Telluride Balloon Festival
Telluride is a little mountain town situated in the Uncompaghre National Forest amongst the San Juan Mountains. It was originally a mining town and is situated in a box canyon, meaning it is surrounded on all but one side by mountains! On the far end of Telluride is Ingram Falls and the largest free falling waterfall in Colorado; Bridal Veil Falls. Telluride is also home to Telluride Film Fest, Bluegrass Fest, and Balloon Fest!
Telluride Balloon Festival
This was actually my second time being in Telluride for the Balloon Festival. Last year I found myself out here with friends as well, both times being here for real estate photography. Hot air balloons come from lands far away and set up in the town park for early morning glows, as well as down Main Street at night for evening glows. If you didn’t grow up in a town or state popular for hot air balloons like me, seeing these balloons truly makes you feel like a kid. Everyone applauding as the balloons start inflating for the first time, as they take off from the ground. Everyone is just there to witness this exciting thing in this amazing quaint town! I may or may not have cried because it was so beautiful and fun.
While there are a few places you can camp on National Forest land in Telluride, there is only one first-come-first-serve campground in town, and it is owned and managed by the town of Telluride itself. If you’re here for the balloon festival, it is the best spot because it is situated right next to the town park that the hot air balloons take off in!
However, there are only 20 or so spots at the campground so if you get there late and there isn’t a spot available, there are more campgrounds available on the San Juan Skyway highway 145, the road that comes into town from Cortez, as well as off Last Dollar road. You can check out road conditions for Last Dollar road at the USDA website here.
Things to do in Telluride
If you happen to find yourself in Telluride outside of the Balloon Festival, there are plenty of other things to do! The town is known for being an outdoor recreation mecca, with the most beautiful backdrops. If you’re looking for hikes in town, there is Bridal Veil, Ingram, and Cornet Falls (not for those afraid of heights!). You can take the free gondola up the south mountain face to more hikes, as well as trails that you can mountain bike down. If you’re looking for more technical climbing, there is the Via Ferrata that climbs along the south and east walls of the canyon. If 4x4 is your thing, you can take the highest mountain pass in Colorado: Imogen Pass, or the one way Black Bear Pass up over the San Juans into Ouray. You can bike, jog, snowshoe, cross country sky from one side of town to the other on the San Miguel River Trail.
If you’re outside of town, there are endless forest roads to drive up, including one of my favorites, Gold Creek to Alta Lakes, as well as Trout Lake which is situated closer to Lizard Head Pass. Funny enough, since I was in Telluride for the balloon festival in 2018 and 2019, one of my favorite things to do was to compare the amount of snowpack we got in Colorado this year! Some places are saying we got 400% our usual snowpack, and it was very evident in Telluride. This time last year, the campgrounds on the San Juan Skyway were not only open but mostly clear of snow below 12,000 feet. This year, they are closed and still buried under snow! The popular switchbacks that climb up to Ingram and Bridal Veil falls were clear of snow and accessible by vehicle, while this year they were still covered in snow and the popular Ingram Falls was barely visible and definitely still frozen. Last Dollar Road where my friends and I camped last year was still closed, relegating us to the town park campground. And my favorite spot outside of Telluride, Trout Lake off of highway 145 was still covered in ice!
Check out these photos below from my trip in 2018 + 2019! For more trails and things to do in Telluride, check out this interactive map!