Hey, it's Andrea! Telluride is my favorite spot in Colorado. With its towering mountains, historic landmarks, and its distance from Denver - it feels like a secret oasis hidden deep in the San Juan mountains. A lot of Colorado locals will complain that Telluride is now unaffordable for locals but if you look hard enough, there’s still plenty of free things to do. Camp at Alta lakes (free), search for the many secret hot springs nearby (free), visit Bridal Veil falls (free), ride the gondola in the summer (free). Even with the most conscious budget, you can find a few dive bars downtown to hangout and play pool at.
Though my personal favorite activity is a little town secret known as the via ferrata - which can also be free if you have the right gear & climbing experience. “Via ferrata” is an Italian term meaning “iron path.” It refers to metal rungs and ladders allowing the military to scale cliffs quickly and safely. Luckily, we have our very own via ferrata in Telluride!
Being an experienced climber, I opted not to hire a guide. Instead, I grabbed my climbing helmet, harness, 2 daisy chains, and 2 locking carabiners for the adventure. Finding the via ferrata can be the crux of the whole venture. Most people don’t even notice it from the road. The route is so high up climbers look like little ants on the cliffside. Up the south facing cliff below Ajax Peak just outside of the city, there is a small unmarked trail. Follow this trail for about a mile and you’ll reach a cliff drop off with nowhere to go, and it seems the trail has ended. Look to your right and you’ll see metal prongs on the cliff. That’s the start of your adventure. The exposure of being 600 feet from the forest floor is not for the faint of heart. Clip in your carabiners and take a step of faith. The whole course takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. Traversing the whole route is the most stunning view of Telluride and one of the most thrilling adventures Colorado has to offer.
*Disclaimer: do not attempt this without proper gear, understanding of mountain conditions, and experience rock climbing. While not free, you can hire professional guides to take you on the Via Ferrata and supply all the necessary safety equipment.