completely enamored: telluride bluegrass festival, and falling head over heels

I completely fell head over heels in love this weekend, for a beautiful little mountain town that sits 8,750 feet above sea level in a steep-walled box canyon that is surrounded by looming cliffs and lush forested mountains.  If Boulder was a one-hundred-and-eighty degree change from New York City, then Telluride might as well be on another planet all-together; with just about twenty-two-hundred people calling Telluride home, at any given time the number of people roaming the aisles at Saks Fifth Avenue would surely give the town a run for its money (New York City clocks in at 69,000 packed into one square mile, which is hard to even fathom after a weekend with the ultimate amount of elbow room).     The old silver mining town is nestled in the San Juan Mountain Range, which runs very steep and extremely high, giving the range a jagged and sharp appearance as it rises out of the distance to meet you as you travel West and then South on winding country highways that take you through cavernous mountain tunnels, up and over rivers, and around sharp bends that will turn your knuckles white.

Colorado is a massive state, and the drive from Boulder to Telluride clocked in as we had forecast, at about seven-hours.  We arrived just as the sun had set, and as we settled into a condo in Mountain Village that our dear friends and their parents had graciously invited us to stay in, I had really no idea what to expect the next morning from only seeing the darkened vistas around us.  We awoke to Colorado’s signature bluebird skies, and scrambled to shower and dress for a full day at the festival.  The Telluride Bluegrass Festival is impressively in it’s 39th year, and is an extremely laid back and family friendly four day music festival that features artists playing music on the main stage all day for the full four days, smaller concerts in the nearby Elk Park, and a full ‘Nightgrass’ schedule with big artists playing late-night shows in intimate venues.

To get from Mountain Village to the center of town, we had to board a gondola that was to take us up over a high peak and then descend down steeply directly into town.  As we peaked up over the top of what in the Winter is a ski mountain, I was treated to the most incredible view of the idyllic town: Victorian style houses tightly arranged in a cross-hatch pattern surrounded by trees and mountains, making up what is one of the most notoriously beautiful towns in Colorado.  A river bubbled along the edge of town, and there were various parks dotted with a technicolor rainbow of tents, tarps, and brightly colored camping gear.  I hopped off the gondola as it twirled around the bend, and walked out into the sunshine to hear the gentle sound of a mandolin in the near distance, and the twangy voices of a band playing on a nearby grassy knoll.  Though I have been a city girl for many years now, my heart will always belong to country music, and the full excitement of a few days full of bluegrass music, good beer, and the company of some of our best friends hit me all at once.

It is hard to describe this town; its one that is all at once exclusive yet at the same time true to its roots, genuine, and low-key.  The houses, though I know for a fact will run you a pretty penny (which I can confirm after picking up multiple real estate magazines and presenting them to James with the biggest and most innocent looking smile I could muster plastered across my face), however they are not ostentatious in the least.  Though I know the interiors of most of them are probably very well designed, not one had the McMansion-y feel that you find so often at other ski resorts.  Most were in a quiet and quaint Victorian style, with steeply pitched roofs and details like molding, scrolling, and front porches.  For any other monstrosity to be taking up real estate next to one of these charmers would look terribly out of turn, and I got a true feeling of quality over quantity as I strolled around the neighborhoods.  One other thing that sets this town apart are the growth constraints that have been placed on its parameters; the town currently sprawls as far West, East, North, and South as it ever will be allowed to, and though it keeps real estate prices high and lends a bit of an exclusive air, it first and foremost preserves the integrity of the town and provides security for its year round residents.

The ‘main street’ in town is called Colorado Avenue, and it cuts all the way through town, running West to East.  The street is dotted by incredible boutiques, restaurants, saloons, music venues, athletic gear shops, bars, and specialty purveyors – essentially, it is a shopping nirvana that is just the right size.  The side streets hold other surprises, such as a “Free Box,” which is a leave-one-or-take-one place of sorts that town residents can place items they no longer want for others to take.  Instead of taking on a scrambled and messy appearance, the box is separated into categories, and there were people standing on the sidewalk thumbing through books, checking out cool vintage t-shirts, or dropping off children’s ski clothes that presumably no longer fit their little mogul racers.  I popped into boutiques and swooned over the unique finds, and found myself leaving with a new necklace, pair of earrings (to wear this weekend to a wedding), and a cowboy hat that would help to keep the searing rays  off my face during the festival.

Inside the festival was organized chaos, at its absolute best.  Despite the fact that this was a music festival and people were there to enjoy themselves, kick back, and relax, the atmosphere was surprisingly calm and very well structured.  Children were allowed entrance for free, and there were thousands of them running around with squirt guns and chocolate ice cream grins, ready to hit you in the legs with an actually welcomed cool stream of water on this very warm day.  Everyone was in such a great mood, and was so respectful of each other’s space; with most large events, you generally witness a few scuffles, or the errant concert-goer who has indulged a bit too much and needs to be carted off, but this event was thankfully very different.  It was understood that everyone was there to have some peaceful fun and enjoy the music, and every single person I met was exceedingly friendly and talkative, and not once was there an incident that made the atmosphere uncomfortable.

