Winter’s got pow days, springtime brings chartreuse greens, and summer is filled with festivals. But ask any local, and you'll likely hear affirmation that fall in Telluride is the best season of them all. Autumn unfolds with brilliant bursts of gold, crystalline blue skies, the crisp perfume of fluttering leaves, and trails paved in yellow. The colors are quickly reaching their peak, and the season is fleeting, so get out now and experience it.
Here, five great ways to savor fall in Telluride.
For maximum leaf-to-mile ratio, Deep Creek Trail is the best option for hiking, gallivanting, and lying under aspens to watch the leaves fall. The moderate trail, which traverses steep south-facing slopes northwest of town, winds in and out of some of the best aspen groves in the region: immense mono-stands of pearly-barked beauties, swaths of curving and gnarled specimens, and places where young populus tremuloides cluster close together, creating a tunnel over the trail. In between the groves, avalanche paths have cleared out meadows, creating big views of the Wilson Range, San Miguel Canyon, and the Telluride box canyon and ski resort. The resulting hike is nothing short of magical. The trees create golden cathedrals and hallways, the trees whoosh dreamily with every gust, and the photo ops are endless.
For the most bang for your buck, hit the pavement on two wheels for a quick tour through Telluride’s aspen-fringed Valley Floor that ends in grunty climbs and spectacular views. This relatively short ride begins along the river bottom, where leaves skitter across the bike path, before turning north and climbing to Deep Creek Mesa. You can ascend to the airport and keep going on dirt road, or opt for one of the many spurs off of paved Deep Creek Road. Either way, make sure to stop and look around. The elevation will give you an incredible perch to drink it all in.
One of Telluride’s classic mountain bike rides is also a great place to spend a sunny fall day, thanks to miles of singletrack and an incredible finale in the form of the twisting downhill trail T35. The ride, which takes about three hours in full, begins at the top of the gondola, where it rolls through the shadowy pine forests of Prospect Basin before climbing to high meadows above Alta Lakes and dropping through aspen stands so bright they seem to be glowing from within. When the singletrack pops you out on the pavement of Highway 145, simply cross the road to get on T35, a curvaceous downhill of tight switchbacks that seems to drop for days, and one that winds through eye-popping swatches of gold. At the bottom, take a right on the dirt road for a tour through Ilium Valley, which is swathed on both sides in falls colors. A hard ride up the Galloping Goose trail will lead you to the Valley Floor to close the circle back in Telluride. Make sure to clear your camera of space. You’ll need it.
Each fall, diehard cyclist Pete Dahl organizes one of the area’s best local traditions: the Ophir Pass Hill Climb. It’s an event so rootsy that the flyer is photocopy of the previous year’s after it’s been whited out and amended. Registration takes place amid running dogs and the strains of reggae music on the dirt street that acts as downtown Ophir. Sign your name on the hand-scrawled list, throw your cash in a cooler and get ready to bust a lung as you walk, run, ride, or ski (which occasionally happens in snowy seasons) to the top of Ophir Pass, elevation 11,789 feet.
The OPHC is a heart-clanger, climbing 2,200 feet up a rocky mountain pass in a mere four miles. It also offers achingly beautiful views of the San Juans. The best part? Once you’ve put yourself through the pain of the climb, there’s a keg and barbecue back in town. This year’s OPHC is set for Oct. 11. Registration begins at 9 am in Ophir.
Bridal Veil Falls , a 365-foot waterfall at the end of the box canyon, is the tallest free-falling cascade in the state. Along with sitting under a historic hydroelectric station, it’s also the centerpiece of Telluride’s iconic box canyon, a place of soaring rock, tumbling water, and slopes blanketed in conifers and aspen. In short: It’s a spectacular place to climb on a fall day. Whether it’s short sport routes up the conglomerate cliffs of the Pipeline Wall, longer multi-pitch climbs on the Falls Wall, or an excursion across Telluride’s now-famous via ferrata (one of our 21 awesome places to see in Colorado ), spending a day up on the walls above Bridal Veil is a feast for the eyes.
Written by Katie Klingsporn for RootsRated.
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