There is no better way to experience the Rockies than with one of Colorado’s most popular road trips from Denver’s Mile High to the preserved mining town and small town of Telluride. Filled with quirky stops in small towns and stunning natural attractions along the way, this stunning two-day itinerary takes travelers deep into the heart of some of CO’s best views of the Rocky Mountains. Fully customizable and with plenty of optional stops along the way, this incredible ride is set against the backdrop of one of North America’s most iconic mountain ranges – and gives visitors the chance to experience the best of Colorado’s frontier past while enjoying the adorable little town feelings of its present – all in one trip. Do not forget.
Denver Telluride: Details
Although there are two major routes from Denver to Telluride—via I-70 West or US Highway 285 south—Route 285 is much more beautiful. Travel through charming small towns and cities; amazing natural attractions; A quirky and offbeat stopover, Route 285 south winds its way through the Pike and San Isobel National Forests and is a little off the beaten path – the perfect way for visitors to experience both eclectic sights And the Spectacular mountain scenery of the Rocky Mountains. And although the following itinerary can be easily completed in one day, it is best for travelers to take it at least Two days to fully enjoy the unique beauty of this wild ride. Note: The following driving distance and time do not include optional stops.
- the main road: US Hwy 285 South, then US-50 West to Telluride
- total distance: about 330 miles
- Total driving time: >seven hours
- Recommended travel time: at least two days
Red Rocks: Welcome to the Rocky Mountains
The first stop on this amazing itinerary is a trip to Red Rocks Park And the amphitheaterHalf an hour from Denver. Feel free to stop and explore – take some pictures of the gorgeous runway and take in the scenic views or stroll one of the nearby trails – or simply enjoy the scenic drive surrounded by steep canyons and red cobblestones.
Optional station(s): Tiny Town and Kenosha Pass
One of the best reasons to take US Hwy 285 South to Telluride is because of the many fun and interesting stops along the way – and one of them is small townOff the track, without a doubt one of Colorado’s most must-see attractions. A “small town” made up of (100 buildings!) a miniature village and a mini railway, this fun station is a CO2 roadside icon.
From Tiny Town, continue south on US-285 for about an hour before reaching Kenosha Pass (Those who want to skip Tiny Town can get here via Hwy 470 instead.) One of the most scenic views stretches along the route; The Kenosha Trail gradually gains altitude as it winds its way alongside beautiful aspen forests that give way to the vast mesa landscape below – a postcard photo of some of the state’s best views. Be sure to stop at one of the many viewpoints along the way to get some great photos!
Fishing in Fairplay and Exploration Reality South Park
About half an hour from Kenosha Pass is a beautiful city fair play, known as the state’s trout fishing capital – so leave a string for an hour or two, or simply stop by and grab an early lunch or snack and a delicious cup of coffee. Both java moss And the the master. Donkey Café They are popular choices for an afternoon snack and a cup of joe.
After lunch, it’s time to head to South Park – a historic town on the edge of Fairplay and, yes, the namesake of the popular cartoon show. However, fans won’t find Stan, Kyle, Kenny or Cartman here – just a recreation of a mining town in the 1890s and an open-air museum where visitors can learn all about the area’s history in the Gold Rush past. There’s also a guided tour, a locomotive (and a close-up piece to honor the animation show – taking pictures!)
Optional Station(s): Historic Rocky Mountain Cities Along US 285
Fairplay and South Park are about an hour about halfway for the trip, Salida, so that visitors can choose a more direct route to save time and settle down in the afternoon/evening of exploration. However, the road to Salida is full of small towns that have their own historical charm; And those with more time may want to stop at one (or more) along the way for an immersive look at Gold Rush-era Colorado towns that still exist today.
- At the southern entrance to the Boreas Pass as such, A former mining site and former ghost town with lots of historical attractions and scenic beauty.
- heart cellalso known as the “Heart of Colorado” due to its location in the geographic center of the state, is a former ranching town now famous for its outdoor recreation.
- A former riverside resort destination, Shawnee It is now a very small hillside town overlooking the valley and is home to a general store and a historic post office.
One night stay halfway to Telluride
Salida is a great place to stop in for the night because it is located roughly halfway between Denver and Telluride – and its location near the Arkansas River makes it a stronghold for outdoor enthusiasts. but, Salida It’s also filled with a great mountain town vibe, which can be seen throughout the downtown area.
- Check out Salida’s craft beer scene with a visit to the local fave Soulcraft Brewing.
- Get a bite of port, located along the banks of the Arkansas River and serving Baja Mexican classics; or head to Amica For a wood-fired pie (and another local drink or two)
- stay the night in Manhattan HotelA boutique self-catering accommodation in the heart of the city centre.
Optional Salida station(s) the next day: hiking Monarch Mountain (30 minutes); Princeton Hot Springs (25 minutes)
Scenic Gunnison and Blue Mesa Tank
Start the day by exploring picturesque downtown Salida, then head out of town for breakfast along US-50 at Ruben’s Restaurant On the way to Gunnison, it’s a 45-minute drive from scenic Mount Monarch. The old mining/cattle town of Gunnison is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and the scenic town center is sure to be worth seeing.
- The Gunnison Pioneer Museum It’s a great way to learn about frontier life in the 1890s.
- Stroll through the scenic landscape Western Colorado University Campus
- Get a quick lunch at Firebrand Appetizers (Recommended for a walk in the Blue Mesa Reservoir)
- Head to the largest CO2 body of water, which is Blue Mesa Reservoir (25 minutes). Relax on the beach (and enjoy the picnic!) after enjoying water sports like kayaking, canoeing, and windsurfing; Then hit the road for a scenic drive to the top of Blue Mesa Dam For the best panoramic views
Optional stop(s): Syracuse Bachelor Mine on Gold Mountain (1 hour + from Blue Mesa)
Ridgway: Gateway to the San Juan Mountains
anyway Ridgway An hour’s drive (and climb!) away from Telluride, it’s a lovely place to stop and explore – historic, charming, and filled with a number of recreational opportunities; This idyllic small town in Colorado is the perfect penultimate stop.
- fall into Orvis Hot Springs
- take Walking Tour of True Grit And see the scenic spots where the movie was filmed in and around the Ridgeway.
- Discover the Ridgway Creative District
- Take a tour Ridgway Railroad Museum
- Get a taco at GENERAL TACO
- head for telluride For an unforgettable day (or two!)
The trip from Denver to Telluride is a microcosm of some of Colorado’s most iconic landmarks: Set against the majestic and stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, a two-day (or three-day) itinerary takes visitors back in time to the state’s gold rush past by visiting some of the cities charming little ; You stop at some of the most famous and wonderful spots where outdoor recreation is dominant; It offers a plethora of optional roundabout stops for this premium CO itinerary that is an immersive journey into the heart of the Centennial State.