#11 Telluride, Colorado

Population: 2,300 

Getting there: Telluride Regional Airport (TEX) is a 15-minute drive from town. The larger alternative is Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ), a scenic 90-minute drive away.

When most think of visiting Colorado, the hot spots along the Front Range of the Rockies come to mind first. Southwestern Colorado however, is where an increasing number of mountain and adventure lovers, celebrities, and entrepreneurs secretly head to ski, play, eat, and enjoy the western charm. Secret only because they don’t want their less than five minute lift lines to get any longer!

Telluride is a special place, plain and simple. With legends that date back to its Ute Indian origins, it is located in a box canyon between the San Juan Mountains. It saw an influx of miners looking to strike it rich, after gold was discovered in 1858. Despite the miners and three decades as an official ski resort,  it’s remained small with just 2,000 full-time residents. However, the visitors that flock year-round give it a more cosmopolitan feeling over the small town that it is. The price tag on condos alone show how close Telluride is coming to the highly sought after ski-in-ski-out luxuries you’d find in Aspen and Vail.

Recent years have seen an increase in new residents too who are taking the culinary, art, and music scenes to new heights. This September will welcome back the popular Blues and Brews Festival with headliners like The Black Crowes, Melissa Etheridge, and Gary Clark Jr.

Winter of course is the busier season offering skiing that is comparable to the best in the world with long runs, perfect powder, and short lift lines. Other winter activities include snowmobiling, dog sledding, and the latest craze, snow biking. Outfitters like Paragon-BootDoctors are amping up mountain bikes with thick, heavy treaded tires that can track through thick powder all the way to the reward of arriving at Telluride Brewing Company, for example.

One thing to note: be prepared to feel the altitude and allow time to adjust. In town you’re at 9,000 feet, and it only goes up from there. Staying well hydrated, taking aspiring, and the local trick – coconut water – will help ease the effects.

Where to stay: For the ski-in-ski-out convenience and the comforts of a condo, none in Telluride are more luxurious than Element 52, part of the Auberge Residences. For a more traditional hotel stay on the mountain, Hotel Madeline is a great choice with a hopping bar.

Insider tip: By taking a snow cat during winter up to Alpino Vino, you’ll find a truly memorable dinner. There you’ll experience the world’s highest wine bar and private chalet, serving just 14 tables per night a prix-fixe five-course gourmet meal. Reservations are required.

Side trip: Ouray

Just an hour’s drive from Telluride is another tiny box canyon known as the Switzerland of America. Ouray is home to less than 1,000 people with just one 3-block Main Street. It won’t take long before you find John Wayne’s cowboy hat behind the bar at The Outlaw and hear the legend as to how it ended up there.

The main draw in the winter is the Ice Park, where all levels of climbers can partake in this unique and challenging thrill. Local guides are necessary unless you’re an experienced climber – San Juan Mountain Guides on Main Street is who to call. The season lasts from October through March, so long as the temperatures are cold enough to freeze the ice walls overnight.

Year round the reason to come here is simple – the hot springs. There are several natural springs in the area – Wiesbaden Springs in particular are said to be “unequaled” for their therapeutic qualities. Orvis Hot Springs just outside of Ouray is another great option.

Insider Tip: For the ultimate in Southern Colorado mountain luxury, head to Dunton Hot Springs, just over an hour drive from Telluride. There you’ll find rustic luxury and culinary perfection at the hands of executive chef Carrie Eagle. They recently opened a second property downriver from its main homestead of 18 luxury cabins – Cresto Ranch – now home to eight gorgeous tents with en-suite bathrooms. It’s “glamping” at its very finest.

For more road trip information, check out:

Text and photos: By Lindsay Taub for PeterGreenberg.com. Lindsay is a writer/editor, producer and photographer covering travel, lifestyle, culture, arts, food, and all facets that make life a journey. She calls Los Angeles home when she’s there, but prefers to leave the city for the mountains and open spaces as often as possible. She loves cooking, gardening, live music, hiking with her three rescue dogs, and nothing beats cheese and wine during a spectacular sunset. If you can’t find her, she’s trekking through a jungle, seeking a seeker, admiring wildlife, or on a plane, quite possibly jumping out of it when the adrenaline junkie is at her best. She is the co-founder of Voyage Vixens. Follow her on twitter @lindsaytaub.

  • Populations are approximate and based on the most recent numbers available from the U.S. Census Bureau.