Whenever people ask us what our favorite U.S. destination is, Telluride always comes in towards the top of the list. With towering mountain peaks capped in snow, lush forests of deep green, and gushing waterfalls oozing from the canyon corners, the moment you step into this charming mountain town you can’t help but feel how special it is. Even if you only have one weekend or a few days in Telluride, there are 3 great local waterfalls you can explore to really get a taste of what this corner of Colorado has to offer. In this article, we dive into local scenic hikes that take you to some of the most stunning waterfalls in Telluride Colorado with spectacular views and provide an example itinerary to help you see them all!
About Telluride Colorado
Located in Southwest Colorado, the town of Telluride is nestled among the majestic San Juan Mountains. Telluride boasts the tranquil San Miguel River, several cascading waterfall hikes, a vibrant community, wonderful outdoor activities, and a variety of Victorian-era architecture. It truly has something for everyone. With plenty of outdoor adventure to be had, it transforms from a popular ski area in the winter to a great destination for a variety of festivals, golfing, hiking, biking, and climbing in the warmer summer months.
- It is a former mining town founded in 1878
- The town sits in a box canyon, with views of Bridal Veil Falls at the head of the canyon in downtown
- Its permanent population is around 2,600 people
- It harbors the most unique public transportation system in the U.S.; a gondola
- It is home to over 30 hiking trails which include waterfalls, wildflowers, 14ers, and beautiful alpine lakes
- The town’s elevation is 8,750 feet above sea level!
Telluride is also very dog-friendly! We were thrilled to find that this beautiful area had great hiking opportunities that we could also enjoy with our dog, Azalea. We travel full-time in our RV and always appreciate it when we can bring her along for the adventure, which is not the case at many National Parks.
Best Time To Visit Telluride
For outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, summer (June to August) is a popular time with mild temperatures and generally sunny pleasant weather, blooming wildflowers, and opportunities for epic hiking, biking, and enjoying the scenic beauty.
If it is 14ers or vibrant blue alpine lakes in the San Juan Mountains you are after, peaks can sometimes be snowed in through July, so it is always good to check conditions when planning your trip.
Fall (September to October) offers stunning foliage colors and is ideal for hiking and photography. Winter is perfect for skiing and snowboarding, as Telluride boasts world-class slopes and breathtaking mountain views.
Spring (March to May) offers quieter crowds, longer days, and a chance to enjoy the transition from winter to spring, with opportunities for skiing and springtime hiking.
Amazing Waterfalls in Telluride Colorado
Bridal Veil Falls
A 365-foot waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls is Colorado’s tallest waterfall. Its cascading waters are powerful and will hit you with an icy spray to take away the heat of the climb to this great sight.
Looking up, you will also see a white house sitting precariously atop the 400-foot cliff at the top of the falls. This is a historic power plant, the Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Powerplant, also known as the Bridal Veil Powerhouse. The power station provides about 25% of Telluride’s electricity demand. Another interesting way this town aims to be green and use clean renewable energy, in addition to the use of the gondola for public transportation.
Let the beauty of this waterfall hike inspire you and its power humble you. This is an iconic trail not only for Telluride but also for Colorado. This hike is a wonderful way to get lost in the lush brush of green and the sounds of life thriving in the summer season in this mountain oasis and is one of our favorite Telluride hikes!
Bridal Veil Falls Details
- Location: Telluride, Colorado. Where the town dead ends with the box canyon.
- Driving Time: Only a short drive (15 minutes) from downtown Telluride. Continue on the gravel road past Pandora Mill to access the parking area at the trailhead
- Cost: FREE
- Parking: Small gravel parking lot directly at the trailhead. You could also walk from downtown (about 3.5 miles) or from Town Park (3.1 miles) if you want to add additional mileage. This is a popular attraction, so parking may be limited at times.
