Telluride's Best Hikes
By Jesse James McTigue
Summer in Telluride brings festivals, outdoor dining, iced coffees and friendly main street conversations. But venture just a few blocks beyond the town, to any one of the trailheads, and summer in Telluride will also bring waterfalls, wild flowers, mountain lakes and unexpected encounters with wildlife.
Here is a selection of trails that will remind you why Telluride’s real charm may just be outside the town.
Bear Creek Mileage: about 4.5 miles round trip. Elevation gain: 1,050 feet. Trailhead: South Pine Street. Telluride’s most popular acclimatization hike is analogous to skiing a “green run”. Nonetheless, don’t be fooled; the beautiful two track takes you directly above Town Park 2.5 miles to a wide cascading waterfall at the base of Wasatch Basin – your gateway to longer, harder hikes. (See no. 7.)
Jud Weibe Mileage: about 3 miles. Elevation gain: 1,200 feet. Trailhead: North Aspen Street. Starting at the Coronet Creek Bridge and steadily climbing to a summit ridge with a panorama view of the front side of Telluride Ski Resort and the valleys above Bear Creek and Bridal Veil Falls, the Jud Weibe is Telluride’s local treadmill. Because the loop begins and ends in town, it can be done over lunch breaks or as an after work “quickie”. Afterward, locals love to reply that the day’s hike was “Just a Weibe”.
Owl Gulch Trail Mileage: about 3 miles. Elevation gain: 1,300 feet. Trailhead: Off of Tomboy Road. Owl Gulch is the Weibe’s lesser-known brother and, combined, the two make an excellent training loop for the valley’s longer, steeper hikes. The trail is a little bit of a local’s secret and can be found off Tomboy Road as the second switchback curves into the third. At the bend, a distinguished single track darts into the woods and up the mountainside before traversing a ridge then descending back to a two-track. Here you can head west (take a right) and loop with the Weibe or east (left) and link back to Tomboy Road and town.
Sheridan Crosscut Mileage: about 5 miles. Elevation Gain: 2,274 feet. Trailhead: Off of Tomboy Road. If you’re ready to get off the beaten path and experience Telluride’s mining history firsthand, Sheridan Crosscut is a great option. The steep trail climbs from Tomboy Road, giving hikers dramatic vantage points of the valley, before traversing through the woods and descending into a narrow scree basin and to the remains of the Sheridan Crosscut Mine. The hike can be done as an out and back or can be looped into Liberty Bell Basin. The trail becomes faint in places – consult a guide book or map.
Sneffels Highline Mileage: 13 miles. Elevation Gain: 2,274 feet. Trailhead: Off of Jud Weibe Trail. Once you complete a highline, it’s pretty much all over; you’ll be addicted to literally getting high. The easiest way to find the trail is to get on the Weibe at the top of Aspen Street, take the left at the top of the third switchback to Mill Creek and head north at the sign for Sneffels Highline. The trail ascends through aspen forest and steeply crisscrosses a scree field before topping out at a 12,000-foot ridge then descending through a valley lush with wildflowers. Eleven miles later, it links to the west end of the Mill Creek Trail, traverses the Waterline for the last two miles and ends right back in town close to your favorite watering hole. You’re in Telluride where après doesn’t just apply to ski season.
Wasatch and Wasatch Connection There are many versions of the Wasatch so the mileage and elevation vary, however all variations are difficult, steep and long – and worth every step. The Wasatch trailhead starts 2 miles up Bear Creek, steeply ascending the side of the mountain before traversing below a cliff band to Nellie Mine. To connect to the ski area, follow the trail to the right (west) and immediately climb until you traverse across Revelation Bowl then descend back to town via See Forever. Or, explore the trails meandering east, crossing the lush valley and climbing the high southeast saddle crossing into Bridal Veil Basin (this option is best to shuttle).
Cross Mountain Trail Mileage: 11.7 miles (loop to Lizard Head Trail); 7 miles out and back. Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet. Trailhead: Off of Highway 145, 3 miles south of Lizard Head Pass Trailhead. You’ll never get sick of the mountains surrounding the town of Telluride, but that shouldn’t prevent you from trying something new. Just past Lizard Head Pass lie networks of more trails, ridges, valleys and summits. The Cross Mountain Trail literally crosses the entire area, giving a new perspective of Lizard Head, Black Face, and the Wilson Range.
These descriptions are brief teasers. Before journeying into the backcountry, consult complete hike descriptions and a map, check the weather, and be prepared with adequate food, water and clothing.