Sunday, December 22, 2013

Summer hiking around Telluride and Mountain Village

Mountain Lodge condos are the perfect summer getaway
One of the best things about staying in Mountain Village, a community about eight miles from Telluride, Colorado, is the free gondola system. No need to drive into town—just take the gondola, sit back, and enjoy fabulous mountain views.

Rocky Ridge Trail in Mountain Village
So, after breakfast in our MountainLodge condo (elevation 9500 feet but easily accessible), Larry and I board the gondola and ride up to St. Sophia station at 10,500 + feet where we’ll pick up the Ridge Trail. For this two-mile “moderate” downhill hike on rocky terrain the walking sticks we bought earlier in Durango get inaugurated and work very well to help with balance on the uneven path.

At the fork in the trail, we take the steeper path to the right, but it’s not so bad. Part of it is challenging, but mostly it’s a good, forest trail. Of course, we stop often to take pictures of aspen groves, distant mountains, and blooming flowers.

Later, we take gondolas to Telluride for lunch, riding the full fourteen-minute, three-segment trip that requires a change at Mountain Village station. Larry has scoped out the BrownDog Pizza Parlor on Colorado Street, and we head there after a short walk along the San Miguel River Trail. After stuffing ourselves with the meaty pizza covered in pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon, and cheese, we understand why Brown Dog was a gold medal winner at the 2013 pizza contest in Hawaii.

Wildlife like this deer can be seen on various trails.
Since the afternoon forecast predicts 80 percent chance of rain, we know the risk for taking another hike. Still, we press on, picking up the Village Trail from the St. Sophia station. This trail, three miles of rolling terrain, is a summer favorite of advanced mountain bikers, and we see a few whiz by navigating bumpy tree roots, rocks, and tight turns with ease.

Caught in the rain in an aspen grove
Sure enough, after we walk less than a mile, rain starts-- with thunder booming and lightning flashing in the distance.  We continue walking through the shower over meadows, across ski runs, and into pine and aspen forests.

Larry likes a challenge when hiking!
Soon, however, rain is pouring down, and when we get back to the condo two hours later we are soaked and muddy. Thank goodness for ponchos, which helped protect backpacks and cameras. Chilled to the bone, we turn on the gas fireplace to dry our clothes--and settle down for wine and cheese. Later we nosh on leftover pizza and Rocky Mountain chocolates. Not a bad way to spend the evening.

Destination achieved--a beautiful waterfall
The next morning we ride the gondola into Telluride, walk eight blocks uphill to the trailhead for a waterfall hike. Deep ochre boulders guard the steep, slippery path making the quarter mile climb to the waterfall a slow, uphill slog over large rocks and rough terrain.

The waterfall emerges--a long stream of tumbling water splashing into a clear pool. It looks tempting, but we know the water is too cold for wading, so we admire expansive red canyon walls, a lovely slice of mountain beauty. On the return we detour a bit on the Jud W. Trail, to take in a quick overview of the city.

Of course, there are many paths and trails in the area, from easy to challenging. Telluride attracts visitors to many festivals in the summer because it's just a great place to enjoy fresh, crisp air and stunning mountain scenery.

Riding the gondola system between Mountain Village and Telluride
A note about the Telluride gondola: It is the only free public transportation system of its kind in the world. Completed in December, 1996, it is amazingly efficient—there was hardly any wait in mid-July, although it might be more crowded during winter ski season.  Environmentalists consider it successful since 2.25 million people ride it annually, thus lowering pollution and noise in the area.  Because the gondola is used extensively by locals as well as visitors, it saves car mileage between the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, earning it the nickname of “the most beautiful commute.”
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier




Anonymous said...

Beautiful looking place - that waterfall is surprisingly tall!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful looking place - that waterfall is surprisingly tall!