- Trailhead Amenities: Trash and portable toilets; No water available
Bridal Veil Falls Hike:
- Distance: 3.6 mile hike roundtrip taking the trail up and back. You could also walk the 4X4 road back
- Elevation Gain: 1,650 feet
- Estimated Duration: 2-3 hours
- Add-on Possibilities: For a longer hike you can take the split along the main trail to hike to Ingram Falls (pictured below). For a different kind of adventure, you can also choose to drive the 4WD drive road to the falls. You can also follow the road to hike to the top of Bridal Veil Falls and connect with the trailhead for Bridal Veil Basin
Bridal Veil Falls Hiking Directions
Meander along switchbacks while listening to the roaring waters from the falls. You will come to two viewpoints for waterfalls before reaching the third and final viewpoint at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.
The trail is well-marked with arrows. You will see one intersection where you could go left for Ingram Falls. Stay right at the intersection to continue to Bridal Veil Falls. If you walk further along the road at the base of the main falls, you can get views of Ingram Falls as well.
When to Hike: Late spring, summer, and early fall are best for hiking this trail. Other times of the year you may be able to explore with additional gear or through activities such as ice climbing.
What You Need To Know Before Hiking to Bridal Veil Falls:
- Wear comfortable hiking shoes that are okay to get wet or muddy. Expect some rocky uneven terrain.
- Expect to be among several other hikers; this is a popular trail. Get an early start or try hiking later to minimize the crowd size
- Be careful on rocks near any of the 3 waterfall viewing areas, they will be slippery
- Bring plenty of water, this hike is steep and can be additionally tough if you are not acclimated to the elevation. The trailhead starts at just over 9,000 feet.
- There are 3 viewpoints, 2 along the trail and 1 at the base of the falls. You can choose to turn around sooner and still see views of the falls. If you want a good view you WILL get wet! The air and water are very cold.
What You’ll Love About This Hike
While this hike may not provide solitude, it is awe-inspiring. The power of the water, the blast of cold air, and the challenge of a steep climb at elevation. This looming icon set into the end of the box canyon is easily visible from downtown, just waiting to be explored.
Along the trail, you are nestled among vegetation and wildflowers in a lush paradise only infiltrated by the sounds of rushing water and the occasional crunch of a footstep along the trail or squeal of joy near the frigid water.
This trail is the opportunity to dive inside and get up close and personal with a dramatic backdrop that also happens to be a record holder throughout the state of Colorado. With ample opportunities to view different sections of waterfalls, dip your toes (or paws) in the water, and snap epic photographs, this trail has something for everyone.
While not an overly challenging trails, there are a few steep inclines. You may want to give yourself some time to acclimate to the elevation before attempting if you are not used to it! At only just over 3 miles and with such convenience to downtown and other trails, hiking this trail also leaves enough time to complete other local hikes in the area, attend a festival or music event, or explore downtown. We were able to complete the Bridal Veil Falls hike and the Cornet Creek Falls (#3 on this list) hike on an afternoon after work.
Bear Creek Falls
Walking into the shaded acres of Bear Creek Preserve from downtown is a simple way to be immediately immersed in the sights and sounds of nature. Along all parts of the trail, you can hear the crash of frigid mountain water over slick rocks, listen to birds chirping exquisite songs, feel the breeze on your face and the gentle whispers of the aspens and pines swaying overhead, and watch as butterflies float by in flashes of color.
Various shades of green are contrasted by the vibrant colors of spring and summer on this shaded trail nestled in this amazing mountain ecosystem.
This trail offers an abundance of natural sights and sounds on the path to a beautiful waterfall and rushing stream. This 325-acre protected area is a great place to explore and you can find several trails and offshoots here. Compared to Bridal Veil Falls, this trail is wide and feels more like an access road at times than a hiking trail. You can expect to encounter other hikers on this popular trail, in addition to bikers, trail runners, and potentially horseback riders as well.
Bear Creek Falls Details
- Location: South side of downtown Telluride. Accessible from downtown where South Pine Street dead-ends with the Wasatch Trail
- Driving Time & Parking: You can secure parking in downtown Telluride. Many spots are limited to 30 minutes or 2 hours. If you will need more time (which is likely) try to park in the Town Park parking lot, which allows for 4 hour parking enforced 8am-6pm. This will result in about a 0.5 mile walk to the trailhead
- Cost: FREE
- Trailhead Amenities: None. You can use the restroom and fill water in Town Park
Bear Creek Falls Hike Details:
- Distance: 5.1 miles roundtrip out and back
- Elevation Gain: 1,092 feet
- Estimated Duration: 3-4 hours
- Add-on Possibilities: There are several other trails and offshoots in this 325-acre Bear Creek Preserve trail area. There will be a labeled map not far from the trailhead (at the top of the first hill you will climb). This trail also connects to the Wasatch Trail and Bridal Veil Basin Trail.
