Telluride and the “Three Bears” Weather

This post is extremely belated, but what better time to post about a snowy trip than when it’s September and still 90+ degrees with no end in sight of this melting temp madness! And spoiler alert: this post isn’t about actual bears in Telluride.

Hubby and I visited Telluride again last December for my usual birthday trip wish. This was the third time we have visited Telluride just before the official start date of winter and we have now seen three different pre-winter versions of Telluride.

During our first visit in 2016, we experienced Telluride with tons of snow on the ground, as well as tons of fresh snow continuing to fall for almost our entire trip. It was a winter wonderland!

December 2016:

During our second visit in 2017, we experienced Telluride with pretty much no snow on the ground and clear skies the entire time. It was also unusually warm, which caused what little snow had fallen earlier in the season, to melt into icy patches on the trails.

December 2017:

During our last visit in 2018, we experienced Telluride with a decent amount of snow on the ground, but no fresh snow while we were there.

It’s almost as if we have experienced a new version of the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” with Telluride’s pre-winter weather conditions. Although one would think that there is a happy “middle ground” of when the amount of snow and winter-ish conditions in Telluride are just right… I tend to think that the more snow the better!! I still have fond memories of my first snowy birthday trip in Telluride in 2016, but this last one was also pretty sweet!

We started off our trip almost getting stuck in the middle of nowhere near Telluride without cell phone reception on a desolate, snowy forest service road that Google Maps suggested as an alternative to our usual route.  We ended up having to turn around when the snow on the unplowed road got too high to drive on, which caused us to waste a huge chunk of time getting into town, but it was better than getting stranded and not making it to Telluride at all!

sanborn park road colorado

We stayed at our usual hotel in Telluride, the Hotel Columbia. We really love the charm of this small hotel and we haven’t had a room yet that didn’t boast great views and sounds of the town’s gondola ride right outside our window.

hotel columbia telluride

Roxie gives the Hotel Columbia four paws up! We don’t allow the dachs on the furniture, but any time we leave the room and come back, we find Roxie snoozing on the comfy bed.

telluride gondola

On the gondola from Telluride to Mountain Village with my freezing pups. The dachs really hate the cold weather in Telluride and typically spend the entire trip cozied up in the hotel room.

Day 1

For our first day in Telluride, we did an oldie but goodie hike to Bear Creek Falls, with a detour to some indescribable Narnia-like icy waterfalls hidden down in a canyon. The first time we stumbled upon these icy waterfalls was by pure accident during a snow-less time in Telluride.

Somehow, finding these falls in just a bit more snow was nearly impossible, even though we knew almost exactly where to look. Hiking to them also proved to be quite a risky challenge. Obviously, with these waterfalls being so difficult to find and get to, we had the place all to ourselves! Pure bliss!

bear creek trail

bear creek falls

telluride hiking

telluride icy falls hike

I love the first sight of these icy Narnia-like waterfalls as we approach them from downstream. It’s like getting a glimpse of a birthday gift you’ve been anxiously awaiting to open!

telluride icy falls 1

telluride icy falls 2

Day 2

On our second day, we decided to try a new hike to a lesser known waterfall near Telluride. The hike to get to the waterfall was very short, but even more tricky than the previous day’s trek. During my first attempt on the narrow, steep trail to get to the waterfall, I actually gave up, while hubby (who must be part mountain goat) nonchalantly continued on.

Feeling frustrated and defeated, I headed off on another trail nearby with a gorgeous scenic view of Telluride I had yet to see before.

jud wiebe trail 2

jud wiebe trail 1

But still, I couldn’t get our original intended hike off my mind and insisted on giving the trail one more try. This time, I found a hiking stick left behind by another hiker and used it for balance on the sketchy, narrow trail. With slow and cautioned steps the entire way, I was eventually able to make it to the waterfall successfully. Much like our hike the previous day, this one, too, had paid off for the risky efforts!

The waterfall that slowly appeared at the end of this trail behind sparsely coated pine trees was not even a waterfall, but something even better and completely unexpected. It was more like a volcano built of ice with water spilling into it from far above. It was truly the most unique sight in nature I have ever laid eyes on.

cornet creek trail 1

cornet creek trail 2

cornet creek falls 1

That’s hubby attempting to climb the icy volcano, but it turns out, people really do ice climb this beast all the way to the top (with proper gear, of course)!

cornet creek falls 2

Hubby and I must have taken a hundred photos of this extraordinary icy volcano and had a difficult time peeling ourselves away from this sight… but happy hour awaited us!

wood ear bar telluride

Day 3

With the impressive icy volcano we had seen on our second day, it was impossible to save the best for last with our third and final day’s agenda in Telluride. We decided to sneak in one more hike on our final day, and since there are only so many hikes you can do outside Telluride during the snowy season, this one was another repeat hike from previous years: Bridal Veil Falls. These falls are very popular in Telluride, but in my opinion, they are better viewed in the summer when the powerful water spills off the tall cliffs that define the entire mountainous backdrop of the city in a grand and impressive sight, rather than in the winter when the freezing temps subdue them to a relatively small, icy trickle plastered to the cliff walls.

After admiring the icy sight of the Bridal Veil Falls in the morning shadows, we continued on the trail that zig zags up above to the falls and then into the Bridal Veil Valley beyond the falls. We had traveled on this trail the previous “dry” year to reach a lake called Blue Lake in what amounted to an exhausting 12-mile hike that was just barely worth the frost bite we almost received. We obviously had no desire to do this trek again to a lake that wasn’t even as blue as its name claimed, but we figured we would at least complete a few miles up the valley.

During the previous snow-less year, we hadn’t needed snow shoes to complete the hike; just ice cleats to get past the iced-over sections of the trail. This year, there was plenty of snow on the ground and snow shoes were warranted, but we conveniently forgot them back in our hotel room.

We continued on the trail as much as we could, at first following the steps of another couple who thankfully did have snow shoes, and then we were on our own when those hikers decided that had had enough of the arduous uphill trek of breaking trail in relentless and blinding sunshine on untouched snow that got deeper and deeper until it was thigh-height. It wasn’t long before we followed suit and called it quits.

bridal veil falls

bridal veil falls trail 2

bridal veil falls trail 1

bridal veil falls trail to blue lake snow

By the end of day 3, we had logged approximately 20 miles of hiking and seen four impressive icy waterfalls…. honestly, the best birthday gift this girl could ask for (except for maybe a brand new litter of dachshund puppies!).

See you again soon Telluride [hopefully]!

telluride gondola dachshunds.jpg

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