Telluride Historic Walk, Lizard Head Pass & Hastings Mesa

8/24 – 8/30

Telluride Historical Walk

The cloudy and rainy weather continues for the next several days.  For the weekend, I stay around camp reading, relaxing, working on computer and so forth. On Monday, I go into Telluride for lunch and to take the self-guided Historic Walking Tour. As you enter town, turn right at the roundabout. A couple blocks to the south is the Carhenge free public parking lot. This is the best place to park as the town is small enough that everything is in easy walking distance. 

The tour highlights several commercial buildings and homes that have historical significance. The first is the San Miguel County Courthouse at the corner of Colorado Avenue, the main street through town, and Oak Street. The original courthouse was constructed in 1866 and burned soon after completion. The present building was constructed a few months later on the opposite corner using the bricks from the burned structure.


San Miguel County Courthouse

Next to the courthouse, Galloping Goose railcar #4 is on display. Seven Galloping Goose cars were built and were used until the railroad ceased operations in 1952. They were built using various automotive vehicles, including Pierce Arrows and Wayne bus bodies. The gas engines were less expensive to operate than narrow gauge steam engines. As passenger traffic declined, the Galloping Goose enabled the railroad to continue operations and maintain its contract to deliver U.S. mail to mountain towns.


Galloping Goose #4

The New Sheridan Hotel was built in 1895. The Sheridan Bar is one of the oldest bars in the west and remains unchanged since it was built in 1895.


New Sheridan Hotel

Just a couple blocks down the street, is the La Cocina De Luz restaurant. We had eaten here on Wednesday. The vegan tamales, made with poblano chiles, corn and zucchini and served with red and/or green chile sauce I had were delicious, so I decide to have lunch there today.  La Cocina participates in the traveling art exhibit program where businesses display the works of local artists. They had these gorgeous horse portraits on display.


Local Telluride artwork on display

I love this Great Dane lying on the sidewalk.


Nice doggy 🙂

Continuing on the historic tour, the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church was built in 1896 for $4,800. The building was locked so I wasn’t able to see the interior.


St. Patrick’s Catholic Church

I really love Victorian and Queen Anne style homes and there are many in Telluride. The Old Waggoner House is one of my favorites – the color scheme is beautiful! As is the detailed trim work! The home was built by Charles Waggoner, who was president of the Bank of Telluride. Now, this gentleman was a banker you could love.  During the crash of 1929, he schemed to siphon funds from New York banks to keep his clients in Telluride from losing their life savings. He was arrested and during his trial he testified that he would rather see the New York banks lose money than the people of Telluride lose their life savings. Can you imagine that??? After being apprehended in Wyoming, he was tried and sentenced to fifteen years in prison and was paroled after six.


Old Waggoner House

This isn’t part of the tour, but I have never seen a chopped bicycle so couldn’t resist!


This would be fun to ride!

The Miners Union was built by the Western Federation of Miners in 1901 during the time of labor strikes and protests.


Miners Union

This next home is also not on the tour, but it is so beautiful I had to take a photo.


So beautiful!

The building that now houses the Telluride Historical Museum was originally a hospital and built in 1896. It was named Hall’s Hospital, after its first doctor. It continued to serve as the town hospital until 1964, when it closed due to the greatly decreased population. The Telluride Historical Museum occupied the building in 1966 and it was renovated in 2002.


Telluride Historical Museum

The Museum is well worth the visit, if for no other reason than to view the fully intact Ancient Puebloan blanket known as the Telluride Blanket. This blanket was found in 1896 in southeastern Utah by ranchers Mel and Ed Turner. It has been dated to be from the time period of 1041 to 1272 AD during the Puebloan III period. Only three other perfectly preserved blankets are known to exist from the Ancient Puebloans and the Telluride Blanket is the only brown, red, and white twill blanket. Through an unlikely series of events, the blanket survived and was in the possession of several Telluride residents until it was bequeathed to the Telluride Historical Museum. Click the link to read more about the unusual journey of the blanket. The Museum does not allow photography. This photo is from the Telluride Historical Museum website.

Telluride Blanket

Telluride Blanket at Telluride Historical Museum

The North Oak House has a very interesting history, as recounted on the historical marker in front of the home.


Story of the Cornet Creek 1914 flood

It is now beautifully restored.


