Telluride: Kroger Via Ferrata
- Closest town: Telluride, CO
- Trail Name: Kroger Via Ferrata
- Trailhead: (GPS coordinates: 37.922948, -107.766332)
- Distance: 2-4 miles roundtrip (depending on if you have a car shuttle)
- Not Dog Friendly
From the town of Telluride, head east on Highway 145 Spur towards Bridal Veil Falls and Black Bear Pass. Where you park will depend on if you have a one vehicles or two, and if your vehicles have enough clearance to make it up the Black Bear Pass switchbacks. Read more below.
A few important things you need to know about this adventure:
- The Black Bear Pass switchbacks require high clearance and, in some conditions, 4×4 drive. We’ve done this Via Ferrata three times now. The first two times, our Subaru made it to the trailhead parking just fine with skilled driving. The third time we did it we didn’t have our Crosstrek so we ended up parking towards to bottom and walking all the way up to the trailhead, but one of the ruts in the road was so bad that we were confident that even if we had had our Crosstrek it would not have made it past that part. Most vehicles that come up this road are jeeps, so just keep in mind it depends on the condition of the road at the time you go. Be prepared to adjust your plans if the switchbacks are in bad condition and/or you can’t make it up in your vehicle. Worst case scenario, you have to park in the parking area below the switchbacks and walk the whole way up (I estimate this would add about 30-45 minutes and about one mile to your approach).
- Having a shuttle vehicle is ideal but not required. The ideal scenario is having two high clearance vehicles that can make it up the switchbacks. If this is the case for your group, park your shuttle vehicle at this turnout, making sure you’re following any posted signs and not blocking anyone in. This is where the Via Ferrata exit trail will pop you right out at your car. Then head up the switchbacks in your second vehicle and park at this turnout, where you will start the short approach to the beginning of the Via Ferrata (see map below). Cross the wood bridge that goes over the water, and watch for a steep social trail immediately on the right. Follow this trail for just a minute until you arrive at the beginning of the Via Ferrata. Gear up here, or at your car before scrambling up.
3. The Via Ferrata is a technical route requiring climbing skills and equipment. This is NOT a “hike”. It requires a reliable harness, helmet, and two adjustable, highly rated slings with two locking carabiners or a certified Via Ferrata lanyard also with locking carabiners. If you’re unsure about the gear you have or are uncomfortable in any way, I highly recommend either going with a friend who has experience with this route/this type of equipment, OR you can hire a guide from a guide group in Telluride. You can also opt to rent the gear without hiring a guide, a cheaper option if you are comfortable and just need the gear. I would say half or more of the groups we see on the via ferrata are guided, so this is very common and a great option. However, the thing I love most about this route is that if you DO have the equipment and the experience necessary to be safe, you can do it on your own for free.
Once you’ve found parking and made it to the trailhead, you’ve done the hardest part (in my opinion haha). Now you can enjoy the STUNNING views of Telluride all while getting a little adrenaline rush. “Via Ferrata” means “iron path” in Italian, and you’ll soon see why as you start this route. You’ll see iron rungs and cables bolted into the cliff side as you follow the narrow path and clip yourself in as you go. Make sure that you always have at least one carabiner attached to the cable at a time; the only time you shouldn’t have two is when you’re transitioning from one cable to another. The entire route will take about 2 hours depending on group size and speed. Below are some pictures of the crux of the route, which you’ll come to right after Kroger’s Bench (a great place to eat lunch or have a snack). You’ll notice that the views are stunning in both Summer and Fall!
Enjoy this part, take it slow, and get some amazing photos. And don’t look down if you get nervous! This is absolutely my favorite part of the route, it will have your heart pumping for sure. Once you’ve reached the end of the Via Ferrata, it’ll be pretty obvious. The trail will take a hard left down a canyon via a steep, dusty trail. Head down this trail for about 20 minutes and it’ll pop you right out at the shuttle parking spot I mentioned earlier. The bottom right photo shows the exit trail.
This is one of my all time favorite adventures. It ranks up there with some of the canyoneering we’ve done, just because the views seem too good to be true. You’ll feel like you’re mountain climbing in Europe. This adventure requires some planning, but is WELL worth the effort. Be safe and enjoy!
As aways, please practice Leave No Trace and leave this beautiful place better than you found it!