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  • Telluride, Colorado
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    Telluride,

    Colorado

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    Featured in Budget Travel's Cool Small Towns 2022

    Telluride is a National Historic Landmark District that gourmet restaurants, chic boutiques and fine-art galleries call home, Telluride proudly displays its mining-town heritage with colorful Victorian houses and charming, carefully preserved streets lined with clapboard and brick storefronts.

    Don’t let the town’s charms fool you, however. Telluride’s heritage is equal parts refinement and Wild West, complete with tales of bankrobbers — Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here — and hardscrabble miners.

    Perched above Telluride, amidst the Telluride Ski Resort, Mountain Village offers visitors and residents alike a more modern, lux feel in a European-style alpine setting. Incorporated in 1995, Mountain Village boasts luxury accommodation, state-of-the-art spas and sophisticated dining options, all the while surrounded by the towering peaks and stunning vistas of the San Juan Mountains.

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    Budget Travel Lists

    Telluride, Colorado - Coolest Small Towns 2022

    If you really want to get away from it all, Colorado is an excellent choice — the state’s jaw-dropping mountains, wildlife, and independent thinkers have been attracting escapees from the rat race for decades. Telluride (and its close neighbor, Mountain Village), in the San Juan Mountains in the southwestern corner of the state, is firmly in that tradition. Once a boomtown thanks to local mining, the town transformed itself into a skiing mecca in the mid-20th century and today ranks as one of the most dense concentrations of great food, art, nature, and much more. Want to hike? Bike? Ski? The trails that wind in and around town will keep you busy for days, weeks — did we mention that some folks just up and run away to Telluride for good? And, like many popular ski areas, Telluride transforms in the “off-season” (what summer destinations call the “high-season”) into a paradise for hikers, skate boarders, cyclists, and water enthusiasts. Music and arts festivals abound, and we're particularly fond of Telluride’s unique Nothing Festival, in which cyclists ride in the nude. Remember what we said about attracting free thinkers? More about Telluride Telluride, CO If you really want to get away from it all, Colorado is an excellent choice — the state’s jaw-dropping mountains, wildlife, and independent thinkers have been attracting escapees from the rat race for decades. Keep Reading... Meet Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns for 2022: Content presented by Have Fun Do Good Have Fun Do Good (HFDG) is on a mission to provide adventure seekers with a unique experience that allows them to travel while giving back to the community through volunteering. Learn more at https://havefundogood.co/

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    Inspiration

    Rediscover Colorado: explore rugged Durango in any season

    Editor's Note: Before you head out, please check the Colorado COVID-19 site to determine any local restrictions you need to be aware of. Nestled in southwestern Colorado’s Animas River Valley and surrounded by the rugged peaks of the San Juan Mountains, Durango’s remote location offers unimpeded access to some of the best cultural, historic and outdoor attractions in the state. Road Tripping: Scenic Byways The San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway travels from Durango and Telluride, to Mesa Verde National Park and back to Durango. The San Juan Byway is a 236-mile loop that winds through dramatic scenery in the shadow of 14,000 foot peaks, including the “Million Dollar Highway” segment from Silverton to Ouray, known as one of the most scenic drives in America. Colorado’s newest byway, Tracks Across Borders, links over 800 years of Colorado history. From the romance of the rails and authentic Native American culture, to breathtaking scenery and endless outdoor recreation, Tracks Across Borders is a richly layered journey through two states. Spanning southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico, the 125-mile route traces the narrow gauge right-of-way of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, connecting over 800 years of Colorado history. Durango’s rich history and cultural attractions are really what sets it apart from other destinations. The top attractions in our area are: D&SNGRR: Travel aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s historic 1880’s coal-fired, steam-powered locomotives for breathtaking views of the San Juan National Forest and the Weminuche, Colorado’s largest wilderness area. The Train is tentatively set to open with social distancing measures on June 9th. Mesa Verde National Park: Ancient Pueblo ruins and artifacts dating back over 2500 years were discovered in the San Juan Basin in the 1880’s. Explore the archeological wonders and ancient cave dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or at lesser known areas such as Sand Canyon. *MVNP is currently closed. There is a potential that the park will open later this summer for self guided hiking and exploring. It’s unlikely the ranger-led tours will return this summer. Followed by Outdoor Recreation Durango offers more than 300-miles of world-class mountain biking and hiking within 30-minutes of downtown. The San Juan National Forest includes the largest wilderness area in Colorado – the Weminuche Wilderness – and hundreds of miles of singletrack, world class mountain biking, epic rock climbing and backcountry skiing, plus fly fishing and boating on the gold medal waters of the Animas River. West of Durango, discover the spectacular La Plata Canyon and its beautiful U formation created by glaciers with abundant wildlife, wildflowers, high-alpine meadows, and avalanche gullies. Visitors can go remote backpacking, rafting or enjoy an extensive network of trails within five minutes of downtown Durango, including the Animas River Trail (ART). The centerpiece of the city’s trail system, the ART is a paved multi-use trail stretching nearly 7 miles through Durango’s Animas River Greenway. The ART provides easy access to a variety of parks; open spaces and natural surface trails, the community recreation center, the public library, downtown Durango, neighborhoods and schools. All of Durango's trails are built and maintained by local nonprofit trails group, Trails 2000, which hosts an interactive trail map, trail descriptions and trail conditions report online at durangotrails.org. The following list includes activities that are currently available and safe to enjoy in the Durango area, w/ social distancing and public health orders: https://www.durango.org/covid/. Visit Durango is not actively promoting visitation at this time, but we are making this information available to our industry partners since we understand visitors are still coming. Our goal is to steer people in the right direction and help keep residents and visitors safe. Please also visit our COVID Travel Advisory page for the latest restrictions and guidance for visitors. Historic Hotels The Strater Hotel, built in 1887, is decorated with period decor, beautiful handcrafted woodwork, and the largest private collection of American Victorian walnut antiques in the world. The Rochester Hotel and Leland House, built in 1927 and 1892 respectively, boasts original antiques and woodwork, as well as Western-movie themed rooms. The General Palmer, built in 1898, blends the comforts of modern living with Victorian charm in the heart of the historic downtown. Hotels are taking extra precautions right now.

    Road Trips

    A 6-Day Trip Itinerary through Southwestern Colorado

    As a native-born Virginian, I've traveled up and down the East Coast, putting in time in the Midwest and the Southwest, and on the West Coast as well. But even though it's been high on my list for quite awhile, I'd never been to Colorado, so when the opportunity for a trip presented itself this summer, I couldn't help but jump at the chance. The plan was to cover as much ground as humanly possible in a week, starting in Denver and working my way southwest to Durango—and it was a good plan too, according to pretty much everyone but my mother. "How can they just give a New Yorker a car and turn them loose on those mountain roads?! You don't remember how to drive!" she wailed. Even though that was decidedly untrue, not to mention a base slander of my skills behind the wheel, I invited her to come along for the ride and put her mind at ease. Here's how we spent that week on the road. Day 1: Buena Vista We were due in Buena Vista for a lunch-and-whitewater-rafting date shortly after noon, but before we began the two-and-a-half-hour drive south, we made one last stop at Denver Central Market. After avocado and salmon toasts at Izzio Bakery, plus an almond croissant and a chocolate Kouign-Amann for good measure, we got going. And we were making decent time, too—at least until the two-lane US Highway 285 closed one lane for construction, and we sat in place for nearly an hour. The Arkansas River, as seen from the River Runners family float. (Maya Stanton) As it happened, though, the delay didn’t make much difference. I was scheduled for a half-day excursion through Browns Canyon with River Runners, a local operator with a pull-up bar and restaurant, but the Arkansas River was running so high that my guide shifted me to a more mellow family float. I had been looking forward to hitting the rapids, but between the mountain-studded scenery and the quickly moving currents, I was plenty happy with the trip I got. Back on dry land, we headed into town and checked in at the Surf Hotel, a 62-room property with a shared balcony—complete with rocking chairs—directly overlooking a stretch of the Arkansas. A quick change of clothes later and we were in Wesley & Rose, the lobby bar and restaurant, enjoying happy-hour cocktails, a mean cheese-and-charcuterie board, and bluegrass-tinged music from the four-piece band set up in the corner. Dinner from the Buena Viking food truck, parked at Deerhammer Distillery. (Maya Stanton) A full meal there wouldn’t have gone amiss, but we wanted to see more of Buena Vista itself, so we reluctantly closed our tab. Main Street was a 15-minute walk away and spanned just a few blocks; we paused at the Heritage Museum and its woolly mammoth sculpture and meandered past a busy ice cream shop before we reached our destination: Deerhammer Distilling Company, an artisan grain-to-glass operation bottling straight bourbon, corn and single-malt whiskies, and Dutch-style gin. We ordered a couple of drinks—the citrusy, cucumber-heavy Green Grind and a Moscow Mule made with whiskey instead of vodka—and split a cheeseburger and a boatload of tater tots from the onsite food truck. Full but not done yet, we stopped by the Jailhouse for one last pint before calling it a night; there was a chill in the air and the outdoor fire tables were going full blast, and the scene was so cozy it was tough to turn down another round. Home sweet home, just for one night. (Maya Stanton) But we were rewarded for our self-discipline, such as it was, and arrived back at the hotel just in time to catch the band’s closing number. As the small crowd applauded enthusiastically, we headed upstairs to bed, where the soothing sounds of rushing water soon carried us off to sleep. Day 2: Salida For breakfast the next morning, we made a quick stop at the Buena Vista Roastery Cafe for cortados and thick slices of chorizo, cheddar, and green-chile quiche, and then we were back in the car, bound for a cheesemaking class at Mountain Goat Lodge, about 20 miles south. Cheesemaking at Mountain Goat Lodge, a huge draw. (Maya Stanton) I won’t lie: Hanging out with some goats and learning to make cheese was a major motivating factor in planning this trip as a whole, and my class didn’t disappoint—even though I didn't manage to get there early enough to milk a goat beforehand. The B&B’s chief cheesemaker and co-proprietor, Gina Marcell, led our group of five through the process for chèvre and feta (our consensus, selected from a handful of options), offering copious samples along the way and allotting time with the animals towards the end of the morning. By the time we were finished, I was sourcing fresh goat’s milk in Brooklyn and bookmarking the equipment I’d need online, happily envisioning the concoctions I could create from the comfort of my home kitchen. Then it was on to Salida proper, and a 10-minute drive found us in the heart of downtown, a walkable district with small shops, restaurants, yoga studios, art galleries, and the Arkansas River running right through it all. We sat down at Currents for a satisfying yet somewhat incongruous lunch of green chili and tuna poke, then browsed through a few stores, coveting the great leather and home goods at Howl Mercantile & Coffee and scanning the shelves at the Book Haven before stumbling upon what was undoubtedly the find of the day. The varmints of Bungled Jungle. (Maya Stanton) It didn’t look like much at first glance—a stroller with a mannequin-like figure at the handle—but as we approached, we saw a human-sized purple creature with goofy ears and pink-tipped antennae, and within the stroller itself, a green three-headed baby monster that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Men In Black movie. We had come to the Bungled Jungle, the wildly creative world of local artisans Pat Landreth and Suzanne Montano. Regulars on the renaissance fair circuit, the two make Dr. Seuss-meets-Tim Burton–style varmints and kinetic steampunk sculptures from bits and bobs of mechanical detritus, and the showroom is a great repository of their work. (There’s no fee to enter, but the monsters and their people do accept tips for pics.) We barely had time to check in at our evening’s accommodations before dinner. Located a few minutes from downtown, Amigo Motor Lodge was built in 1958 and reopened in 2016 after a complete overhaul. It’s now a modern minimalist’s dream, with white walls, birch bed frames, subway-tiled bathrooms, and ridiculously comfortable Tuft & Needle mattresses. (There are also four Airstream trailers on the premises, if the concept of close quarters floats your boat.) We cleaned up and drove back to Salida’s historic center, managing to score a patio table at the Fritz with just a few minutes’ wait. It wasn’t exactly local fare, but the small plates were an all-around hit, from pickled quail eggs and grilled heads of romaine with dates and manchego to seared ahi wontons with spicy aioli and a heaping bowl of mussels and fries. We were finishing our meal just as the sun went down, and the cotton-candy sky was pretty much the icing on the cake. Day 3: The San Luis Valley and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve One seriously good night’s sleep later (really, those mattresses are no joke), we were up and out the door, on the road by 7:00 am for the 90-minute drive to Zapata Ranch. A 103,000-acre working ranch with a 2,000-bison herd—1,800 free-roaming wild animals, give or take, and 300 cattle—the property is owned by the Nature Conservancy and open to visitors from March through October. Normally, only guests are allowed to take the two-hour bison tour, but we got a special dispensation to tag along, and when the herd crossed right in front of our SUV, it felt like the luckiest morning in recent memory. Cowboys on the move at Zapata Ranch. (Matt DeLorme/@ranchlands) After a simple sack lunch of cold sandwiches, chips, and Arnold Palmers on the ranch deck, we made our way to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, some 15 minutes away. Designated an International Dark Sky Park in May of this year, this particular protected land is a striking anomaly: a towering stretch of sand, eroded from the mountains over thousands of years, with nary a wave in sight—unless you visit during the summer, that is, and the creeks are flowing in your favor. When there’s been ample snowmelt, the Medano spreads around the base of the dunes into a shallow stream, and the crowds come out to play, swimming, floating, and wading while the water levels hold. But that’s not the park’s only attraction. With hiking, camping, and ranger-led programs like “Great Women of Great Sand Dunes” and after-dark telescope viewing, there’s plenty to see and do year-round. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is a must-see. (Maya Stanton) Water in hand, we trekked out to the creek in the afternoon sun and got our feet wet before moving on to our next stop. The San Luis Valley is home to a number of kitschy roadside attractions, but the UFO Watchtower in Hooper was top of my list. Even before owner Judy Messoline built a viewing platform and opened her property to UFO-chasers back in 2000, the site was reportedly a hotbed of alien activity. According to sign on the premises quoting more than two dozen psychics, that’s thanks to two vortexes—energy-filled openings to a parallel universe—on the east side of the tower. There’s a small garden filled with knickknacks left by visitors hoping to harness some of that extraterrestrial energy, and a gift shop selling alien-themed gear; we paid our $5 entry fee, snapped a few photos, picked up a shot glass, and got back on the road. The yurts at Joyful Journey let you rough it without giving up all creature comforts. (Maya Stanton) Our final destination for the day was Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa, a local hotspot—literally—in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A tranquil setup boasting three mineral-rich, non-sulfuric pools untouched by chlorine or other chemicals, it’s the polar opposite of the state’s more polished commercial springs, with $10 all-day soaks on Tuesdays and clothing-optional Wednesday evenings. It has a lodge, RV sites, tipis, and camping sites, but we opted for a yurt, decked out with a proper bed, a small seating area, and both a fan and a heater for hot days and cold nights. We spent some time hopping from pool to pool, making small talk with our fellow soakers, before grabbing a light supper of homemade soup and salad (complimentary with our stay). With blessedly little else to do, we unplugged and called it a night—until a few hours later, when we had to put on our shoes and venture out to the communal bathhouse. A chilly proposition to be sure, but well worth it for the unbelievable, light-pollution-free galactic display we witnessed on the way. Day 4: Pagosa Springs and Durango The following morning, I woke to the sun shining through our yurt’s domed skylight and a constellation of itchy bug bites covering my legs. As it turns out, standing in a field to take pictures of the sunset in just a robe and a bathing suit is....not a great idea, particularly in peak sand-fly season. But no matter—we had a fairly leisurely day, for a change, and I was determined to make the most of it. The road from Moffat to Pagosa Springs. (Maya Stanton) We set off west for the tiny town of Pagosa Springs, my mother nervously checking her GPS as she directed me through the precarious switchbacks of Highway 160, slowing us to a near-crawl as we approached Wolf Creek Pass, named the state’s most dangerous by the Durango Herald a few years back. Located some 18 miles east of Pagosa, with terrifying 200-foot drop-offs and frequent avalanches during the winter months, the pass isn’t to be attempted by inexperienced drivers when there’s snow on the ground. But we came out the other side of the San Juan Mountains into downtown Pagosa Springs without a scratch, following the curves of the San Juan River to the Springs Resort & Spa. A slick facility overlooking the river, with 23 geothermal pools—the most in the state, fed by the deepest geothermal hot spring in the world—as well as locker rooms, restaurants, bars, and a well-stocked gift shop, the Springs offered a decidedly different experience from what we’d encountered at Joyful Journey the night before. We compared and contrasted the two for a few hours, dipping in and out of pools of varying temperatures, before caving to our lunchtime cravings. Ultimately, we were bound for Durango, and on our way out of town, we stopped at Mee Hmong Cuisine for the midday special—giant chili-garlic shrimp and sweet-savory pork ribs, served with rice, salad or edamame, and vegetable summer rolls for just $12 a pop. It was a welcome change from the fare we’d had thus far, and we cleaned our plates accordingly. Back on 160 for another white-knuckling drive, we pulled into Durango an hour later, adrenaline still pumping as we navigated the city streets. The old Western movie–inspired Rochester Hotel was a sight for sore eyes, with film posters and memorabilia throughout the rooms and halls and a plate of fresh-baked cookies available for the taking. We collapsed in relief for a bit, then rallied for an evening out on the town. Right downstairs, a design store called Artesanos beckoned, all rustic-beamed ceilings and eclectic home furnishings, but luckily for both my bank account and my near-bursting suitcase, they were closing up shop for the day. Instead, we rolled down to Main Avenue, picking up tiny truffles from Animas Chocolate Co. and admiring the elegant paintings and delicate contemporary glass, pottery, jewelry, and sculpture from Karyn Gabaldon’s fine-art gallery. At Buckley Park, a crowd had gathered for the free Thursday-night concert, and the sidewalks were full of folks making the most of the sunny evening. We finally commandeered a table on the picturesque patio at Cyprus Café, right across the street from our hotel, tucking into meze like baba ghanoush, tzatziki, and grape leaves alongside super-cheesy stuffed poblanos in a smoky tomato brodo. Stretching our legs after our meal, we found ourselves outside of a small barbershop a few blocks away. A nattily dressed doorman asked us for the password, and as we uttered the magic words (found on the website a few hours earlier), he led us through a hidden door in a wall of books and into the Bookcase & Barber, a speakeasy with meticulously composed literary-themed craft cocktails. One Faulkner (a mint julep) and one Temple of the Sun (aji amarillo-infused pisco with tequila, guava, lemon, and ginger) later, and we were finally ready to call it a night. Day 5: Silverton and the San Juan Mountains On Friday, we were booked for an 8:00 am ride on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, so we were downstairs for French toast with powdered sugar, honey butter, and raspberry sauce by 7:00 sharp. Onboard, the circa-1880 train moved through town as people waved from balconies and backyards as we slowly but surely barreled past. As we chugged up the mountain, around alpine lakes and federally protected national forest, the best views were out the windows on the right—something to consider when you’re reserving your seats. The engine of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. (Maya Stanton)Forty-five miles and three-and-a-half hours later, we arrived in Silverton, an old mining town with a few blocks of hotels, restaurants, and shops. Our first stop was for spicy pork tacos at Avalanche Brewing Company, followed closely by a visit to K & C Traders, a jewelry store recommended by our train car’s attendant for its impressive array of Astorite, the pink-ore gemstones named for mine owner Jacob Astor IV. With a purchase under our belts, we picked up a snack of pulled pork and cornbread at Thee Pitts Again, a barbecue restaurant that once featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, before venturing down Greene Street to the new Wyman Hotel for a peek at the hipster-cool accommodations. The tiny town of Silverton is a mountain-lover's dream. (Maya Stanton) There, we met a representative from Durango who shuttled us back down the mountain via the the San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway, a 236-mile route that passes through the mountain towns of Telluride and Ouray before looping south to Mesa Verde National Park and Durango. We stopped off for a quick hike at Cascade Creek, a short trail with a sparkling waterfall dropping 150 into a swimming hole below, before hitting Purgatory Resort, a winter destination that transforms ski slopes into hiking and mountain-biking trails in the offseason. Before the park closed, we just managed to fit in a ride on the Inferno mountain coaster, a 4,000-foot-long trip that’s you personally control through a sequence of loops, drops, and switchbacks, all set against a backdrop of incredible mountain scenery. The thrill ride whetted our whistles, and our next stop was Nugget Bar for an après pint. A renovated cabin with fire pits and mountain views, it was just the thing to cap off a busy day—but we weren’t quite done yet. Back in Durango, we had reservations at Primus, a new restaurant on Main with a mouthwatering menu of wild game, fresh seafood, and local produce. Between the smoke-cured egg yolks and the tangy lemon and caper, our bison tartare was impeccable, and a salad with grilled turnips and seasonal berries provided a much-needed dose of green. A beautifully plated duck breast on white-corn and pancetta grits rounded out our meal, and we went to bed full and happy. Day 6: Mancos and Mesa Verde National Park Our final day in Colorado was a race against time. We left Durango at 6:30 am and were parking in front of Absolute Bakery, in the one-stoplight town of Mancos, by the time it opened at 7. We dashed in and grabbed coffee and potato-and-egg strudels (one Greek with tomato, feta, spinach, and kalamata olives, one southwest with cheddar, ham, and green chile) to go, jumping back in the car as quickly as possible. We were rushing to make it to Mesa Verde National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage site that served as home to the Ancestral Pueblo people for some 700 years, boasting thousands of archaeological marvels at altitudes of 7,000 to 8,500 feet—for an 8:00 tour, and it was always going to be tight timing, especially given the terrifying, cliff-hugging 45-minute drive from the park entrance to the tour’s departure point at Far View Lodge. But we pulled into the lot with mere minutes to spare, joining our group in a small van for an extensive four-hour deep-dive into the park’s most important historical sites. Led by a National Association for Interpretation guide, the tour proceeded in chronological order from the footprint of a circa-AD 600 Pithouse village—the earliest recorded in human history—to the Pueblo-era cliff dwellings from the 13th century. The crowning moment was the descent to the magnificent Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in the park and a truly stunning site to behold. Mesa Verde's Cliff Palace is simply stunning. (Maya Stanton) After a trip down from the plateau that was just as nail-biting—and thankfully, just as uneventful—as the trip up, we set our sights on the Canyon of the Ancients Museum in Dolores, a little less than 60 miles to the north. Operated by the Bureau of Land Management, with fascinating exhibits on local history and Native American culture as well as two 12th-century sites and a nature trail offering expansive skyline views from its peak, the small archaeological museum made the short detour worthwhile. Our final meal in Colorado. (Maya Stanton) From there, we backtracked to Mancos for a leisurely stroll through the tiny historic downtown district. The sidewalks were deserted and the boutiques and galleries were mostly closed, but we window-shopped our way down the street nonetheless. The highly rated Olio, a gallery-restaurant-wine bar hybrid, was our first-choice dinner option, but the cozy space didn’t have any seats available, so we found our way to the Fenceline Cider taproom and wrapped our trip on a casual note. We would depart from Durango the next morning, so over flights of hard cider and basic, tasty Greek fare—gyros and salads from the food truck stationed at the entrance—we toasted to a most successful journey. It had truly been a heck of a week.

    Inspiration

    Locals Know Best: Telluride, Colorado

    Mention Telluride to anyone and chances are they’ll immediately think of an elite ski town full of second homes and all the things hedge fund dreams are made of. But there’s far more to this picturesque village nestled at 8,800 feet above sea level in the Colorado Rockies. Old Western fanatics will tell you that Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here. Architecture junkies will tell you it’s chockablock of Victorian homes and it was illuminated by streetlights before Paris. Entertainment historians will tell you that Lillian Gish played shows there. And scholars of American history will tell you that at the turn of the 20th century, there were more millionaires per capita there than Manhattan. By the 1960s, however, due to the slowdown of the local mining industry, the boom started to go bust. Thanks in large part to entrepreneurial developer and hotelier Joseph Zoline, who leveraged the area’s exquisite mountains and built up the local ski industry in the late 1960s, Telluride underwent a renaissance and got its glitzy groove back. But beyond the allure of its ski runs, Telluride is actually just a small town of about 20 by 15 blocks. In the off-season its population is around 3,000 and it draws all sorts of artists, festival followers, nature lovers, and culinary-minded vacationers, giving it an energy that suits travelers of all stripes. We recently checked in with Eliza Gavin, owner of and chef at 221 South Oak since 2000, to learn a bit about what goes on in town today. She’s the chef owner at 221, a restaurant she’s owned since 2000, but you might recognize her from season 10 of Top Chef, which aired in 2012. As a native of Telluride for 20 years, she's seen the town change and grow. Here's where she recommends you go when you visit.  TRAILS FOR STROLLING, HIKING, AND SKIING Telluride is essentially located in a canyon surrounded by southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, which are as high as 13,000 feet. Waterfalls abound. There’s a tangle of trails across mountains and flatter lands that lure hikers, bikers, and anyone else who loves spending time outdoors. With so many different paths to take, it helps to have someone familiar with the landscape to offer tips. Eliza, who’s done her fair share of exploring, has the low-down on what to expect on different trails.  Beginners and anyone just wanting a casual stroll would be best off on Bear Creek. It’s not strenuous, Eliza says, and it’s manageable to go off-trail if the urge to wander strikes. Anyone seeking more intensity should try Jud Wiebe, a three-mile loop that’s pretty much a straight shot up and a straight shot down. And for a completely different experience, hop in a car and head to Ouray, about 40 minutes away. Those who travel will be richly rewarded with hot springs and waterslides.  And, of course, there are the famous ski trails, which offer world-class terrain regardless of your experience or ability, not to mention different options with regards getting to the top of the mountain via lift or hike. In addition to the slopes, though, Eliza raves about Terrain Park, a veritable winter playground of man-made jumps where kids flips and spins.  Yes, Telluride’s reputation is built largely on adrenaline-fueled afternoons, but plenty of people here snap on skis for a cross-country expedition. It’s so embedded in the local culture, in fact, that there are Nordic tracks in the town park as well as an area known as The Valley Floor, a giant swath of land cut through by a river. Very generous donors paid nearly $50 million to have it condemned so that nothing can ever be built on it. In 2017 it celebrated its ten year anniversary as a public space that locals love for mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and elk-spotting.   OFF-SEASON DELIGHTS The one thing to know about Telluride before you go is that when people refer to it, they're generally referring to the adjacent towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. Mountain Village is the ski-hub and Telluride is more of the town. A 14-minute free gondola ride shuttles people back and forth between the two. There are also free buses if heights aren't your thing.  A visit in the spring or summer is rewarded with all kinds of outdoor spaces above and beyond the hiking trails, like skate parks and bike trails along the river. "There's so much freedom in the summer," Eliza says. "Everyone walks everywhere. It's really safe."  And then there are the festivals. There's pretty much something every weekend, she says. Among the arts and music happenings, the Bluegrass Festival brings in up to 12,000 music lovers each June. Then there are other events that can't really be classified, like the Nothing Festival, a summer occurrence when everyone bikes through town without clothes. Seriously.  EAT YOUR HEART OUT In addition for being known for its elegant and creative seasonal New American dishes, 221 South Oak, Eliza’s restaurant, is popular for the appetizer and wine and pairing classes she offers on a regular and by-request basis. It’s quite an extravaganza: over the three-hour session, she prepares up to 14 dishes and pairs them with eight or 10 wines. Or cocktails. The options are endless. She explains the different varietals and the philosophies behind which wine compliments what food. But don’t expect your familiar dishes. Eliza prefers to use what she calls “weird ingredients,” like kaffir lime leaves and nutritional yeast. So where does this topnotch chef eat in her off-time? No town where creative people dwell would be complete without tacos. The go-to here is Tacos del Gnar, which Eliza loves for its creative concoctions, like the sloppy joe taco and tater tots with queso. For sushi, it’s Pescato, which, in a quirky turn of events, spotlights Indian food each Wednesday. Even chefs at the world’s highest end fine dining restaurants knows how to appreciate pub grub. In Telluride, Smuggler’s Brew Pub is the name of the game. The staples at this gastropub (which happen to also be Eliza’s top picks on the menu) are the pulled lamb sliders, crawfish mac’n’cheese, and fried pickles. They brew their own beer, she’s quick to note. She also recommends hitting Last Dollar Saloon (AKA: “the Buck"), a “local, lovely corner spot on Main Street with a cozy retro look," she says, complete with lacquered wood, a pressed tin ceiling, pool tables, and foozball. More importantly, though, it boasts the city’s largest beer selection, offering up to 60 beers. Eliza appreciates all those assets, but most impressive of all is the fact that each night, one of the three owners—Moussa, Jay, Michael—can be found working the bar, giving it a truly neighborhood feel. Speaking of beer, Telluride Brewing Company is a must for anyone who loves beer. (And chances are, if you’re the type of person who plans a vacation to Colorado, you likely love beer. There are, after all, 348 in the state as of May 2017. That’s roughly six breweries for every 100,000 people) It’s eight miles outside the city, and more than worth the trip, Eliza ensures. But if you don’t take her word for it, consider the many awards they've won over the years at the annual Great American Beer Festival. They don't have formal tours, she notes, but they always welcome visitors. "You just go in and they're like, 'Hi! You wanna look around? You want a tour?' They’re just very friendly and fun." As further evidence of their obsession with fun, they participate in the Telluride Blues and Brews festival each September.  Right about now it’s worth noting that Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012 (with Washington) and its dispensaries have been a tourist attraction since that went into place. When Eliza sees tourists wandering through town staring at their phones, chances are they’re looking for the weed stores. There’s six dispensaries and though Eliza doesn’t partake, she says it’s not hard to find someone in town who can recommend which has a better inventory than the rest.

