Telluride was our next destination after we departed Durango. We decided to drive north on route 550 since our motel was already on the north side of Durango on that very same highway. And we knew that route 550 would provide some very scenic mountain views ! For those of you who are familiar with Colorado, the "Million Dollar Highway" runs from Silverton to Ouray - and this is exactly the route that we followed.
- Telluride claims it had the first electric streetlights in the world. Back in 1890, the need to process all the goldminers’ ore led to harnessing the hydropower of the San Miguel River at the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant.
- Mount Wilson (26 miles from Telluride) was the inspiration for the Coors mountains on the brewery’s logo.
- Butch Cassidy's first bank robbery was in Telluride. Butch got nearly $25,000 from the robbery. The movie Butch Cassidy & the SunDance Kid were filmed in & around Telluride.
- Telluride is the home of Telluride Regional Airport, the highest commercial airport in the continent at just over 9,000 feet above sea level.
- Bridal Veil Falls is found in Telluride and it’s the tallest free-falling waterfall in the entire state of Colorado at more than 360 feet.
- Telluride has the distinction of being the first town in the world to have AC power.
- The Telluride Gondola is the first, and so far only, gondola offering free public transportation in the United States. It’s been in service since December 20, 1996. The gondolar links the two lodging centers (town of Telluride and Mountain Village). The gondola system is run by "wind power". It is a 13 minute ride from the Telluride base station to Mountain Village.
- Telluride won the America’s Best Ski Resort in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards from 2012 – 2014.
- Telluride’s town shuttle, called the Galloping Goose, is free for humans and their canine companions.
- The longest ski run at Telluride Resort is the "Galloping Goose" at 4.6 miles.
- The town of Telluride is eight blocks wide and 12 blocks long, and the entire box canyon it sits in, is surrounded by 13 and 14 thousand foot peaks. The elevation of the main street in Telluride is 8,750 feet.
- Telluride was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1964.
- Telluride Webcams can be found here.
Telluride & Durango had been in our plans since day zero, we knew we wanted to explore both areas. The drive north from Durango was exciting as it passes through some amazing mountains & passes. The route we used (route 550) is 120 miles in length.
The Million Dollar Highway is part of the San Juan Skyway and is one of the most spectacular drives in Colorado. The road climbs up to 3 very high mountain passes; Coal Bank Pass (10,640 feet), Molas Pass (10,970 feet) and Red Mountain Pass (11,018 feet). The stretch between Silverton and Ouray, the part everyone talks about, is only 25 miles in length but takes about 42 minutes to traverse.
You will drive by the Yankee Girl Silver Mine while you are on the Red Mountain Pass, that mine dates from 1882. That mine was owned by the famous industrialists James McKay and W. J. Hammond.
You will note that there are no guard rails on the Million Dollar Highway and that is because the snow plow operators need to be able to push the snow off the highway. It does tend to add a level of danger to the drive, as the lack of guard rails and very few turnouts add a lot of stress to this drive!
There is a lot of information available about this area, click here to view a Google Search Results list for that topic.
The first town we came across driving north, was Silverton, CO. As we needed gas & coffee, we decided to stop and take care of those necessities. Found a coffee shop in Silverton (the Coffee Bear) and the coffee was excellent and the pastries were really good! If you are ever in the Silverton area, do yourself a favor and try to stop at the Coffee Bear and give them a try.
Silverton is a very small town, population was 622 in 2020. Originally called "Bakers Park", Silverton sits in a flat area of the Animas River valley (at 9,318 feet above sea level) and it is surrounded by steep peaks. Most of the peaks surrounding Silverton are thirteeners, the highest being Storm Peak, at 13,487 feet. The town is less than 15 miles from 7 of Colorado's 53 fourteeners, and is known as one of the premier gateways into the Colorado backcountry.
The Telluride area is diverse as you can see in these images. At the entrance to Telluride, there was a large field where over two dozen Elk were grazing. These animals were not fenced in, they were just hanging out and grazing. Despite appearances, elk are sensitive to human presence and prefer to be left alone. Yet the migratory nature of the species means that they can’t simply retreat to more remote areas — they need corridors like the Telluride Valley Floor to travel between lower elevations in the winter and higher elevations in the summer.
At the eastern end of Telluride you can find the original gold mine, and above that (on the same road) you can find Bridal Veil Falls. There is a building at the top of the falls, it is the Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant. It sits on a 400 foot cliff, constructed in 1907 to provide electricity to the gold mine below. There is a parking lot just beyond the gold mine building, where hikers park and depart from to hike up to the top of the Bridal Veil Falls. There is a 4WD trail you could drive on, but there is a warning at the parking lot that describes that it is a one lane road with very few turnouts and you are required to use only high clearance 4WD vehicles. Click here to read about the hiking trail up to the falls.
Above Telluride is the Mountain Village area, which contains quite a bit of ski resort accomodations and other commercial entities devoted to people who came there to ski. The gondola connects Telluride to Mountain Village, so regardless of where you stay, you can get back and forth easily.
Click here to view our Telluride Image Gallery.
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