June 2023 – Telluride, Colorado, is an upscale and elegant resort town for the ultra wealthy, a place where A-list celebrities have getaway escapes.
Fortunately, we common folk are also welcome there, and what a wonderful place it is to spend some time. And, it turns out, the FREE and dog friendly Telluride gondola ride is one of the best ways to see the area — and to get to town too!!
Telluride is no longer just a small mountain village that gradually evolved from a silver mining camp into a chic modern day ski town. “Telluride” now includes a vast expanse around the small downtown Main Street area, and as you drive the winding roads over the mountainsides you’ll see one eye-popping ritzy estate after another.
Mountain Village lies on a hillside and valley that is neighbors with the valley that downtown Telluride is in, and Market Plaza is in the heart of Mountain Village. For Telluride tourists, that is the best place to start your visit and get oriented.
We tried to start our visit in downtown Telluride the same way we had when we first visited the area 23 years ago, but there just wasn’t enough room on those tiny and very busy streets for a big dually truck to maneuver or to park! It was extremely frustrating, so we were thrilled to find that we could get to Telluride without dealing with parking at all!
Market Plaza has easy parking (even for large dually trucks) in front of the Village Market grocery store. Like everything else in Telluride, this grocery store for the locals doesn’t look anything like the supermarkets most folks shop at!
To the right of Village Market is the Market Plaza station for the Telluride gondola ride that goes up and over these gorgeous mountains.
Next to that is a fantastic little take-out coffee bistro window that serves espresso coffee at a calm but breakneck speed (there’s often a line of customers by the window!). They also have delicious breakfast burritos and other goodies!
The Telluride gondola ride consists of three legs originating at four gondola stations: Market Plaza to Mountain Village, Mountain Village to San Sophia, and San Sophia to Telluride. Each leg is a 5 to 7 minute long ride. You have to change gondolas at the Mountain Village station, but you can remain in your gondola at the San Sophia station and ride on through to downtown Telluride.
The Telluride gondola ride is an extremely smooth and professional operation!
The best thing about the Telluride gondola ride for people who have a dog is that it is extremely dog friendly. Dogs are not only allowed to ride in the gondolas, they’re warmly welcomed!
In fact, the whole area around Telluride is really dog friendly. You see dogs with their people EVERYWHERE around town!
Someone put five cute pooches wearing ski gear onto a gondola seat and took their photo. You can find this image on post cards and on a huge poster on one of the station walls. It’s nicknamed the GonDOGola!!
I know…I can hear you saying that now you’ve heard everything!!
We dog people are a little crazy, but we’re very warm hearted!
Each gondola car is numbered, and the odd numbered ones have paw prints on the outside indicating that our four footed friends can join us in that car. I can’t say that I saw any cats, but I’m sure they would be welcome too (on a leash)!
So, off we went. Mark carried Buddy into the gondola and I followed, snapping away. It was hilarious! We were laughing like crazy, but the attendants helping people in and out of the gondola just took it in stride. They see baffled, laughing owners and their dogs all day long!
Regardless what kind of four footed (or two footed) friend you choose to bring with you — or even if you ride alone — the ride on the gondola is a jaw-dropper and is worth every penny. Oh, that’s right, it’s FREE! Well, it is worth making a detour in your travels to go and do!
The doors close and seal automatically as the gondola leaves the station, and you’re suddenly enclosed in a glass bubble with views on all sides.
The ride was incredibly smooth and quiet, and we were the only ones in our gondola! (3 adults can sit on each of the two bench seats that face each other).
The views were so awesome we couldn’t decide which way to face! We kept moving from one seat to the other and pointing things out to each other.
On this first leg from Market Plaza to Mountain Village, we sailed over the rooftops of houses and over what looked like community center areas too.
Suddenly we floated over a scene that was right out of the Swiss Alps! What a place! What a ride!!
The gondola slowed down as we arrived at the Mountain Village station until it was moving at the pace of a crawl, and the doors automatically opened.
We had tons of time to get out onto the ground comfortably, even carrying Buddy. After all, six adults routinely get in and out with skis, ski poles, ski boots and all kinds of other winter skiing paraphernalia.
We walked around a little bit in Mountain Village. Lots of people take a chair lift up the mountain with their mountain bikes. We saw bikes going on one chair on the lift and the mountain bikers themselves sitting on the next chair behind. Quite a few people were riding around the Mountain Village area and headed back down the mountain on their bikes.
There were still patches of snow on the ground even though it was almost July!!
