Telluride Scenic Fall Drives
Telluride is famously known for its incredible terrain providing over 2,000 skiable acres in the winter, as well as endless summer activities which include: festivals, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, stand up paddle boarding, off road adventures, paragliding, and climbing. Although winter and summer are our two most popular seasons, visitors are quickly catching on the benefits of visiting in the fall.
Fall’s beautiful colors and slower pace is a great time to visit the box canyon. Telluride’s natural beauty provides the perfect backdrop to soak in the changing seasons. The shift from summer to winter is characterized by changing aspens, crisp air, and snow high up on the peaks. While it isn’t the longest season, it’s certainly one of the most beautiful times to be in Telluride. The aspens growing across the mountains shift from their summer green hues, first turning lime before altering into varying shades of yellow. As each clump of trees turns at their own rate, the mountainsides are awash with pigment like a watercolor painting. As the temperatures continue to drop and the sun starts to go down sooner, the leaves continue to deepen in hue eventually hitting the toasted yellow colors we refer to as Gold Season. The height of leaf peeping is usually about two to three weeks around Blues and Brews Festival and lasting until the first or second week of October depending on the year. Once the leaves begin to fall from their branches, the ground carries on the color and makes you feel as though you’re walking down a yellow brick road.
A great way to take in the region is by car and we have included some of our favorite fall drives. This is a perfect time to meander through the beautiful mountains of the San Juans.
Here are two of our favorites:
Head west on 145 again and go down valley. Take note of how the landscape changes with the elevation drop. The trees in Telluride typically shift first because of the cooler temperatures and smaller amount of sun. Towns on the way, like Sawpit and Placerville, tend to be a few days (or sometimes even a week) behind Telluride when it comes to leaf changing. When you get to the T intersection after Placerville, take a right like you’re headed to Ridgway. This is an interesting drive because first you lose elevation and then you gain it back. Initially, the road winds along the river but eventually starts to climb as you start to head up and over Dallas Divide. You’ll pass the famed Double RL Ranch on your right which belongs to Ralph Lauren. There are plenty of beautiful aspens along this drive and incredible views of the Sneffels Range. It’s great to see these peaks from the other side as it offers a different perspective of the mountains than what you view in Telluride. There are plenty of places to pull over and stop, so make sure to take your camera! You can continue over Dallas Divide and head on into the quaint town of Ridgway. There are great little shops and some wonderful restaurants like Taco Del Gnar and Eatery 66.
Trout Lake, Lizard Head Pass & Rico
Drive out of the box canyon and take your third right at the roundabout. This puts you on 145 South, towards Durango. First you’ll head up Lawson Hill and pass the turn for Mountain Village on the left. As you continue to drive, you’ll see expansive views of the Wilson Range. This might look familiar as it is the same peaks used in the label on the Coors can. There are a few scenic overlooks to stop and take photos, and further down the road is the historic town of Ophir. This is a very windy alpine road with beautiful mountain views. Eventually you’ll come up to Trout Lake; a beautiful serene lake surrounded by aspens. This area is absolutely breathtaking. The calm water is a perfect place to snap a shot of the changing leaves reflected in the lake. Continue driving south which will take you over Lizard Head Pass (named after the rock that early settlers thought looked like a lizard’s head popping out of the ground) to the historic town of Rico. There isn’t much there, but a few restaurants and a great dive bar. Stop in and enjoy yourself and the beautiful surroundings before returning to Telluride.
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