When to hike: Late spring, summer, and early fall are best for hiking. We still saw snow and ice around the falls in June, but the trails were clear.
Bear Creek Falls Hiking Directions
This is a mostly straight trail for the majority of the hike and is very easy to follow. While a steady incline at elevation, it is very inviting and pleasant to take your time and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. When you reach the falls, you can choose to view from below along the river or climb up to view the falls up close from the upper viewpoint via a much narrower trail.
What you need to know before hiking Bear Creek Falls:
- Although longer than Bridal Veil Falls, this trail is a bit easier to navigate and less steep
- Lots of shade, which is a nice reprieve from warmer days. Still some sunny sections so sunscreen/hats are a good idea
- This is a shared multipurpose trail that is very popular
- This is a dog friendly trail; we saw many off-leash
- Like Bridal Veil Falls, if you get close at the Upper Falls, expect to get wet and be cold
- The lower viewpoint offers great views of the falls if you don’t want to climb up where it can be slippery
- Can get buggy so bug spray may be worth having on hand
What You’ll Love About This Hike
Hiking to this 80-foot waterfall offered many great views and sounds along the way. Walking through the aspens and catching views of the rugged canyon walls and peaks around the falls was breathtaking. This is one of those trails where you just feel so at peace meandering around, totally immersed in the journey and not too concerned with the destination.
In addition, while not as tall as Bridal Veil Falls, we loved how you could see the entirety of these falls and the creek or stream from various points and perspectives. This is a fairly easy trail with a big payoff. Along this trail, you feel lost in all that the pristine Telluride landscape has to offer. A great place to wander at a relaxed pace, unplug, and spend a few moments forgetting your worries for a while.
Cornet Creek Falls
This short trail to a delicate fall surrounded by red rocks is a great way to quickly add on another waterfall during your trip to Telluride! Get your heart rate up by challenging yourself to get to the falls by moving as quickly as possible up the steep trail, or take your time to note what makes this trail different from the others you might have done in the area. This dog-friendly trail is easily combined with the popular 2.7 mile roundtrip Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail
Cornet Falls Details
- Location: Just north of downtown only a short distance from the main drag of Telluride
- Driving Time: Park in downtown Telluride (less than a 1 mile walk) or on North Aspen Street to be right at the trailhead which starts where the road dead-ends
- Cost: FREE
- Parking: 2 hour street parking enforced 8am-6pm; you should provide plenty of time for this short hike. You can also park closer to downtown if street parking is full on North Aspen Street
- Trailhead Amenities: No water; no restrooms
- Distance: 0.6 miles roundtrip out and back
- Elevation Gain: 301 feet
- Estimated Duration: 30 mins -1 hour
- Add-on Possibilities: To get to these falls you will pass the trailhead for Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail. This is a popular hike in Telluride and an easy add-on before or after going to Cornet Creek Falls. You will see Cornet Creek bridge to cross which would take you on to start the Jud Wiebe Trail.
Hiking Trail Directions: Stay straight at the split for the Jud Weibe Memorial Trail. Do not cross over the bridge on the left. Continue straight uphill and you will dead-end into the falls.
When to hike: Late spring, summer, early fall
What you need to know before hiking to Cornet Creek Falls:
- The trail is steep and can be slick in spots due to erosion and loose rock
- Plenty of shade along the path
- We completed this hike roundtrip in 21 minutes, which included some time hanging out at the falls. This can be a really quick excursion if you want or need it to be, or if you are just looking for a bit more strenuous exercise.
What You’ll Love About This Hike
This hike is short and sweet and a great option as an add-on to another trail or adventure or as a quick trail to a waterfall that you can access easily after spending some time downtown.
