A Visit to Telluride, CO

Ridgway, CO

After a three night visit to Cedar City, UT we headed north on I-15 then east on I-70.  Heading east the highway climbs up into the mountains, cresting at Clear Creek Summit with an elevation of 7,180 feet.  It then descends into the Sevier Valley and goes around the cities of Richfield and Salina.  After leaving exit 56 in Salina, I-70 continues for 104 miles  to the first Green River exit 160.  Though there are a number of exits in between the two cities, this is the longest distance in the Interstate Highway System with no motorist services directly along the highway.  About 30 miles west of Green River the highway descends through a series of beautiful canyons that are part of the San Rafael Swell.

Approaching the San Rafael Swell

Going through the Swell

Once down through the Swell the landscape flattens out all the way to Green River.  We stopped there for the night at Shady Acres RV Park, a decent park for an overnight stay, before continuing into Colorado.

Heading toward Green River, UT

After our overnight in Green River we continued on I-70 to Grand Junction, CO where we turned south on US 50.  Driving through Grand Junction, Delta, and Montrose we arrived at Ridgway State Park, where we had a reservation for five nights.

Site 221 in Ridgway State Park

Ridgway is a nice state park right along the Ridgway Reservoir and the Uncompahgre River.  The park is in three sections, with two located along the reservoir and one north of the dam along the river.

Fly Fishing along the Uncompahgre River near our site

The Ridgway Reservoir

Driving south between the separate units of the state park the Sneffels Range of the San Juan Mountains comes into view.   Many of those peaks are over 13,000 feet with the highest being Mt. Sneffels at 14,150 feet.

The Sneffels Range

Our first activity in this area was a visit to the ski resort town of Telluride, about 40 miles southeast of Ridgway.  The town is a former silver mining camp on the San Miguel River in the western San Juan Mountains. The first gold mining claim was made in the mountains above Telluride in 1875, and early settlement of what is now Telluride followed.   The town sits in a box canyon at an elevation of 8,750 feet.  A recommended way to visit Telluride is to park in the nearby small, upscale community of Mountain Village almost a thousand feet above Telluride and ride the free gondola system into the town.  We followed that advice and parked in the free parking garage in Mountain Village.  There we boarded a gondola for a 12 minute fairly level ride into the center of Mountain Village.

In the main section of Mountain Village we boarded another gondola that took us up over the San Sophia Mountain ( if hiking or biking the mountain you get off here), then steeply down into Telluride.

Looking back down into Mountain Village

Crossing over the peak and looking down into Telluride

Exiting the gondola in Telluride

Looking back at the gondola entrance

Telluride is a neat little upscale ski town with a population of 2,325.  The main street is filled with shops and restaurants.

No hot dog vendors in this town!

After exploring the main area of town we boarded the gondola and enjoyed the cool ride up and over the mountain, stopping in the center of Mountain Village to enjoy a few moments at one of those chain coffee shops out of Seattle.  Pam had read in Ingrid’s blog (Live Laugh RV) about a Jeep road called the Last Dollar Road that went 18 miles up and over the mountains between Telluride and Ridgway.  We asked about it at the visitor center and found that it was open to high clearance vehicles.  It sounded like a fun drive so off we went.  To get to the Last Dollar Road we had to head into Telluride, giving us a spectacular view of the box canyon where the town is located.

The view heading into Telluride

We turned north at the sign pointing at the Telluride airport and headed up the mountain.  Just beyond the airport the pavement ended and we continued on a well maintained dirt road that rose up into the mountains in a series of switchbacks.

Nearing the summit the road became rough and narrowed to one lane.  We didn’t need four-wheel drive but high clearance was necessary in some areas.

When the leaves change this “tunnel” should be quite stunning

At the high point we could see the the main road below

As we drove up the Last Dollar Road we could see Wilson Peak (14, 023) behind us.

The peak may look familiar to those who enjoy a Coors beer, as it is the peak featured on the beer’s label.

As we descended down the Last Dollar Road we were treated to a beautiful view of the mountains near a pass called the Dallas Divide.

Next up for us is a drive up and over the mountains on the Million Dollar Highway.  More on that later . . .

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41 Responses to A Visit to Telluride, CO

  1. Always a great area to visit. The 4×4 trails can get pretty backed up with traffic in the summer and weekends. Glad it was easy breezy and sunny.

    • placestheygo says:

      We seem to have hit the area at the right time to avoid the crowds. The wildflowers are pretty much over and the leaves haven’t turned. We’ve had perfect weather so far. Hope it continues for a few more weeks.

  2. exploRVistas says:

    Thanks for the tour, John and Pam! Those elevations are too high for this flatlander, so I will have to live vicariously through your photos. 🙂

  3. georgeyates says:

    Some wonderful country to explore, an loving your great pictures

  4. Skay kay says:

    What a beautiful area, thinking we need to head that way soon! Love Mountain Village and a FREE Gondola, that’s unheard of anymore! The town is too cute! Can’t wait to see your adventure on the Million Dollar Highway!