    Road Trips

    Colorado's San Juan Skyway

    Fasten your seat belts, folks. We're headed into southwestern Colorado's "skyway" country. If you like roller coasters, this is the drive for you. Edging potentially perilous drop-offs, the roads we'll navigate soar, plunge, and twist in tight curves mile after mile. Many of you are apt to get a bit rattled (I always do). But the reward is some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in America. Fortunately, you don't have to pay theme park prices for the scenic thrills. This roller-coaster adventure-a four-day, 1,000-mile excursion into the massive San Juan Mountains-definitely rates as budget travel. Expect to pay from $50 to $80 a night in a good chain motel. And dine cheaply on the local ranch-house staples: juicy prime rib and sizzling grilled steaks. A range of the Rocky Mountains, the San Juans boast more than a dozen peaks that rise to above 14,000 feet. Sprawling across 10,000 square miles, they make a majestic but sometimes intimidating realm best seen on a 233-mile loop called the San Juan Skyway. An officially designated U.S.D.A. Forest Service Scenic Byway, it climbs in dizzying switchbacks over 11,008-foot Red Mountain Pass-the high point on the loop. In late spring when I last tackled the ascent, the summits around me were still cloaked with snow. Break up the drive with plenty of outdoor action. Hike, bicycle, go white-water rafting or kayaking, fish, ride a horse, try rock climbing. This is the place for it. Getting started Denver's low airfares are not surprising. It is served by several discount airlines: America West, ATA (American Trans Air), Frontier, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines. Another incentive to book into Denver is that car-rental rates there tend to be cheaper. Using the Internet, the least expensive rental I could find in Montrose cost about $40 more a week than a similar rental in the Colorado capital. Many of the rental agencies in Montrose impose a mileage limit, which also might have added to my cost. For a one-week, midsummer rental of an economy-class car out of Denver, the various national car-rental brands quoted between $150 and $200 (with unlimited mileage). (Lodging rates below are for two people for one night during the peak summer season.) Day oneOn the road Denver via Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction, 265 miles. As your plane descends into Denver, take a look at the peaks rising west of the city-in about an hour, that's where you'll be! Usually I try to avoid interstates, but I-70 treats you to a dazzling introduction to the Rockies. About 60 miles west of Denver, the highway climbs to above 11,000 feet as it passes through the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel, reputedly the highest auto tunnel in the world. Beyond is the famous ski resort of Vail; stretch your legs as you stroll along its ersatz alpine streets. I-70 snakes alongside a number of tumbling streams, but it's the Colorado River that puts on the best show as it races for a dozen miles through the steep rock walls of Glenwood Canyon. A thrilling drive; you can almost imagine you're bouncing down the river on a white-water raft. Take another break at the giant hot-spring pool (adults, $13) in the center of Glenwood Springs, a bustling resort town. Flat-topped mesas line I-70 as it follows the Colorado River down the western slope of the Rockies to Grand Junction. Details From the Denver airport, take I-70 west to Grand Junction. Stay in Grand Junction at the 100-room Motel 6 (970/243-2628), $50 weekdays/$60 weekends; 132-room Super 8 (970/248-8080), $69; or the 107-room Days Inn (970/245-7200), $71 weekdays/$77 weekends. Dine at W.W. Peppers, offering an upscale look and budget prices. Information: 800/962-2547, www.visitgrandjunction.com. Day twoAncient paths Grand Junction via Montrose, Telluride, and Cortez to Mesa Verde National Park, 270 miles. A 2,000-foot-high mesa, cut by deep canyons, towers above Grand Junction. This is Colorado National Monument ($5 per car), a landscape of sculpted red rock. Rim Rock Drive edges the mesa, yielding panoramic views. Cold Shivers Point is aptly named, you will agree, when you peer into the canyon depths below. Give yourself an hour at the park before heading south to the San Juans. On the southern outskirts of Montrose, stop briefly at the excellent Ute Indian Museum (adults, $3). Much of Colorado was once the homeland of the Ute tribe, many of whose members now reside on a pair of reservations near Mesa Verde. You will cross Ute paths often on this drive. The early life of these deer and buffalo hunters is illustrated with a first-class display of artifacts, including an eagle-feather headdress, a buckskin dress, and beautiful beadwork. The museum is located on what was the farm of Chief Ouray, who headed the Ute Nation from 1868 until his death in 1880. To the Utes, the San Juans were "the Shining Mountains." You can see them directly ahead as you leave the museum, an intimidating wall of jagged peaks that seem impenetrable. The San Juan Skyway officially begins in Ridgway. You can make the loop in either direction; I prefer counterclockwise because this way you ease more gently into the sky-high country. Counterclockwise, then, the approach to Telluride, a popular winter ski resort, traces the San Miguel River through the deep red walls of a winding canyon. The town itself is tucked near the end of the canyon. Actually, there are two towns here: Telluride, the attractively preserved historic mining town in the valley, and Mountain Village, a cluster of luxury hotels and homes high above town on the resort's ski slopes. They are linked by a free gondola that makes the climb from old to new in 13 minutes. Board one of the eight-passenger cars for a terrific view from the top. The gondola operates daily from 7 a.m. to midnight. In Telluride browse the offbeat shops housed in ornate Victorian-era brick and wood structures. Hike the easy River Corridor Trail, which meanders through town to a beaver preserve. And then continue for a mile or so to the canyon's end, where Bridal Veil Falls cascades down the cliff into town. Afterward, enjoy a reasonably priced sandwich at funky Baked in Telluride. Out of Telluride, Colorado Route 145 climbs through a chilly, tundra-like landscape over 10,222-foot Lizard Head Pass, named for an odd-shaped pinnacle. And then it drops slowly from the summit, following the splashing Dolores River through rolling green meadows to the desert-like country of Dolores and Cortez. Stop just south of Dolores at the Anasazi Heritage Center ($3), a museum operated by the Bureau of Land Management. It preserves hundreds of clay pots, yucca-fiber sandals, and other artifacts collected from Anasazi villages. Now on to Mesa Verde National Park ($10 per car). Steep switchbacks climb from the Montezuma Valley to the top of the