Bear Creek Trail

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About

Summary

This 4.6-mile roundtrip, out-and-back hike to Bear Creek Falls starts right from downtown Telluride and sports a challenging but “mellow” grade (by Telluride standards), climbing about 1,000 feet in 2.5 miles. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of town, steep craggy cliffs and a box-canyon waterfall at the turnaround point.

Written by

Yitka Winn

Distance

4.6 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

0.0 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

2 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

Topographical Map

Telluride Hiking Map

Land Website

Bear Creek Trail

Review

Intro

In 1995, the 325-acre Bear Creek Canyon was donated to the citizens of Telluride and preserved forever as a public open space. The Bear Creek Trail, which cuts through the canyon, climbs steadily from the south end of Pine Street in town to a beautiful waterfall at the back of a box canyon. As a hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and skiing trail with access to ice climbs in the winter and rock climbs in the summer, it gets plenty of use—but that doesn’t detract from its wilderness feel. Trail users have reported seeing all kinds of wildlife in recent years, ranging from bears and mountain lions to marmots and porcupines.

The rocky, primarily doubletrack trail is easy to follow, crossing several minor creeks, passing through lush conifer woods and, as you climb higher, open meadows proffering mind-boggling views of the steep, surrounding cliffs. At about two miles in, the trail emerges onto a large, flat plateau boasting a massive boulder overlooking the rushing Bear Creek below. From here, the falls at the back of the canyon become visible—and it’s another 0.3 miles to reach them (though, in the winter, this section is often impassable)—as well as a broad view back toward the valley and other surrounding mountain ranges.

Because the trail lies in a deep, shady canyon, bring layers—especially if hiking early or late in the day. Also, in the winter, it’s the exit route for backcountry skiers and snowboarders dipping off the ski resort into side country. So leave your headphones at home and stay alert for the occasional fast-movers approaching you on the trail from behind.

Once you’ve worked up your appetite, Smuggler’s Brewpub lies more or less at the foot of the trail, at the corner of Pine Street and San Juan Avenue—a great place to grab a post-hike pint or bite to eat.

What Makes It Great

While many trails in Telluride remain snow-covered and inaccessible for over half the year, the majority of Bear Creek is doable year-round—thanks to enough foot and ski traffic in the winter to keep it packed out for hiking, even without snowshoes. Yaktrax or other traction devices are recommended from December to April, though. The crystal-blue shimmer of the frozen falls at the hike’s turnaround point are a special sight all their own.

Who is Going to Love It

As one of the more mellow trails out of Telluride, Bear Creek offers newcomers a great way to acclimate to hiking at 9,000 feet before tackling steeper, more lung-busting trails. As a primarily doubletrack, dog-friendly trail with a scenic waterfall and tons of kid-friendly boulders to scramble on along the way, it’s also a perfect choice for families.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From town, head south on Pine Street, where a gravel doubletrack trail leading up into the woods will take you to the Bear Creek trail. The trailhead itself has no parking lot, but street parking in town is available within a block or two. Please note, many streets in Telluride are limited to two-hour parking, so be wary of these restrictions—or seek free, all-day parking at the Carhenge Lot on the southwest corner of town, off West Pacific Ave. From the Carhenge lot, you can walk along the wide, flat River Trail that parallels the San Miguel River and reach the Bear Creek trailhead in about a half-mile.

Location

Bear Creek

Telluride, CO,
37.937494, -107.812285

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