We loved walking through a Telluride neighborhood and admiring the mix of new modern homes and traditional Victorian-era architecture and then climbing the steep and narrow trail to the skinny falls encompassed by red rocks. The red rocks on this trail are a great contrast to the green and gray rocks on other waterfall hikes in the area. Not the most impressive fall in the area, but peaceful nonetheless!
Fulfilling Travel Tips
Be Present. Be Where Your Feet Are.
With so many opportunities to immerse yourself in nature, Telluride in general is a great place to spend some mindful moments connecting to nature. Along any of Telluride’s waterfall hikes, you might stand close to one of the flowing falls and notice the sensations as the icy cold mountain water splashes against your face, watch as endless beads of waterfall and flow away, or simply listen to the sounds of the beautiful landscapes.
Hiking is a great time for presence and reflection. Think of all the ways water plays a role in life on Earth; from sustaining life to how it has carved the sights we travel far and wide to see today. When you slow down and allow yourself to fully experiences places in nature, you can walk away more fulfilled. Give yourself permission to just be.
Example Weekend Itinerary For Visiting Telluride’s Waterfalls:
Wake up and hike Bridal Veil Falls
Spend the day exploring downtown Telluride
Walk off dinner with a hike to Cornet Creek Falls
Hike up to Bear Creek Falls in the AM
Hike into town and take the free Gondola to Mountain Village
Telluride Waterfall Hikes Overall
There is just something about the waterfalls in Telluride Colorado. Surrounded by lush forests, rocky mountain peaks, and vibrant wildflowers, they create a science that instantly makes you feel at peace. The sun feels brighter, the air feels cleaner, and worries seem to melt away in this nature-lovers paradise.
Telluride is a nature lover’s and outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. With no lack of opportunities for time in nature, there is something for everyone. An icy frozen tundra in winter, summer brings melting and an abundance of life around every corner. Water rushes free down from the mountain tops, birds sing, butterflies emerge, and wildflowers bloom.
With three beautiful waterfall hikes easily accessible from downtown that are dog friendly, you can easily take a frigid dip, practice your photography, or get a few mindful moments all while also having your four-legged family member by your side.
If you want to see the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado and are up for a steep hike, head to Bridal Veil Falls.
If you want a more gradual incline through a lush forest atmosphere, opt for Bear Creek Falls. This trail might also be a good opportunity to start to acclimate to the elevation before the steeper Bridal Veil Falls Trail.
Short on time or looking for an easy waterfall addition to other excursions? Hop over to Cornet Creek Falls.
Choose your adventure, unplug, be present, and let the sights and sounds of nature melt your stress and worries away in this amazing Colorado mountain destination.
If you love waterfall hikes, but are located in the Eastern U.S. we recommend a trip to Virginia in spring to explore 14 breathtaking waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park!
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO TELLURIDE COLORADO
Getting to Telluride:
Telluride is a remote mountain town that has a small airport serviced through Denver, but is not easily accessible from any major airports.
- Distance from Denver: 6.5 hours
- Distance from Montrose (which is the closest regional airport): 70 miles
- Distance from Phoenix: 8 Hours
- Distance from Salt Lake City: 7 hours
The good news is that if you opt for a road trip, any route you choose will be stunning! If you are in an RV you can drive/tow from Silverton or Durango via the Million Dollar Highway, but it is certainly not for the faint of heart!
Always check your routes before embarking on your journey. We use google maps and RV Life GPS to double-check before heading to any new destination.
Telluride only has a few camping options including Last Dollar Road and The Town Park Campground. You can check surrounding areas as well for additional options! In addition to the camping locations we mentioned in this article, you might also consider a stay in nearby Ridgway Colorado. Ridgway State Park has extensive camping options.
If you are looking to get closer to nature but don’t have an RV, consider renting one through Outdoorsy, or RV Share. We used both of these services when renting out our Casita and found them to be high quality and easy to use!
Another great option is glamping or nature-centric stays. Here are some great options for summer near Telluride Colorado:
You can explore all Telluride area accommodations and compare prices on Booking.com, which is a great resource for unique stays at the best rates.
Looking for other Resources For where to camp and things to do in Telluride in summer?
If you have more time to explore Colorado we also recommend these gems: