Free gondola rides in the Colorado Rockies

Aug. 26, 2019
Free gondolas in Colorado include the Telluride gondola here with a view of peaks in the background
Free gondolas in Colorado give riders access to beautiful views, like this one of the rugged San Mountain Mountains that surround Telluride. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Want to get above it all in the Colorado Rockies? Try a free gondola ride in the summer or fall.

Two of the best places in Colorado to get even more amazing views of the mountains than you can get from the ground are on the free gondolas in Telluride and Breckenridge.

Gondolas are popular with folks of all ages. Some are even dog friendly and accessible for disabled people.

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 town, you need to hike, take one of the rugged jeep roads, or hop onto the free gondola.

One of the free gondolas in Colorado is the BreckConnect gondoal in Breckenridge. Here you see a gondola car above the slopes with a mountain in the background.
The BreckConnect gondola takes riders from the town of Breckenridge to the base of Peak 8. Photo by Jack Affleck, courtesy of Breckenridge Resorts.

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.

free gondolas in Colorado include the one in Telluride. Here you see a gondola car with a dog peeking out the window. In the background are aspen trees on a green ski slope in the summer.
Dogs and their owners get to ride on the free gondola in Telluride. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Details on free gondolas

Telluride/ Mountain Village gondola

Summer season operates through October 20.

Open daily from 6:30 a.m. to midnight and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 14.

Winter season begins on Nov. 22 and runs through April 5, 2020.

a view of gondola cabins at Telluride on a summer day. Telluride has one of Colorados free gondolas.
The gondola at Telluride connects the historic mining town with the newer Mountain Village. Hikers, tourists and commuters all can ride the gondola for free. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

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

Runs daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Labor Day, Sept. 2, with an additional three-day weekend on Sept. 6-8. The BreckConnect gondola is closed during the fall and re-opens for winter operations on Nov. 8.

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.)

Where to park: Parking is available at the base of the BreckConnect. Summer cost: $10 before 3 p.m. Free after 3 p.m.

Keystone’s Friday Afternoon Club

On Friday afternoons only, from 1 to 7 p.m. through Aug. 30, you may get tickets to ride the River Run Gondola for free. Tickets available at the River Run office. Enjoy great views, live music, games, activities and food and drink for purchase.

Very short free gondola ride:

Cabriolet Gondola, Winter Park Resort

This is a very short gondola ride that leads from a parking area and the Vintage Hotel near Winter Park to the base area. But, if you have young children, they still might enjoy the ride.

The Cabriolet is open and free year-round. (There is a fee to park in the adjacent lot during the winter.)

Summer hours: The gondola operates from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the Cabriolet is open from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays are movie nights through Sept. 7.

Where to park: Turn in to the Vintage Lot from U.S. Highway 40, where you can park and hop on the Cabriolet.

view of mountains through a misty cloud on a free gondola in Telluride, Colorado
If you want to see some beautiful views of mountains in Colorado, take a ride on a free gondola. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Other gondolas that are not free:

Aspen Silver Queen Gondola

Open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last ride down at 4:30 p.m.) through Sept. 2. Open weekends September 6-8 through Oct. 4-6.

Beaver Creek’s Centennial Express

Open daily through Sept. 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (weather permitting).

Open weekends only from Sept. 7-29.

Elk Camp Gondola, Snowmass Village

Open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last ride down at 4:15 p.m.) through Sept. 2. Open weekends from Sept. 6-8 through Oct. 4-6.

River Run Gondola at Keystone resort

Open during the summer on weekends only, through Sept. 22. The gondola requires a scenic lift ticket to ride. It is free only for Friday Afternoon Club. Fees apply the rest of the time.

Summer Scenic Gondola at Winter Park Resort (free to winter ski pass holders. Fees for others.)

Vail’s Eagle Bahn Gondola and Gondola One

Winter ski pass holders can ride for free as can kids 12 and under with the purchase of an adult Scenic Ride Ticket. Dogs not allowed to ride up. Hikers may ride down with their dogs if they are on a leash.

Please note: The gondola at Steamboat Resort is closed for the summer of 2019 because it’s being replaced with a new gondola. Stayed tuned for more information.

About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Colorado native. She attended Colorado College, thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation, and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summer breaks from college. She is also a storyteller. She loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and was a finalist with a team of reporters for the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of a deadly wildfire in Glenwood Springs in 1994. Katie was the first reporter in the U.S. to track down and interview survivors of the tragic blaze, which left 14 firefighters dead.

She covered an array of beats over the years, including the environment, politics, education and criminal justice. She also loved covering stories in Congress and at the U.S. Supreme Court during a stint as the Rocky’s reporter in Washington, D.C.

Katie then worked as a reporter for an online health news site before joining the UCHealth team in 2017.

Katie and her husband Cyrus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, have three children. The family loves traveling together anywhere from Glacier National Park to Cuba.