Mention the name Telluride and most people picture Tom Cruise skiing down the slopes of Palmyra Peak and getting pampered at the Peaks Resort in Mountain Village. Sure, Telluride is that but it is a lot more.
Founded in 1880 and originally named Columbia, Telluride grew to a town of over 5,000 people by 1890, all looking for silver and gold in the surrounding San Juans. Butch Cassidy and his "Wild Bunch" staged a famous robbery of the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 which forever put Telluride on the map. The bank burned down in 1892, but the legend of Butch Cassidy, the miners legacy, and the San Juan Mountains live on today.
The town of Telluride sits at 8,750 feet above sea level and the adjoining town of Mountain Village sits at a dizzying 9,545 feet. The regional airport, at just under 9,100 feet is the world's second highest commercial airport. The landing strip is well above the normal cruising altitude of most small aircraft! However, it is the heights and the surrounding San Juan Mountains and the Uncompahgre National Forest that makes Telluride such a wonderful place to visit during it's "off" summer season.
The town of Telluride itself has about 1,500 full time residents but it is home to a number of historic buildings, fine restaurants, quaint shops, and a variety of activities. If there is a center of festivals in the universe, Telluride is it. Among the activities that go on every year include the Mountain Film Festival in May, the Balloon Festival in June, the Bluegrass and Wine Festival in July, the Wild West Fest in July, the Telluride Rotary Club 4X4 Tour, the Jazz Celebration, the Deaf Festival Mountain Adventure Weekend, and the Mushroom Festival all happen in August, and the Telluride Film Festival in September. You will be hard pressed to find a major metropolitan area with more activity during the summer months.
A visit to the great outdoors in Telluride should begin with a day of rest. If you are a flat lander you will need a day or two to adjust to the thinner air, that is about 60% of what most people are use to. A great day can be spent in Telluride itself, touring the town on foot. A relatively short walk will bring you by fourteen historic buildings including the San Miguel Courthouse built in 1885 and the world famous New Sheridan Hotel and Opera House built in 1895. On Columbia Street you can see the Town Hall. Built in 1883 it was first used as a school house but now houses the city offices. On the north side of Main Street near the intersection of Pine Street you can visit the old Butch Cassidy robbery site.
Another part of Telluride's charm is taking the "commute" to Mountain Village. For 275 days out of the year, a gondola service (the locals call it the, "g") runs from Telluride to San Lucia Station on the side of Gold Hill and then back down into Mountain Village. The center of Mountain Village is designed with European flair and has been specifically designed to be pedestrian friendly. More shops and restaurants and incredible views abound. Weather permitting, the gondola runs from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM and is free. You can take it during the day and see the hikers and wonderful view (as well as elk and deer) of Gold Hill. Or, you can take it at night to see the stars and if your lucky, distant thunderstorms lighting up the sky. You can even catch a second gondola which goes to Station Village, east of the Mountain Village core. After spending some time getting use to the altitude, its time to explore what Telluride is all about, the great outdoors.