Fall foliage takes center stage in Telluride

The small mountain town offers lots of hiking and other fun activities to highlight the season

Mackenzie Hahn
Special to The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Farmington is just a couple of hours from Colorado’s mountain peaks, which means spectacular fall scenery is only a day trip away.

Alicia Raney and her two children, Rashawn and Ellyanna, hike the Bear Creek Trail in Telluride, Colo., on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

And one great destination to witness the leaves change colors is Telluride, Colo. Though the drive from Farmington takes about three hours, there’s plenty to see along the way, making the trip seem shorter.

While the golden colors start to show just north of Durango, Colo., they only get better as drivers continue to head north on U.S. Highway 550.

Last week, they were reaching their peak at a stretch of the highway from Silverton to Ouray dubbed the Million Dollar Highway. Frequent turn-offs allow drivers to pull over and take in the beauty of the mountains and fall colors. This stretch of roadway is also well-maintained, which is a plus for drivers who may not be comfortable driving in the mountains.

Telluride offers myriad hiking trails and other outdoor activities. For many locals and out-of-town visitors, a stop in the small mountain town is an ideal way to mark the season.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, and I’ve always had a good time so now I bring my kids,” said Flora Vista resident Alicia Raney of the seasonal pilgrimage to Telluride.

She’s certainly not alone. With hiking trails just outside town, autumn tends to draw in lots of visitors, said Meaghan Henson, the destination concierge for the Telluride Tourism Board.

“We all get a little excited when this time of year comes around,” she said. “Especially when the peak starts to get a little snow, but it stays warmer at the bottom of the mountain and the color stays a little longer. It’s just beautiful.”

Locals get in on the action, too.

“Most of the hikes are within walking distance of town so it’s easy to get off work, walk to a trail and get a good hike in at the end of the day,” Henson said.

Raney said one of her favorite hikes in the area is Bear Creek Trail, a five-mile, round-trip hike that goes to a waterfall overlooking the mountains.

The leaves start to change along the Bear Creek Trail in Telluride, Colo., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015.

“My kids are 4 and 5, and it was a little harder for them,” Raney said of the hike after she and her two children, Rashawn and Ellyanna, as they walked the trail on Sept. 29. “But as you can see they finished it. Now that we’re at the waterfall, I think they forgot how long the hike was and are just enjoying themselves.”

Another worthwhile hike is the Cornet Falls Trail, which is about two miles round-trip. Although it may be too difficult for children, the waterfall at the peak that overlooks the ravine makes it worth the effort.

The trailheads for Bear Creek and Cornet Falls are both in walking distance from the center of town, allowing hikers to park their cars and get to the trailheads with little effort. Both hikes include sections of loose gravel, so wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water.

Henson also suggested one of her favorites, Wasatch Trail, a more difficult hike that stretches seven miles, one way.

“It’s more difficult but you see Bear Creek Falls and come down Bridal Veil Falls so it’s worth it,” she said.

Telluride offers plenty of affordable and family-friendly activities in the fall. Among them is a gondola ride that offers breathtaking views of the fall foliage.

Another of Telluride’s biggest attractions is the gondola, a free form of public transportation that is open to both people and pets. Soaring over the mountains, it takes riders into town and to the Mountain Village.

“This was the first year I took the kids up the gondola, and I thought they would be more scared, but they really enjoyed it,” Raney said. “They had so much fun looking at everything and walking around at the top of the mountain.”

Telluride’s amenities — as well as its proximity to Farmington — make it a great spot to get away, even if only for a day trip.

“We never leave disappointed so we end up coming back up every year,” Raney said.

Mackenzie Hahn covers the outdoors for The Daily Times.

Clockwise from left, Honeyville, Sugar Rush, Ourayle House Brewery and Brown Bear Café


The drive from Farmington to Telluride, Colo., takes about three hours if you travel on U.S. Highway 550. But there are several destinations along the route that can enhance the trip.


Located at 33633 U.S. Highway 550 about 10 miles north of Durango, Colo., this is a fun place to stop and look around. There are dozens of things to sample for free, including jams, jellies and even Honeyville’s homemade whiskey and honey wine. There is also a live beehive, and visitors can learn what it takes for a beehive to function.

Brown Bear Café

This restaurant at 1129 Greene St. in Silverton, Colo., serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. From omelets to burgers and even ham sandwiches, it’s a great local place to get a good meal and friendly service.

Sugar Rush

Sugar Rush, 1070 Greene St. in Silverton, Colo., offers a unique place to get a sweet treat. The store specializes in old-fashioned treats and also provides treats for pets if they are on the journey to see the colors. Sugar Rush is located at the base of the mountain, so patrons can enjoy treats while taking in a view.

Ourayle House Brewery

This brewery at 215 7th Ave. in Ouray, Colo., is a nice place for adults to sit back and enjoy a beer. The brewery doesn’t provide food, but patrons can bring their outside food. There is also a porch and if it’s nice enough, it’s a great place to take in the mountain air.

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