North Oak House


Such beautiful detail


Love the three dormers

This is another beautifully detailed home that isn’t on the historical tour.


Love the arch on the balcony

The old Telluride Railroad Depot for the Rio Grande Southern Railway is situated on the San Miguel River. The railroad reached Telluride in 1891.


Rio Grande Southern depot

Lizard Head Pass

From the railroad depot I walk along the river trail back to the parking lot. From there I drive south on Hwy 145 to explore around Trout Lake and Lizard Head Pass.


On Hwy 145 heading towards Lizard Head Pass

From Telluride the Rio Grande Southern Railway went south towards Lizard Head Pass. At Trout Lake, it turned east around the lake. Trout Lake supplies the Ames hydroelectric power generating station that I mentioned in the previous post


Beautiful Trout Lake

One of the few remaining water tanks used by the steam engines is alongside the lake.


Rio Grande Southern water tank

Continuing around the lake and up Lake Fork Creek, the route crossed over Ground Hog Gulch on Trestle 51A. This is one of the few remaining RGS trestles and has been restored by the USFS.


Lake Fork Creek above the trestle


Trestle 51A


Trestle 51A

There is an overlook parking area at 10,250ft Lizard Head Pass. The view of the mountains to the east is breathtaking.


Vermillion Peak in the center, 13,894ft

Only nine miles to the east of the pass as the crow flies and on the other side of Vermillion Peak is the town of Silverton. In the cirque on the east side of Vermillion Peak is Ice Lake, which is surrounded by several other 13ers. Several years ago I backpacked up to the lake. It is about 4 miles to the upper lake and is well worth the hike. This is one of the bluest lakes I have seen. I need to do that hike again soon. So much to do and so little time!!!

There is also a dispersed camping area on the east side of Hwy 145. There were only a couple rigs there on this day.


Sheep Mountain and dispersed camping area

Two miles further south of the pass, there is the wonderful Lizard Head Peak! From my campsite, I can just see the top square part of the spire peeking over Sunshine Mountain


Yay! Lizard Head Peak

At this point I turn around and head back towards Telluride. When I get to Vance Junction, I pull over at the open space parking area. I had been wondering about the ownership of the valley to the west of Telluride. I was pleased to read the information on this placard telling how the valley floor was purchased by the Valley Floor Preservation Partners. The 566 acres from this point at Hwy 145 extending east to the Telluride town limit is now under conservation easement and forever protected from development.


Story of valley floor preservation

The San Miguel River flows out of the box canyon, through the town of Telluride and on down the valley. This beautiful site will remain in its natural state for future generations to appreciate.


San Miguel River flowing thru Telluride valley

Hastings Mesa on Road 58P

On Tuesday I go for a drive on Road 58P, which travels along the west side of Hastings Mesa. From Hwy 145, the road climbs steeply up a set of switchbacks to the top of the mesa. The road was steep enough that I had to use 4wd because my rear wheels were slipping on the pea gravel. The switchbacks were also very tight and I had to back up in order to make one turn. I’m glad I wasn’t trying to pull the Nash up there!


Old mine entrance

Once on the top, the road was mostly level and travels through ranch lands.


On Hastings Mesa

I also saw this same sign on the Last Dollar Road trip. Seems pretty aggressive, makes you wonder about the story behind it.


Keep out, this means YOU!

Road 58P junctions with Last Dollar Road. Just past this junction is the Ross Ranch. The John Wayne movie, True Grit, was filmed in the Ridgway, CO area. A couple scenes were also filmed here at Ross Ranch. The old buildings are still there.


Ross Ranch, Last Dollar Road


Ross Ranch

I had planned to stay in Telluride until after Labor Day. But the forecast is for rain starting over the weekend and continuing through early next week. So I decide to pull out on Thursday and head for Dolores, CO. It was a great visit to Telluride and I look forward to returning soon.


So long Telluride!


4 Comments on “Telluride Historic Walk, Lizard Head Pass & Hastings Mesa

  1. I’ve been up to Ice Lake and Island Lake several times and never thought about how close I was to Lizard Head pass and the town of Ophir. The next time I’m there I’ll have to hike up to the ridge and take a look.
    Your descriptions of the area and the pictures are great. Thank you.


    • Thanks Brian! It does seem strange that they are so close. I guess it’s because of the distance to drive the highway around the mountains. I bet the view up on the ridge would be awesome!


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