Want to get above it all in the Colorado Rocky Mountains? Try a free gondola ride in the summer or fall.
Gondolas are popular with folks of all ages. Some are even dog friendly and accessible to people with limited mobility.
Southwestern Colorado is famous for its stunning San Juan Mountains, and the historic mining town, Telluride, is tucked into a box canyon. That means that the highway ends in Telluride. To get to the peaks that soar above the town, you need to hike, take one of the rugged jeep roads, or hop onto the free gondola.
Telluride’s gondola connects the historic town with the much newer Mountain Village. In town, you’ll start at 8,750 feet above sea level. As you ride up to the San Sophia station, you’ll reach 10,540 feet. On the way up, you can look north across town and see one of Telluride’s waterfalls, Cornet Creek Falls, as it spills over the valley’s trademark red rocks in the distance. At the San Sophia Station, you can hop out and hike or bike (there are fees for the bike trails), or you can ride down to the Mountain Village. Both from San Sophia and Mountain Village stops, you’ll get spectacular vistas to the southwest of surrounding peaks, including giant Mount Wilson, one of Colorado’s 14ers.
If your dog has joined you on your vacation, no worries. Every third car in Telluride is dog friendly. Just look for the paw prints on the car, and be sure to have your pet leashed. Attendants are always there to help you board and exit.
Details on free gondola rides
Telluride/ Mountain Village gondola
Summer season operates from May 25 through Oct. 15.
Open daily from 6:30 a.m. to midnight, and it runs until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays from June 16 through Sept. 16.
Winter season begins on Nov. 17 and runs through April 7.
Where to park
If you are not staying overnight in Telluride or the Mountain Village, you can park for free in the Mountain Village parking garage and take the gondola into the town. Handicap-accessible cabins are available along with those for pets. Attendants can help load strollers, wheelchairs and bikes.
BreckConnect Gondola in Breckenridge
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 30 through Sept. 4. The BreckConnect gondola is closed during the fall and re-opens for winter operations in November. The last ride up is at 5 p.m.; the last ride down is at 5:30 p.m.
The gondola leads to the base of Peak 8, where the summer Epic Discovery park is located. (Please note: the gondola and hiking are free. There are fees for the activities at Epic Discovery.)
Other gondola rides that are not free:
Aspen Silver Queen Gondola
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last ride down at 4:30 p.m.) from June 16 through Sept. 4. Open most weekends May through Oct. 1.
Beaver Creek’s Centennial Express
Open daily from June 17 through Sept. 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (weather permitting). Then open Saturday and Sundays only Sept. 9-24.
Elk Camp Gondola, Snowmass Village
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 21 through Sept. 4. Then open Friday through Sunday from Sept. 8 through Oct. 1.
River Run Gondola at Keystone resort
Open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the last chair up the mountain is at 4:30 p.m.) from June 23 through Sept. 4. The gondola requires a scenic lift ticket to ride.
Summer Scenic Gondola at Winter Park Resort
The gondola is free to Winter Park and Ikon season pass holders, but there are fees for others.
Vail’s Eagle Bahn Gondola and Gondola One
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from June 16 through Sept. 4. Then open only Friday through Sunday from Sept. 8 through Oct. 1.
Takes you from the valley floor to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park at the top of a mountain in a 5-minute ride. Check the park’s calendar for hours of operation and cost.
Foot passengers only and get unlimited rides that day. Ikon pass holders can get a free ticket at the Steamboat ski resort office located inside the Steamboat Sports Sheraton. Tickets are also free for children ages 5 to 12 with the purchase of an adult (13+) ticket but are limited to one free kid pass per adult ticket.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from June 16 through Sept. 4. Then open Friday through Sunday from Sept. 8 through Oct. 1.