We spent our days kicked back in camp chairs, enjoying beers from New Belgium Brewery (my favorite was a brew specially crafted for the event – the light Summer Solstice), snacking on food from one of the many food tents (gyros, fish tacos, and steak sandwiches were clear favorites), and listening to some amazing music.  The artists came on stage for about 90 minutes at a time, and there would be twenty minute lags that were perfect for dashing into town, meeting with friends posted up on the other side of the park, or grabbing a corn dog (I admit it….they are just too good!).  The days were long and they were sunny – with the exception of Saturday, which was a bit hazy due to a wildfire that sadly had started to burn that morning six miles away (which, on another note, brought the number of wildfires ravaging our forests here in Colorado tragically up to eight). Despite the haze and faint smell of smoke, the views were still bright, blue, and magnificent.

I have never been anywhere like Telluride, and I was smitten from the moment I stepped off the gondola.  The air is crisp and fresh, and as you draw it into your lungs and catch sight of Bridal Falls twinkling over the side of the end of the box canyon, you literally feel like you are in a fairy tale.  Despite being known as a ski town (and one that I absolutely cannot wait to make the pilgrimage back to this Winter), I can’t imagine there ever being a bad time to be here; there are hiking and biking trails, tubing excursions on the river, and kayaking trips for the warmer months, and climbers flock here to take advantage of the many steep mountains.  Hang gliding and gliding are both popular, and the weather, as with most of Colorado, is abundantly sunny, clear, and dry.

There were a few moments I was reduced to tears by the beauty, purity, and unique character of this town, and though I surely could not even begin to catch it on film, here are a few snapshots of one of the most beautiful places in all of Colorado – if not the world.

{the view from our condo in mountain village}

{gondola station}

{looking up a chairlift}

{and at the gondola we are about to board}

{good in winter, great in summer}

{a high point: dropping into town via the gondola}

{in great company}

{walking through town}

{ski town}

{quaint streets}

{lined with shops, restaurants, and the friendliest locals ever}

{town park}

{stunning contrasts of greens and blues}

{posting up for some tunes}

{the bank + red rocks}

{the free box}

{i can only imagine the gems you’d find in there}

{the charming court house}

{the best bloody mary — ever — from the butcher and the baker}

{up on cripple creek}

{casting its shadows}

{birthday flips are a must}

{especially when in the sunshine

with friends}

{and so are cupcakes!}

{agave wheat from breckenridge brewery}

{staying hydrated}

{a smoky haze on saturday, but still cant hide the gorgeous vista}

{court and a pomegranate ‘tini}

{a few precious moments of shade}

{the new sheridan – scene of a fun brunch and amazing nightgrass show}

{an afternoon scoop of strawberry}

{drink holster: totally necessary}


{staking out our spot}

{a view of bridal falls through the smoky haze}

{an elderflower martini with hendricks}

{saturday afternoon}

{surrounded by mountains}


{smoky skies set the sun ablaze}

{giving a nod to levon helm}

{enjoying the last night}

{getting ready for nightgrass: greensky bluegrass at the new sheridan}

{a true joy: seeing one of my favorite bands, greensky bluegrass, while standing right up against the stage}

{a perfect sliver of moon against the night sky}

71 responses to “completely enamored: telluride bluegrass festival, and falling head over heels

  1. I’ve think you may have convinced me that I need to move…

  2. Great Post – Loving your photos – thanks for sharing!

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  4. Looks like such an amazing destination — I’ve never been, but I have many friends who are smitten with Telluride, too!

    So did you experience any of the headaches or other common side effects from being at such a high elevation?

    • i didnt experience any of those, but i live in boulder so i am now acclimated to living 5300 feet above sea level:) most people are fine though. the secret is to drink a LOT of water (and watch out for the whiskey those first few days!)

  5. That’s it! I’m packing my bags right now!😉 Thanks for this wonderful post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  6. Looks like a trip back into the Old West. I’ve never been to that part of Colorado, but it looks beautiful. Great photos!

  7. Looks like a trip back to the Old West. I’ve never been to that part of Colorado before but it looks beautiful. Great photos!

  8. Agave wheat beer?! Yum!! I’ll have one. Great pic’s enjoyed the ride.

  9. Ok, I have been to one bluegrass festival in my life and it was a tiny one, and it was like 33 years ago I’d fess, but I LOVED it and have always wanted to go to another one!! Thanks for steering me towards Telluride!

  10. nazarioartpainting

    Oh God really colourful and beautiful. That place inspire the imagination.