  5. Wow! What a gorgeous drive!! That was an interesting tidbit about the interstate in Utah. We are heading in that direction soon.

  6. Oh we love the San Rafael swell! It’s one of our favorite spots! These pictures are so pretty looks like a great time! This area is definitely the best 🌟

  7. That was a good trivia about Wilson Peak on the Coor beer can, now I know! We were thinking about driving that Last Dollar Road but glad you did it for us (again).

    • placestheygo says:

      I just happened to be researching things to see along the road and discovered the Coor’s mountain. Most of the road would have been fine for your car. There were just a couple bumpy sections.

  8. Ingrid says:

    Glad you were able to take the Last Dollar Road. I bet it’s stunning when the leaves change. I know we loved it when the wildflowers were in bloom. I did not know that about Coors and Wilson Peak. Interesting tidbit. Thanks for the mention and enjoy those backroads near Crested Butte… some of my faves.

    • placestheygo says:

      Ingrid, I was so hoping that the leaves would be turning at the higher elevations but no. There isn’t even a hint in most places. But the Last Dollar Road was still a great drive with beautiful scenery.

      • Ingrid says:

        I hear the leaves are at least a week behind due to the hot summer. At least the weather was such that you were finally able to explore this area. Between Telluride, Ouray, and Crested Butte, I can’t think of a prettier area for hiking and Jeeping … right up your alley, huh!

  9. Joe Taylor says:

    The last picture is gorgeous! When we drove the Last Dollar Road a few years ago in July, the wildflowers were amazing…a few years ago in July. Sounds and looks like your Colorado adventure is off to a beautiful start…enjoy! Gay

  10. Laurel says:

    Whoa…that gondola ride!! It looks scary but fun! Those mountains are spectacular, and I love the tunnel of aspens, too. It’s gorgeous there even if the leaves haven’t changed yet. So glad you’re having perfect weather for your adventures!

    • placestheygo says:

      Laural, the gondola was a little scary as it starts off very slowly then takes off! Thank goodness it then levels out nicely. I wanted to go to this area just to ride the gondola from one town to the other. What fun! Yes, the area is lovely even if the leaves aren’t cooperating this year. But the green leaves mean we are having nice days in the 70’s and overnight in the 40’s. Not too bad at all.

  11. Jeff Pierce says:

    That is a long stretch without services, not even a rest area! But what a beautiful section. We brought some awesome watermelon home from Green River, which calls itself the ‘melon capital’. FREE parking and gondola make for an interesting tourist invitation.

    • placestheygo says:

      Jeff, this is melon season and we saw several places along the way selling Green River melons. I am the only one that eats watermelon so if I can get a piece somewhere, I’ll have to try it.

  12. Ha! We, too, read Ingrid’s blog and immediately put Last Dollar Road on “the list.” And we loved it… and Telluride and Ridgeway…. That whole region is just gorgeous and there’s never a dull moment. I think I may have taken that same picture of the Aspen trees. I’d kill to see them when they’re all golden, but green is pretty sweet too! Can’t wait to hear all about the Million Dollar Highway. That one we missed, so it remains high on the list. 😃 Safe travels!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, we’ll take green leaves after the cold, wet weather we had last year when we attempted this same trip. Hopefully, the leaves will start turning before we leave this area in two weeks but the nights have been too warm so far. Make sure you drive the Million Dollar Highway on your next visit. It’s so nice to have blog friends pave the way with ideas of what to see and do around the country.

  13. libertatemamo says:

    Ah those views!!! And what a great site at Ridgeway. Just lovely.


  14. Nancy says:

    Oh we will be in that area soon!

    That last photo was my favorite… so picturesque.

    This country never ceases to amaze me!

  15. Sue says:

    Beautiful , just beautiful. I’m so glad the weather worked out perfectly for you this time . Last Dollar road looks like it’s right up our alley – next time for sure! We stood at the bottom of the gondola in Telluride thinking that it would be fun to take it, but I chickened out….. thanks for taking us back to a very favorite spot!

  16. Jim and Barb says:

    As I was reading the beginning of your post I thought to myself “I bet there is good fly fishing there” then BAM!, a picture of someone fly fishing! The gondola ride sure gives you a cool perspective of the town and nice that it was free!

    • placestheygo says:

      Jim, we try to cater to all outdoor enthusiasts! Haha! It looks like a fisherman paradise around here. All of the streams, creeks, and rivers are running strong even this time of year and there are fishermen at all.

  17. The area looks spectacular! I think we’ll have to put this one on our to do list.
    Safe travels!

  18. Jodee Gravel says:

    That sure looks like a lonely section of highway! Love that off road drive, but I’m gonna pass on that gondola ride 🙂 We’re hoping to get to Colorado next summer.

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