The San Juans reach out of the earth like some sort of castle spires towering over you as you drive into Telluride. It is called the most Colorado place on Earth and you never really understand that until you see it for yourself. I grew up in Colorado and had never visited Telluride until I was damn near 30 so when my parents invited me along on a trip they had planned I jumped at the opportunity.
Getting to Telluride is not an easy task from any direction. It lays in a valley surrounded by the San Juan mountains and you have to drive around them just to get there. This makes for a pretty long drive from just about anywhere in Colorado. In our case, Denver, is about 6 hours away. This drive, however, is absolutely amazing and the journey alone provides many sightseeing opportunities and really passes without you noticing how long it has taken you to get there.
We passed by one small Colorado town after another. As we did we also passed right by a very large herd of elk off in a meadow just past the highway. I was getting more and more excited as we got closer and I couldn’t wait to see this place I had heard so much about. Finally, we made our last turn onto 145 and from there it was a straight shot in. We pulled into town just as the sun was setting and that sun set did not disappoint. Everything in town was lit up by a warm pink and purple light making the experience even more magical than it would have been otherwise. Picturesque would be an understatement for this moment but that is the word I’ll use because I think it gets closer than any other.
Standing on the main street you are surrounded by mountains all around you and you can clearly see Bridal Veil Falls cascading down a cliff off in the distance. There are canyons leading up to those mountains and trails dot the foothills leading up to the canyons. The town itself almost looks like something out of an European Alps travel magazine. Storefronts of unique shops dot the main avenue with houses spreading out from there, almost all with gardens and porches. Looking up at the bare ski slopes made me instantly want to come back during ski season. I had heard of the beyond epic slopes there and at that moment that was all I could think about.
The sun had set however and it was time to head to our condo for the night. I know, I know, I was in Telluride and I wasn’t even going camping. But, I was tagging along on my parent’s trip so I wasn’t complaining. I knew I needed to go back, and I would, soon enough. For now, we had a tour of town planned along with a few hikes and sightseeing. We gathered around the campfire area outside our condo and had a few beers. As we sat there I noticed something moving in the bushes right next to us. I got up and went to investigate only to find a porcupine rustling through the tall grass and munching away. Less than 6 hours here and I had already seen wildlife up close. I crashed for the night but I honestly could not wait to get going the next day.
We got up early as we had a hike up to Hope Lake planned. We hopped in the truck and headed to the trailhead a few miles out of town. We had to drive past a large lake on our way which was dotted with paddle boarders and sailboats. We continued to drive up the dirt road and it did get a little rough but I feel that a passenger car could get up there as long as you were careful. We pulled up to the trail head, prepped our gear and headed out.
The trail winds through a heavily wooded area for a while and then not far in the trail opened up to an amazing meadow full of lush green plants and wild flowers. The trail is relatively easy for a while as you cross some small creeks and more meadows. Then the trail starts suddenly almost straight up towards the lake at the top. We started hiking up the steep trail which reminded me of an approach on a 14er. After some time, the trail started to level out and entered an alpine meadow with the densest concentration of wildflowers and specifically Indian paint brushes I had ever seen. Breathtaking would be the word I would use here, and we hadn’t reached the lake yet. About 500 yards later the trail drops and as it does reveals Hope Lake. There is a sweet spot in my heart for alpine lakes and this one did not disappoint. The water was a turquoise blue that seemed to glow even though we arrived under cloud cover. The surrounding snow-covered peaks all had streams flowing down into the lake on one side and the hill on the other side was covered in wildflowers. There is a beach of sorts and then a rocky outcrop surrounding the rest of the lake. I spent a good deal of time walking around the lake and taking pictures but it soon became clear that we were going to get rained on. I looked at my dad, both of us knowing what that could mean and we packed up and started to head down the trail.
We made it about half way down the trail when the sky started to open up and drench everything in that valley. We had made it back down past tree line however so we weren’t too worried. Then it started to hail. We took shelter under a large tree and waited out the hail and soon it dissipated along with the rain. We finished up our hike and made it back to the truck and took off towards town.
We took that evening to explore the town a bit and I noticed that there were several people tubing the creek that runs through town. I made a mental note to do just that next time I was back there. We explored some of the shops and grabbed a pizza and a beer at High Pie (highly recommend). We took the time to learn about the railroad that came in and out of Telluride originally and how they privately operated it for a time when the railroad companies stopped operating. We learned about the cattle tosser on the front of the cars to avoid an accident that could derail the smaller private cars back then. Being a mining destination as most Colorado towns started out as Telluride has a rich history and I highly suggest you look it up.
The next day we drove through town and up towards Bridal Veil Falls. As I said earlier you can see them cascading over a cliff just outside town and they are absolutely beautiful from there but even more beautiful up close. You can walk almost right to the base of them, so that is exactly what I did. We also explored the surrounding area including a flooded out mine entrance from days past along with mining wreckage spread out over the hills. The view of the town was amazing from up on the top of the falls. I was absolutely in love with this area of my home state I had never visited and I kept kicking myself for taking so long to get out there.
The next morning was a bit somber as we were headed home but I was already planning my next trip out there. This trip is also where I got inspiration to start Adventure Actual although that isn’t what I called it then. I called it…my idea. This idea to start something to share my experiences as well as others to hopefully inspire others to adventure and get up off their couches and out of their cities and experience nature no matter what that meant for them. See the point of this post isn’t to detail some epic death defying ascent of a mountain. I stayed in a condo in a town and hardly “roughed it” The purpose is to show that adventure can be whatever you make it, just don’t be a typical couch potato. The idea behind Adventure Actual is to call you out to go experience the world outside of your four walls you call a home and expand your horizons. – Martin Upton