  11. Great post, I must try this next year. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  12. What a great blog and pictures. It looks like everyone had a great time. By the way did you get to see Alison Krauss? Thanks for sharing.

  13. These are beautiful pics of beautiful Colorado! It’s time to take another visit! Hope you had a blast!

  14. The views are great. I hope it is not on fire as I post this comment. The Bloody Mary, Martini, and femalian smiles are the best.

  15. Great photos! I used to sell timeshare…and it is easy to see why this place was so desireable!

  16. I know why you love Telluride. It’s one of my favorite places too.

  17. Lovely pictures. I’ve always, always wanted to go to this (it’s on my 30 before 30 list). I live in Golden, so I don’t really have an excuse to not make it happen.

  18. My fav place in Colorado and a great event with a lot of good music.

  19. Very inspiring photos.

  20. Great pictures. You guys really had fun!

  21. I adore Colorado. And Telluride is about as good as it gets. The bluegrass festival just got added to my bucket list.🙂

  22. kzackuslheureux

    Nice photo’s now I want a cocktail at 7am… A friend of mine lived in Telluride. I think he still has family there. It’s one of the few towns that ranks up there with Ashton, Oregon; and Whitefish, MT. (Add them to your “to do” list.) Thanks for Sharing ~kl

  23. Amazing scenery! It’s so long since I had a Bloody Mary. That one looks right up my street!

  24. I love Telluride, too! Discovered it on our last trip in Colorado before we moved back east. That is definitely the one place we all wanted to revisit! Thanks for the awesome pictures and writing. You deserve to be Freshly Pressed!

  25. Wait until winter and you’re snowed in and it’s hard to get off the mountain.🙂 It’s different then. But great for skiing.

  26. Great pictures! I love the free box, that’s such a great idea.

  27. Great post! I really want to go climbing now (don’t worry, I’m stoked to go play some bluegrass on my guitar too!) Cheers.

  28. We fell in love with Terlluride when visiting last year. And we LOVE Bluegrass. Added to the bucketlist!

  29. I used to live in Colorado. Why don’t I still live in Colorado?!?

  30. Great pictures, they are so inviting. This is a good read, it showcases how fun life could be in a place such as this !🙂

  31. Awesome post! You totally get Telluride. I just love the place. The contrasts, as you say, are just sublime. And the most striking contrast is the juxtaposition of town (lively, fun, historic, cosmopolitan, artistic) and the wilderness (boundless and staggeringly beautiful). That they co-exist in such close proximity and in such harmony is what makes Telluride so special. We have such easy access to the both. I can’t think of another place quite like it. I work for two prime places to stay in the historic old town (which is where it is at), the Ice House Lodge and the Camel’s Garden Hotel. There’s lots of great places, of course. We’d love to host you!

  32. Thank you so much for sharing! We moved to CO from FL just 3 weeks ago and want to explore it all. This will be one place we’ll def have to go!

  33. Telluride, that’s a difficult runway to land on,😉 But I guess driving would be an easier choice. Gotta be there soon. Awesome town. Thank you, for sharing it.

  34. I grew up in the Rockies, my home was in Morrison but my dad also had a cabin up in Glenwood Springs back in the 1980s. My dad took me on so many adventures up in the Rockies that there is no way I could begin to remember all of them. Now I live in Illinois and it is flat, flat, flat. Makes me miss Colorado. Thanks for posting. Also, the older I get the more I can see how much my mom and dad did to give me a good life while I was a kid. Oh man, need to get back there and show my boys what real mountains look like. Here, what they call a mountain is more like a pile of dirt.

  35. Reblogged this on Elev in Romania and commented:
    Yiu have to try this…

  36. Wow, I’m adding this to my travel bucket list! Such beautiful pics, thanks for the experience:)

  37. Your beautiful account brings back such great memories of backpacking and camping at the campground as a much younger person. Nice to know that it has not been spoiled by its move from an unknown gem to a hot spot. Thank you for sharing.

  38. I love mountains and I love bluegrass…sounds like a great fit. Neat blog.

  39. Reblogged this on Sunnyace Reblog Collections and commented:
    Love your blog. Great photos with full detailed scenarios. Thank you.

  40. Reblogged this on Sunnyace Reblog Collections and commented:
    Wow… I’m speechless.

  41. Reblogged this on Sunnyace Reblog Collections and commented:
    Wow… Nice….

  42. Our little family visited Telluride about three weeks ago and it was incredible. You did a great job in capturing the spirit of that picturesque mountain town. Thank you and happy travels! I will be posting my pictures and rendition later this week, you should check it out! Adventurous

  43. Reblogged this on Makais Blog and commented:
    looks like fun

  44. twobirdstalking

    Love your photo! I fell in love with telluride when I was there July 2010!!

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  46. We would love to post one of the pics of the guy in the slingshot thing at toemail if you do not mind?

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  48. It’s posted now. Thanks so much, we really appreciate it!

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