green mesa at about 8,500 feet. This was home to many Ancestral Puebloans from about a.d. 550 to a.d. 1300. Surely they were as awed by the distant views from this elevated perch as I always am. The two most impressive ruins are Cliff Palace and Balcony House. To see them, you have to join a ranger-led tour. Tickets for each cost $2.50 at the Far View Visitor Center. Getting in and out of both requires some agility and no fear of heights. The Ancestral Puebloans built their lodgings in nearly inaccessible cave-like ledges on the sides of high cliffs for protection from their enemies. To reach them, tourists do as the Ancestral Puebloans did. Stone steps cut into the side of a canyon wall descend through a narrow crevice to the floor of Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Once it housed 200 people in more than 100 rooms but was vacated in the fourteenth century, perhaps because of prolonged drought. Exiting is a similar scramble. You edge up stone steps through another tight crevice, and then you climb a series of two 10-foot-tall ladders placed one atop the other up the canyon wall. Don't look down. No tickets are required for a look at Spruce Tree House, which is considered the park's best-preserved cliff dwelling. But you do have to negotiate a steep path down and up. The third largest of Mesa Verde's cliff dwellings, it contains about 100 rooms and eight ceremonial chambers called kivas-a sort of cylindrical pit. You can descend by ladder into one of the kivas. I like to stay at the park's mesa-top Far View Lodge, which is well named. From my balcony, I watch the lights pop on at scattered ranch houses in the valley far below. On one visit, deer browsed outside my balcony. This time, a pair of wild horses meandered past. Details From Grand Junction, take U.S. 50 southeast via Delta to Montrose. Continue south on U.S. 550 to Ridgway, connecting to Colorado Route 62 west to Placerville. Head southeast on Colorado 145 to Telluride. Pick up Colorado 145 again and angle southwest to Cortez. Take U.S. 160 east to Mesa Verde. For a scenic splurge, stay in Mesa Verde at the 115-room Far View Lodge (800/449-2288), $102 to $134. Dine at the Far View Terrace Food Court, a cafeteria. If Far View is out of your price range, stay in Cortez at the 85-room Days Inn (970/565-8577), $60 to $70; or the 58-room Super 8 (970/565-8888), $75. Information: 800/253-1616, www.mesaverdecountry.com. Day threeBoomtown days Mesa Verde via Durango, Silverton, and Ouray to Montrose, 160 miles. Spend the morning exploring more of Mesa Verde before heading back into the San Juans. From Durango, the road climbs quickly to Coal Bank Pass at 10,660 feet. Even in midsummer, the air can be chilly. Ahead the cliff's-edge road crests 10,899-foot Molas Pass. On the descent, you can see Silverton far below, set in a small, bowl-like valley. Once a rowdy boomtown of bars and brothels, the old silver-mining town of Silverton (elevation 9,318 feet) seems rather sedate these days, although it still retains a rough frontier look. Swirls of dust, kicked up by frosty breezes, whip across the unpaved side streets, and Victorian-era wood and brick buildings-housing shops and caf,s-possess a properly weathered look. Overhead, the treeless summits of craggy peaks snag passing clouds. Silverton is the terminus of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (adults, $60), a tourist train that (depending on the season) makes one or more slow but spectacular ascents daily from Durango. Tooting its whistles, the steam engine pulls a string of bright-yellow coach cars. It rolls into the center of town delivering a flood of chattering families who liven things up temporarily. Steady your nerves now, because the next 23 miles over 11,008-foot Red Mountain Pass to Ouray can make your heart race. Carved out of the side of the mountain, the road carries you in more tight switchbacks from one precipice to the next. Around curves, the speed limit drops to 15 mph; believe me, I am never tempted to exceed this reasonable pace. Recover in Ouray's giant hot-spring pool ($8). Complete the San Juan Skyway loop in Ridgway and double back to Montrose. If it's still daylight, head for nearby Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park ($7 per car). The park is named for a deep, dark, and narrow gorge cut by the Gunnison River. Because it is so deep-a drop of 2,000 feet from rim to river-and so narrow, it is wrapped in heavy shadows for much of the day. From the visitor center, South Rim Road skirts the edge of the manzanita- and sagebrush-lined canyon for seven miles. Sixteen overlooks provide splendid views into the depths, where the pale-green Gunnison splashes in white-water frenzy. Details From Mesa Verde, take U.S. 160 east to Durango, connecting to U.S. 550 north to Montrose. Stay in Montrose at the 42-room Super 8 (970/249-9294), $67; the 51-room San Juan Inn (888/681-4159), $69; or the 46-room Days Inn (970/249-3411), $69 weekdays/$79 weekends. Feast on a $9 top-sirloin steak at Starvin' Arvin's. Information: 800/873-0244, www.visitmontrose.net. Day fourWinter wilderness Montrose to Denver, 315 miles. Lots of miles today, but plenty of great scenery makes them pass quickly. Outside Montrose, U.S. 50 passes through Curecanti National Recreation Area, which encompasses three sparkling blue reservoirs formed when the Gunnison River was dammed. Fishing, boating, and windsurfing are top sports here. In summer, the National Park Service offers 90-minute boat rides ($10) from Morrow Point Reservoir into the Black Canyon. For details: 970/641-2337. Ahead lies one more climb into the Rockies. In yet more cliff's-edge switchbacks, the road crests Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet. Snowy peaks march into the distance, a year-round winter-like wilderness that is as beautiful as any landscape on this drive. Back down the mountain, U.S. 50 enters Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Here the road runs for about 50 miles alongside the Arkansas River as it weaves through the narrow rock chasm. A part of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, this is prime white-water rafting and kayaking country. You will find picnic tables at several key spots ($2), where you can watch the watercraft splash past. Now head back to Denver, skirting the edge of the Rampart Range. In Colorado Springs, that lofty mountain over-shadowing the city to the west is Pikes Peak. If you've got time, drive to the top for a final sky-high view. Details From Montrose, take U.S. 50 east to Penrose, connecting to Colorado 115 north to Colorado Springs. On the city's outskirts, jog east on Colorado 83 to I-25 north. At exit 194 take E-470 ($5 toll) to the Denver airport. Catch a late-afternoon flight home, or spend the night at the airport's 101-room Super 8 Motel (303/371-8300, $55). Dine at the Moonlight Diner; the T-bone steak plate, $13.25.

