Telluride, Colorado, is one of my favorite places on earth. I get drawn into the Victorian architecture of the historic downtown. Its mining history is fascinating. Telluride is an outdoor adventure playground for weekend warriors to extreme athletes. My friends, the Thomas family, from Texas were originally going to spend two nights as part of their weeklong road trip. The magic of the box canyon captured us and we extended for another night and could have easily stayed much longer. Here’s how to spend time in Telluride social distancing in the COVID-19 pandemic while hiking, eating and adventuring in “the best small town to visit in the USA” according to US News and World Report.
Affordable Riverside Accommodations
The drive from Ouray is about an hour. Sarah and Chris, along with their two daughters, Aria and Caroline, had been there for a few days. I met them for one night in Ouray. After climbing the Ouray Via Ferrata, we headed to Telluride, arriving late afternoon. We found affordable accommodations along the San Miguel River at Mountainside Inn. It’s comfortable and in a great location to easily walk to anything in town. The check-in process is a little different these days. Only one person at a time is allowed in the office. Masks are required in the hallways and stairwells. My room was on the first floor. It has a queen bed and twin. Mountainside Inn rooms have kitchenettes. The bathrooms are spacious, but showers are small. A big bonus for those traveling with a dog like my friends, the hotel is pet friendly. There are a couple of COVID-19 related things this summer. The hot tub is closed. There is no housekeeping to change your towels or make your bed during your stay, but if you need something the staff is happy to help.
Al Fresco Dining in the Street
We quickly settled in and walk to Colorado Avenue, Telluride’s main street. This summer a big portion of the street is blocked off for outdoor seating. We met a local friend of mine at The Butcher and The Baker for appetizers, cocktails and lemonades for the girls. We sat outside in Telluride’s new street seating and noshed on cheese curds and french fries. My summer squeeze cocktail was refreshing and a much deserved reward after doing the Ouray Via Ferrata earlier in the day. We went progressive dinner style and moved over to Floradora Saloon. It was also after 8 p.m. and most of the restaurants were shutting down for the evening. We ordered from our table outside. Sarah and I both went for the Crispy Salmon Fish Tacos. The two tasty tacos of crispy wonton shells are filled with sustainably caught salmon, Asian slaw, mango candy ginger salsa and drizzled with a sweet soy sauce. The ginger lime vinaigrette on the side salad was bright, flavorful and I wish I had the recipe!
Hiking, Gondola Ride, Farmers Market, Waterfall and My Favorite Pad Thai
Chris and Sarah are climbers and they set out early the next morning to scale a couple of pitches below Telluride’s Via Ferrata. While they were climbing, Aria, Carolina and I walked to Ghost Town Coffee for a cashew milk latte for me and hot chocolate for the girls. It was cool and cloudy so the warm drinks were perfect as we strolled along Colorado Avenue before enjoying a wonderful hike with a couple of light showers. The trail along the San Miguel River starting at Town Park is scenic, peaceful and gently rolling. You get a great view of Bridal Veil Falls as you dip in and out of trees. We got to the parking lot at the historical Pandora Mill. We spotted Chris and Sarah as they repelled part of the cliff wall. If you look closely in the last picture you can see their white helmets.
Getting hungry the girls and I walked the two miles back to town. Chris and Sarah would join us when they finished. We were hoping to get breakfast sandwiches at The Butcher and The Baker, but we missed breakfast by a couple of minutes. The spinach breakfast sandwich is my favorite. Instead for lunch, I ordered the fried green tomato burger for lunch. The farmers’ market was going on. Because of COVID-19, the farmers market is one-way traffic. We enjoyed strolling through looking at the produce and artisan wares. Sarah and I both bought a eucalyptus-orange lotion bar and hand sanitizer.
The gondola between Telluride and Mountain Village is free. You do have to wear a face mask. You’ll likely also notice the extra cleaning as the the gondola cars come in, along with all windows open for ventilation. We had our own gondola car up to Mountain Village where we walked around and relaxed while soaking in the afternoon sunshine. On the ride back down I snapped a picture of the picturesque town of Telluride nestled in the box canyon. We we got back to Mountainside Inn for a quick break to check emails, Sarah and I went to the office to see if we could stay another night. We got lucky both of our rooms were available. We get another full day in Telluride!
From the gondola we saw a waterfall on the other side of the canyon and set out to find it. With a little luck as we wandered, we hiked to Cornet Falls. It’s a half-mile round trip hike on an offshoot trail from Jud Wiebe Trail. This hike is family-friendly. It’s steep and rocky, but short. The 80-foot waterfall is refreshing and there are spots along the creek to relax and play as we did.
My favorite pad Thai is Colorado is at Siam Restaurant. We rushed to get ready after our waterfall hike to snag one of the outside tables at this very popular restaurant. We started with some vegetable egg rolls. A sweet basil cocktail paired beautifully the the scrumptious pad Thai. There was no way I was eating all of it and enjoyed my leftovers for dinner after my road trip back to Denver. With full bellies, we all fell in our beds and drifted off to dreamland after a fun day.
We ended a fun day watching the sun going down over the San Miguel River. Watching sun glint dance on the water is end of day bliss for me.
Trout Lake, Waterfalls and an Old Mine
I took a leisurely stroll into town the next morning to grab a latte at Ghost Town. I sipped it as I walked along the San Miguel River.
Telluride Via Ferrata is not for those with a fear of heights, like me. It’s challenging and you’re about 300 feet high on the cliff face with nothing below you on the section named “Main Event.” Chris, Sarah and 13-year-old Aria went to conquer it. Ten-year-old Caroline and I set out for our own morning of adventure. We drove to Trout Lake to hike around its scenic setting.
Once back in town, we grabbed sandwiches for all at Baked in Telluride. The two of us and the family dog Summit started hiking toward Bridal Veil Falls. We found a wonderful shady spot along the San Miguel River and chowed down on our homemade tuna salad sandwiches. Baked will now be my go-to spot for sandwiches for hiking in Telluride. As we were finishing Sarah text and said they were starting the hike back down to their car. We packed up and met them at the Pandora Mill parking lot.
We drove up the gnarly winding road to get a closer look at Bridal Veil Falls. We parked in the last switchback before the power plant at the top of the falls and started hiking on the trail that lead to Blue Lake, a 6.3-mile roundtrip hike. We thought about doing the 3.4-mile round trip hike to Silver Lake, but snowmelt meant the stream crossing were running high. We hiked the old mining road for a bit and even saw an area where an avalanche had happened. We found a great shallow spot in the stream for a picnic and relaxing in a beautiful setting.
As we drove back down, we stopped to see Ingram Falls and one of the many old mines near Telluride. As you look inside the gated mine entrance, you feel a cold blast and see a lot of water in it.
For dinner, we found a table on Colorado Avenue and ordered from La Cocina de Luz, which served Mexican food with a Southwest flair. The adults enjoyed margaritas and the girls sipped lemonade as we devoured the queso fundido appetizer. I ordered the vegetable tostados. They were good but I could have easily made a meal out of the two sides of Anasazi beans and side salad with a lime-cilantro dressing. We toasted our wonderful adventure in Telluride as the sunset cast a purplish-pink alpenglow on the box canyon.
We hit the road early the next morning. The Thomas family drove the 14+ drive back to Plano. I headed to Denver taking a scenic route with stops at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and on Cottonwood Pass, realizing I wasn’t ready to go home.