After breathing the high mountain air deeply and milling around a bit, we hopped back on the gondola to ride to our next stop, the San Sophia station. This time we had company in our gondola.
We could see the Telluride airport in the distance. It looked like it ran through a plush green carpet and right off the edge of a cliff!
Once at the San Sophia station, we poked around a bit and then boarded the gondola one more time to make our way down into Telluride.
What an incredible descent this was into town. It was like taking a steep escalator or even a glass elevator down into town. We saw a waterfall cascading over a red rock cliff in the distance, and then we dropped straight down the mountain!
We hopped off the gondola and were suddenly in the heart of Telluride! No parking hassles whatsoever, and we’d had fun the whole way!!
Telluride was as quaint as we remember it being all those years ago when we stayed in a tent in the tiny campground at the far end of town. It’s more upscale now, but just as charming. And the campground is still there…also more upscale but also just as nice!
Everything about this whole region is classy. It’s a world apart. We wandered down one street and did a double-take when we noticed a really elegant stone gate with gold lettering above it that said, “Telluride Marshal’s Department.”
I don’t know of any Marshal’s Department anywhere that welcomes you in with a fancy stone entrance gate, gold lettering on the sign and flower baskets hanging out front!
There are loads of enticing restaurants — many with raised outdoor seating that is set up right in the street! — and there are a ton of boutique shops too.
We did a little bit of window shopping and walked a few of the back streets. We found some tiny colorful houses that must have originally been miners’ homes a century or more ago.
At last it was time to go home. By now we were old hats with the gondola ride business, but we were still awestruck by the view that grew steadily behind us as we rose higher and higher above the town of Telluride.
This was a glorious day we will always remember.
If your travels take you anywhere near Telluride and you can spare a day in your itinerary, take this gondola ride into town — and if you have a dog, take your dog too!
Never miss a post — it’s free!
More info about Telluride Colorado:
- Telluride gondola info – Official website
- Telluride visitors info – Tourism website
- Matterhorn Campground – USFS RV camping (dry + some hookups) 10 miles from the Market Plaza gondola station
- Telluride city campground – Tents + RVs (30’ end-to-end, truck+trailer or motorhome), walking distance to town
- RV parks in the area – RV Life Campgrounds
- More RV camping options – Recommendations from the city of Telluride
- Locations of these places – Google Maps
More articles from our travels in Colorado:
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO – Steep and Deep!
- Brilliant Fall Foliage + Snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado
- Buena Vista Colorado – What a Place for an RV Breakdown!
- Burro Days! Burro Races, Llamas & Outhouses in Fairplay CO
- Colorado GOLD – A Fall Foliage Photography Workshop
- Colorado National Monument & Fruita CO – Red Rocks, Cycling & Wine!
- Colorado’s San Juan Skyway – An RV Trip in Dazzling Fall Color!
- Colorado’s Stunning Scenic Drives…by Porsche!
- Cowboy Poetry Gatherings in Durango, Colorado, and Alpine, Texas!
- Creede, CO – Mining History & Championships + 4th of July!
- Crested Butte – Wildflower Capital of Colorado!
- Hartman Rocks – A Different View of Colorado near Gunnison
- Lake Granby Colorado RV Trip – A Summer Beach Vacation!
- Lakes and Light in Wyoming and Colorado
- Mesa Verde National Park, CO – Life on the Edge with the Ancients
- Ouray – Finding the COLOR in Colorado on an RV Trip!
- Remote RV Camping: Antero Reservoir & Blue River Colorado
- Ridgway, CO – Peak fall foliage on the Dallas Divide – WOW!!
- Rocky Mountain High: Alpine Beauty in Colorado + Trout Lake!
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- Romance at Maroon Bells Colorado!
- RV Trip on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway – Ouray to Silverton
- San Juan Mountains Colorado – And then it Snowed!
- Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado – Fire in the Sky!
- Telluride Gondola Ride in Colorado – FREE and Dog Friendly!
- Where All News is Good News – At the Saguache Crescent in CO
Other unusual rides we’ve enjoyed:
- Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake
- Joseph Branch Railriders – What a ride!
- Mt. Washington Cog Railway – The Little Engine That Could!
- Stehekin Ferry: Cruise to a Hidden Gem in the North Cascades!
- Taking the Mail Boat Ferry to Maine’s Cranberry Islands
- Telluride Gondola Ride in Colorado – FREE and Dog Friendly!
- Waterton Shoreline Cruise – A Classy Tour of Waterton-Glacier NP
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