Telluride: 5 Gold Nuggets From the Storied Mountain Town
Feature Photo by Mandy Minnis
Wildsam’s new guide to Telluride, Colorado is a wild ride to the high country–outlaw lore, music and film festival intel, and insight from locals on why this is the mountain town to rule them all. Among all the good things we found in this outpost, a few really stand out as Rocky Mountain highs.
1 Telluride is an all-season adventure magnet.
When the sun shines and the temperatures rise, a sturdy pair of boots comes in handy. Cornet Creek Falls, a free-hanging ribbon of water cupped in a red-rock amphitheater, flows through mid-air just a quarter mile from town. Telluride Bike Path threads the Valley Floor, with nearly 7 miles of paved cruising in the shadow of the San Juans. [The San Miguel River Trail makes it a longer loop.] And for truly intrepid souls, the Via Ferrata, Telluride’s “iron way,” clings to the sheer west face of Ajax Peak. [Guide recommended.]
Then, winter’s treasured blue-bird days enshrine Telluride as one of the great ski towns. From the mandatory caffeine kickoff at Cowboy Coffee to a rip down Black Iron Bowl to a rewarding glass of red at Alpino Vino, our book sets out a pretty nice plan for a full session on the slopes.
2 Telluride has become the pilgrimage for bluegrass fans—and musicians.
From extremely humble beginnings–the first, “unofficial” festivation drew just about 1,000 people–Telluride’s Bluegrass Festival has become the minted standard of its namesake genre and many styles beyond. In an original essay, singer Emily Scott Robinson tells us of how she dreamed of the festival stage:
First annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1974. bluegrass.com/telluride
“I went to the Telluride Town Park stage to say a prayer. I sat on the edge of that ramshackle wooden stage, looked out at the mountains and promised myself that the next time I walked out there, it would be to sing my own songs.”
No spoilers, but it’s a good story. (read it here)
3 Butch Cassidy got his start here.
(left) Site of Cassidy's first robbery of San Miguel Valley Bank by Carol M Highsmith (right) Butch Cassidy archival
No offense to drifting cowpokes named “Robert” or “Leroy,” but our man Butch was just a drifting cowpoke named Robert Leroy Parker before he stumbled into Telluride and sampled the illicit delights of a 19th Century mining town. After a little bit of horse thievery and way too much time in the saloons, “Butch Cassidy” found his true calling when he held up the San Miguel Bank. Soon after, he met up with Sundance, and the rest is, as they say, history. “Los banditos yanquis!”
4 This is a fine, fine hub for off-the-grid lodging.
“Restored 1800s ghost town”might not sound like a luxury resort description, but trust us. Nestled in an alpine valley alongthe West Dolores River, Dunton Hot Springs–with its cabins, saloon, trails and of course hot springs (both indoor and outdoor, ranging in temperature from 85°F to 106°F)–is the dreamiest soaking spot around. Other places of rest deep in the Telluride backcountry include The Observatory at Alta Lakes and Camp V, a 1940s uranium mining outpost transformed into a boutique camp spot with on-site art installations.
5 To succeed in Telluride politics, it helps to be named Art Goodtimes.
Illustration by Abby J. Fox
County commissioner, poet and all-around man of interest Art Goodtimes told us in an interview:
“In Telluride, if you have interest and ambition, you can make something happen, whether it’s music, or painting, or any of the arts … I was a Green in a town that’s way Democrat. People liked who I was. They didn’t care about party.”
Sounds like our kind of town.