents alike. To learn more, go to visittelluride.com/COVIDsafety.
Now, go enjoy summertime in the best place on Earth.