The Keystone Gorge hike is a relatively new 2.5-mile round-trip loop, which cuts through a scenic and rarely traveled gorge—flanked by high canyon walls, tall pine trees, mining artifacts, and the roaring rapids of the San Miguel River.
In 2009, San Miguel County partnered with The Nature Conservancy and teams of local volunteers to build this hidden gem—hidden because even among longtime Telluride locals, few people yet are aware of its existence. Because it actually lies at a lower elevation than the town of Telluride, as well as in a sunny gorge, it melts out early in the spring.
Your loop begins traveling west on the Galloping Goose, a wide, railroad-grade trail. In about a quarter-mile, keep an eye out to your right for the large trail sign marking the Keystone Gorge. The trail begins by crossing the San Miguel River on the first of two footbridges, sometimes lined with prayer flags that flap in the almost-constant breeze whipping off the river below. From there, the narrow, technical singletrack winds down the river—sometimes right next to it, sometimes far above it along the edges of scenic bluffs. Picking your way over the rocks and roots in the forever-twisting trail is a joy in and of itself.
The trail gets quite narrow in places along the canyon side before popping out into a more open, rocky stretch. Pass through it before emerging on some old mine ruins, including a couple old, now-closed mine entrances on the hillside. Make a steep descent to the second footbridge—this one, an impressive suspension bridge anchored by a massive boulder—across the river. With several picnic benches along the river, this is a great spot to enjoy lunch.
When you’re ready, make a left (at the trail sign) and begin ascending through lush, shady forest. The trail climbs most steeply through a quick aspen grove before reconnecting with the Galloping Goose. Make a left, and stay on it until you reconnect with your starting point.
The neighborhood of Lawson Hill, three miles outside of downtown Telluride, rarely sees any tourists—so this trail is more of a locals’ pearl than most. For early-morning hikes, finish up at Lawson Hill’s renowned Cindybread artisan bakery; later in the day, grab a pint at the Telluride Brewing Company.
What Makes It Great
It’s completely different than any other trail in Telluride. While many other area trails are steep, dry, and exposed, this soft, pine-needle-strewn singletrack is surrounded by lush forest and the rushing rapids of the San Miguel River. Mountain bikes are prohibited, so it truly is a hiker’s paradise.
Who is Going to Love It
It’s a perfect loop for families, with plenty of fun stops along the way for kids—the foot bridges, mining artifacts, rock beaches to explore, a scenic bench overlooking the gorge, picnic spots, stone staircases, wild berries to pick, and prime fishing spots. Leave Fido at home, though; no dogs are allowed anywhere in Lawson Hill, including this trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the town of Telluride, drive west for three miles to the Highway 145 spur. Make a left at the roundabout (onto Highway 145 South), then take your second right onto Lawson Hill/Society Drive. Drive roughly a quarter-mile and make a right onto San Miguel River Road, driving past the Lawson Hill bus circle and parking in the small gravel lot on the right-hand side, just past a larger, private parking area. There will be signs here for the Galloping Goose Trail, where you begin your hike. Note that you can also reach this trailhead on trail by foot or bike from town by following the San Miguel River Trail and Valley Floor Trail west for approximately 3.5 miles, crossing under highway 145 on the bike-path underpass and picking up the Galloping Goose Connector Trail.