Why You Should Consider This Popular US Ski Destination For Your Fall Vacation

With cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and the summer travel surge slowing down, autumn is the perfect time to embark on a cozy getaway with your loved ones. If you're looking for the ultimate autumn destination to admire some of the best fall foliage and enjoy some quality time outdoors, look no further than Telluride, Colorado.

Telluride may conjure images of a winter wonderland and skiing along snow-covered slopes, but this famous resort town is a beautiful place to visit year-round — especially during the fall. Located in a remote region of Southwest Colorado, nestled in the San Juan Mountains, it is renowned for its breathtaking views.

There are two unique areas of the town to visit linked via a 13-minute gondola ride or a 15-minute drive. The Town of Telluride is situated in a box canyon with a main street lined with historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s, adding to the quintessential mountain town ambiance. At a slightly higher elevation, Mountain Village is located up on a mountainside and features more modern amenities, hotels, and condo complexes built to accommodate the increased tourism. Lodging options range from luxurious 5-star hotels with every comfort to rustic cottages for those seeking more solitude.

Epic hiking trails, gondola rides, and brightly colored fall leaves from the Aspen groves covering the mountains make Telluride the ideal choice for nature lovers and anyone looking for a peaceful autumn getaway.

Visiting Telluride during the off-season

Telluride's autumn shoulder season runs from September through November, coinciding with some of Colorado's most beautiful weather. Temperatures tend to get pleasantly chilly once September rolls around, with average daily temperatures around 60 degrees in September and upper 40s in October. The leaves begin to turn in the middle of September, and the vibrant colors peak within three weeks, so consider planning your trip between late September and early October.

Another benefit of visiting Telluride during the fall is that there won't be nearly as many crowds, and you'll likely find more affordable rates on lodging. It is important to note, however, that many businesses and restaurants shut down for a few weeks during this season, so expect a quieter and more nature-focused experience. Usually, some popular restaurants remain open — Cornerhouse, Smugglers, Esperanza's, La Cocina de Luz, and Crazy Elk are great options to try during the off-season. Make sure you call local businesses and tour companies to confirm that they'll be in operation when you visit.

Unforgettable autumn experiences in Telluride

Hop on the iconic gondola for some of Telluride's best views. During the ride from the Town of Telluride to Mountain Village, you'll have the opportunity to take in all of the shades of fall colors — from vibrant reds to bright yellows and oranges. The gondola is entirely free and open daily from 6:30 a.m. until midnight, with some extended weekend hours. It stops midway at St. Sophia Overlook, where many of the best hiking and biking trailheads are located. Due to the increased popularity of autumn travel in Telluride, the gondola's operating season has been extended to October 21, 2023. After that, it will shut down for a few weeks until the winter season begins.

Autumn is the perfect time of year to get outside for some outdoor recreation. The cooler temperatures make ideal conditions for hiking and mountain biking. With more than 90 hikes around Telluride, you'll always have paths to explore. Options range from leisurely strolls on flat ground like the River Trail to insane 14ers (14,000-foot peak summit hikes) for experienced mountaineers which also make for some of the best fall foliage hikes.

When you're not busy exploring in the mountains, there are plenty of autumn events around town. Concerts occur throughout the year at the Historic Sheridan Opera House, and yearly events like the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival are popular among Colorado locals and tourists alike. The Telluride Farmers' Market runs through mid-October and is the perfect place to pick up fresh produce for a home-cooked meal. Check out the full events calendar to see if your trip coincides with any fun activities.