Summer Camp in Telluride

Late summer in the Colorado box canyon is a playground for mountain, water and in-town adventures

Tucked in a remote box canyon in the southwest corner of Colorado, Telluride is an idyllic setting for a summer getaway. In fact, it was summer camp for the Ute tribe centuries before groomed slopes and gondolas made it a world-class skiing destination in winter. 

A marmot echoes the statuesque shape of Lizard Head Peak in the background. [Photo by Willi Glanznig]

Surrounded by the craggy San Juan Mountains and dotted with alpine lakes and wildflowers, Telluride’s diverse terrain makes it a destination for a variety of adventures—from adrenaline-infused hikes to outdoor concerts. Here, three ways to savor summer in Telluride. 

For the Mountain Climber  With a base-level elevation of 8,750 feet, Telluride’s rugged San Juan Mountains are a hiker’s paradise. The diverse terrain offers views of towering waterfalls, lush hillsides, craggy peaks, wildflower-filled meadows and even remnants of once-booming mining infrastructure.

Since 1984, Telluride Mountain Guides has been leading visitors and locals alike on treks near town and beyond. Each private hike is entirely tailored to your needs—where you’re from, what you’re interested in seeing, what time of year you’re visiting, your experience level, and how hard you want to push yourself. All local to the area, the skilled guides provide facts about the history of Telluride and the area’s flora and fauna along the way.

Co-owner Willi Glanznig recommends the 5.5-mile round-trip hike to Blue Lake in late summer. The moderate hike begins at Bridal Veil Falls—Colorado’s tallest free-falling waterfall—and traces through mining ruins before reaching the cerulean-hued alpine lake situated above timberline at 12,400 feet. $175 for half-day hike for two; hiking poles included.

Telluride Outside offers guided stand-up paddleboarding sessions for the whole family on two alpine lakes just minutes from downtown Telluride: Trout Lake and Wild Boy Lake. [Photo courtesy of Telluride Outside]

For the Aquaphile  Though the dramatic peaks of the San Juans may be Telluride’s main attraction, its series of scenic lakes, ponds and rivers make it the ideal spot for water-based activities as well. 

Telluride Outside, a guide service with an outpost on Colorado Avenue, has expertly (and patiently) led visiting and resident thrill seekers on outdoor adventures since 1984. Escape the August heat with a guided stand-up paddleboarding session on Trout Lake, a tranquil lake with an idyllic mountain backdrop just 30 minutes from downtown Telluride. $130 per half day; equipment, transportation and snacks included.

Telluride Outside offers guided fly-fishing sessions for first-timers and experienced anglers alike. [Photo courtesy of Telluride Outside]

Or, cast a line in some of the most trout-dense waters in the Rocky Mountains with a guided fly-fishing session. Experienced Telluride Outside anglers will teach you all the basics—from securing your waders to finding the best casting spots to reeling in a catch. $395 for two guests along the Upper Dolores or San Miguel rivers; equipment and transportation included. 

For 43 years, the Telluride Jazz Festival has brought world-class jazz, funk, soul, folk and gospel music to the Telluride community. Beyond the tunes, events include artist workshops, free yoga sessions and interactive performances. [Photo courtesy of Telluride Jazz Festival]

For the Festival Goer  Whether due to its picturesque views in a remote setting or its fun-loving locals and laid-back attitude, Telluride has become a hub for world-renowned summer festivals. In fact, only three weekends from June to September are not occupied by a festival or major local event.

August provides an array of in-town events ranging from cultural to scientific. For four decades, the Telluride Jazz Festival (August 9-11) has brought smooth melodies and energetic rhythms to the box canyon, hosting music legends like Herbie Hancock and Muddy Waters. This year’s headliners include Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Lettuce, and Robert Randolph & the Family Band.

The delightfully quirky Telluride Mushroom Festival features a series of mushroom forays and identification workshops. [Photo by M. Shapiro]

For nearly 40 years the Telluride Mushroom Festival (August 15-18) has celebrated all things mycological—from guided mushroom-hunting hikes to cooking lessons to fungi film screenings and open “myc” nights. 


You’re not in Kansas anymore. With the San Juan Mountains as a backdrop, the road trip to Telluride is a feast for the eyes.

For road trippers hailing from Denver, opt for the 7-hour drive along US-285 rather than I-70 for less traffic and more opportunities to stop at scenic overlooks. Or if you’re in a time crunch, there are multiple flight options available. Hour-long flights run daily from DIA to Telluride Regional (15 minutes to town) or Montrose Regional (1.5-hour shuttle ride to town via Telluride Express).

Situated on Telluride’s main street, Butcher & Baker Cafe is a local favorite for breakfast and lunch. [Photo courtesy of Butcher & Baker Cafe]

Despite its small footprint, Telluride is home to a slew of restaurants, most situated on the walkable Colorado Avenue. Try the Butcher & Baker Cafe for artisan pastries and locally sourced, house-roasted meats. Located in one of the oldest buildings in Telluride, La Marmotte serves classic French cuisine in a charming environment. And for a nightcap, head to the 124-year-old Historic Bar at New Sheridan Hotel, a local favorite and one of the oldest bars in the West.

The boutiques lining Telluride’s main drag are full of local treasures, handmade gifts and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Stop by MiXX Projects + Atelier for modern art and trendy jewelry, Slate Gray Gallery for elegant accessories and contemporary paintings, and HOOK for unique, sometimes whimsical home décor and kitchen goods.

As seen in the August 2019 issue

Categories: High-Country Communities