    Budget Travel Lists

    65 New Ways to Get Away This Season

    It's that time again. As the first below–freezing days start rolling in and the sidewalk musician who plays Christmas carols on the pan flute establishes his month–long post just below my office window, thoughts of escape dance in my head. Fortunately, there are a slew of new routes to consider, as airlines ramp up their winter service. Some will help you save money, and some will help you save time—both of which we could all use a little more of this time of year. [These results were compiled from Jaunted.com, airlineroute.net, and the airlines' own web sites and announcements—and all are subject to change. Check the airlines' websites for the latest updates.] Air Jamaica • Miami, FL to Kingston, Jamaica resumes service December 9, 2011 Alaska Airlines • San Jose, CA to Palm Springs, CA starts February 17, 2012 • Seattle to Kansas City starts March 12, 2012 Allegiant Air • Phoenix to Las Vegas increases January 11, 2012 • Mesa, AZ to Oakland starts January 18, 2012 American Airlines • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Durango, CO runs December 14, 2011 to April 3, 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Aspen, CO starts December 15, 2011 • Los Angeles to Aspen, CO starts December 15, 2011 • Chicago to Jackson Hole, WY runs December 15, 2011 through March 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Gunnison/Crested Butte, CO runs December 15, 2011 to April 2, 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Steamboat Springs, CO runs December 15, 2011 to April 4, 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Jackson Hole, WY runs December 15, 2011 to April 4, 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Montrose/Telluride, CO runs December 17, 2011 to April 1, 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Panama City, Panama resumes December 15, 2011 • Chicago to Steamboat Springs, CO starts January 3, 2012 Copa Airlines • Chicago O'Hare to Panama City, Panama starts December 15, 2011 Delta • Atlanta to Brasilia, Brazil increases December 12, 2011 • Detroit to Sao Paulo, Brazil increases December 19, 2011 • Honolulu to Fukuoka, Japan starts December 28, 2011 • Minneapolis/St. Paul to Liberia, Costa Rica starts January 2012 • Salt Lake City to Charlotte, NC starts March 2, 2012 • New York (LGA) to Nassau, Bahamas starts March 2, 2012 • New York (JFK) to San Juan, PR, increases March 2, 2012 • New York (JFK) to Santiago, Dominican Republic increases March 2, 2012 • New York (JFK) to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic increases March 2, 2012 • Honolulu to Osaka increases March 6, 2012 Emirates • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Dubai starts February 2, 2012 • Seattle to Dubai starts March 1, 2012 Frontier Airlines • Des Moines to Tampa begins December 15, 2011 • Milwaukee to Tampa begins December 15, 2011 • Omaha to Tampa begins December 15, 2011 • Madison to Orlando begins December 16, 2011 • Des Moines to Orlando begins December 17, 2011 • Grand Rapids to Washington Reagan begins January 4, 2012 • Madison to Washington Reagan begins January 5, 2012 • Kansas City to Orlando begins January 5, 2012 Hawaiian Airlines • Oakland to Maui begins Jan 11, 2012 • San Jose, CA to Maui begins Jan 11, 2012 Jet Blue • San Juan, PR to St. Thomas starts December 12, 2011 • San Juan, PR to St. Croix starts December 12, 2011 • Boston to St. Thomas starts December 15, 2011 • Hartford, CT to San Juan, PR starts January 5, 2012 • Hartford, CT to West Palm Beach, FL starts January 12, 2012 Southwest Airlines • Atlanta to Austin begins February 12, 2012 • Atlanta to Baltimore begins February 12, 2012 • Atlanta to Denver begins February 12, 2012 • Atlanta to Houston-Hobby begins February 12, 2012 • Atlanta to Chicago-Midway begins February 12, 2012 • Atlanta to Las Vegas begins March 10, 2012 • Atlanta to Phoenix begins March 10, 2012 Spirit Airlines • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Atlanta starts February 9, 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to New York (LGA) starts February 9, 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Boston starts March 22, 2012 • Dallas/Ft. Worth to Orlando starts March 22, 2012 Sun Country • Minneapolis/St. Paul to Liberia, Costa Rica starts January 13, 2012 to April 13, 2012 United • Mammoth Lake, CA to San Diego starts December 15, 2011 • Mammoth Lake, CA to Orange County starts December 15, 2011 • Mammoth Lake, CA to San Francisco starts December 15, 2011 • Newark to Frankfurt increases January 2, 2012 • Los Angeles to Durango, Mexico begins March 11, 2012 • Newark to Buenos Aires begins April 2012 Virgin America • San Francisco, to Puerto Vallarta begins December 2, 2011 • San Francisco to Palm Springs begins December 15, 2011 Vision Airlines • Champaign, IL to Ft. Myers, FL begins December 19, 2011 • Clarksburg, WV to Orlando begins December 19, 2011 MORE FROMBUDGET TRAVEL World's Prettiest Castle Towns 10 Most Interesting Beaches Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2012

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    DESTINATION IN Colorado

    Silverton

    The historic Town of Silverton is the Statutory Town that is the county seat, the most populous community, and the only incorporated municipality in San Juan County, Colorado, United States. The town is located in a remote part of the western San Juan Mountains, a range of the Rocky Mountains. The first mining claims were made in mountains above the Silverton in 1860, near the end of the Colorado Gold Rush and when the land was still controlled by the Utes. Silverton was established shortly after the Utes ceded the region in the 1873 Brunot Agreement, and the town boomed from silver mining until the Panic of 1893 led to a collapse of the silver market, and boomed again from gold mining until the recession caused by the Panic of 1907. The entire town is included as a federally designated National Historic Landmark District, the Silverton Historic District. Originally called "Bakers Park", Silverton sits in a flat area of the Animas River valley and is surrounded by steep peaks. Most of the peaks surrounding Silverton are thirteeners, the highest being Storm Peak, at 13,487 feet. The town is less than 15 miles from 7 of Colorado's 53 fourteeners, and is known as one of the premier gateways into the Colorado backcountry. Silverton's last operating mine closed in 1992, and the community now depends primarily on tourism and government remediation and preservation projects. Silverton is well known because of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a former mine train that is now a National Historic Landmark, and internationally recognized events such as the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run. The town population reached 637 in the U.S. Census 2010.