If the drive to Telluride doesn’t show you enough autumn splendor, then just wait until the San Juan mountains come into view.
“From the very moment you pull into Telluride, there is simply nothing that compares to the rugged, steep and extreme terrain of the San Juan range,” said Meghan Gruszynski, who has lived in Telluride. “This incredible region, combined with the beauty of the changing fall colors, sets the stage for a picture-perfect experience.”
Take a right turn up toward Mountain Village just before you come into Telluride to get a full scope of all the vistas that keep the area so coveted. The upper village is connected to Telluride by a set of free gondolas, so transportation is both easy and entertaining.
The Peaks Resort in Mountain Village is a great home base for a short trip or extended vacation, and if you arrive before nightfall, then find a seat at Altezza, which means “height” in Italian — alongside a west-facing wall of windows or on the open-air balcony. Executive Chef Jason Bayle has created an “Italian-inspired menu, Colorado-themed entrees, impeccable service and one of the most spectacular views in Telluride.”
The dining room stays lively as the sun dips below the horizon line, but gradually, full bellies are called to their accommodations — heading to sleep amidst down feathers and dreams.
The Peaks is great, but anyone looking for an even more luxury stay should look at the Madeline Hotel — it’s also in Mountain Village (above Telluride the town, accessed via a fun and free gondola), and is the “treat yourself” choice with top-tier amenities and refined on-site dining.
GET UP AND GO
While the mountains aren’t moving and it’s tempting to sleep in, early risers are able to get the most out of the area’s recreation, as well as time to check out all the cultural hot spots.
“Telluride offers countless opportunities to fit in a little fitness with a lot of fun,” Gruszynski said. “You can downhill mountain bike with the help of the free gondola, and hike trails to explore the vibrant colors of the fall mixed with the rushing waterfalls surrounding town.”
Right from The Peaks, you can mountain bike the Jurassic Trail, or man-power your way into town by the Boomerang to Valley Floor route. Take the gondola up to the St. Sophia station to hit Prospect trail, a 10-mile, intermediate traverse over rolling singletrack. If you don’t have a bike, there are plenty of outfitters available for rentals, and hiking is a great option and accessible on most of the trails.
Bear Creek Trail is a popular local hike out of town, and is accessed from the end of South Pine Street. The 2.5 mile climb leads to upper Bear Creek Falls and connects to the Wasatch Trail and Bridal Veil Basin. This time of year, the fall colors on all these trails will be bursting.
“Telluride’s box canyon creates a backdrop unlike any other for Gold Season,” said Kiera Skinner, Telluride Tourism Board director of marketing and public relations. “You are literally surrounded on all sides by gold, red and orange as the colors change through the valley.”
EXPLORE AND ENJOY
After a nature bath, stop at Brown Dog Pizza on Colorado Avenue (Main Street), for a Detroit-style pizza — try the 3-1-3. If your appetite is mountainous, then start with a Mamma Mia burrata appetizer, and wash it all down with a Bridal Veil rye pale ale from Telluride Brewing Company.
Ready for something sweet? The Telluride Truffle on Fir Street offers freshly handmade chocholates with Colorado organic cream, along with fine liquors with names like Powder Day, First Tracks, Snowcapped and Rocky Top.
The Telluride Farmers Market takes place on South Oak Street every Friday through mid-October. The market runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and all products are grown within 100 miles of Telluride.
Head back up the gondola to The Peaks for some time to enjoy their indoor/outdoor pool and hot tubs. Kids love the waterslide, while adults can swim laps at their leisure.
The onsite spa is the largest in Colorado, and features 32 treatments rooms, as well as a full fitness center. Indulge in an “Evening To Unwind” half-day treatment, rejuvenate your muscles with a 90-minute custom massage. On Sundays, restorative yoga at noon with Regan is a relaxing treat all its own.
Before you sink in to your covers for the night, head out for some food at the top of the gondola station St. Sophia at Allred’s. The views of Telluride are the best you can get from a dining room, and the spicy peach margarita with jalepeno-infused tequila goes down almost too easily. Try the carpaccio wraps, too.
If you want to keep the night going, then there’s a new music club in town. Club Red at the Telluride Conference Center is reminiscent of an old speakeasy or jazz club, and creates an intimate music experience.
Just get enough rest to wake up and play all over again. A sunrise hike up the See Forever Trail take about an hour each way, and the morning alpenglow is worth every step.
*TRAVEL NEWS UPDATE: Get to Telluride from Denver with the new Allegiant Airlines service from Denver International Airport to the Telluride/Montrose airport.
The seasonal flights will operate twice weekly and fly nonstop between Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) and Denver International Airport (DEN) between Dec. 17, 2016 and Mar. 25, 2017. Flight days, times and the lowest fares can be found only at Allegiant.com. Allegiant is offering one-way fares on the route for as low as $44.