By D. Dion
It’s hard to hear my hiking partner as we try to chat over the growling San Miguel River, which is rumbling loudly, full of spring runoff. Late snow still covers most of Telluride’s hiking and biking trails, but not Keystone Gorge: This fun loop next to the river is one of the first ones to be clear of winter’s clutches. It’s also the latest addition to the list of great hikes around town.
Keystone Gorge Trail was built just last summer, the culmination of efforts by The Nature Conservancy, San Miguel County officials and a host of volunteers. One of those volunteers is my hiking partner, Susan Kees, author of Telluride Hiking Guide. She moved rocks and dirt, helping to construct the trail surrounding the San Miguel River as it cascades through a beautiful gorge that runs from Lawson Hill to Ilium Valley. The 40-acre parcel on which the trail sits was acquired by The Nature Conservancy and the construction of the route meant building two bridges over the river—one which replaced an old bridge that fell into the San Miguel in 2007—to create a loop that runs on the north and south side of the river and takes about an hour and 15 minutes to hike. A portion of the parcel was donated by a private landowner, Pamela Hyde Smith, in honor of her late husband Sydney G. Smith. A bench and plaque commemorate the gift, which was the impetus for building the new trail.
Hikers can pick up the Keystone Gorge trail at Lawson Hill, off the Galloping Goose trail. The Galloping Goose starts at the parking area near the Lawson Hill bus circle, next to Telluride Mountain School. Take the Goose until you spot a right turnoff that drops down to the river and crosses over the brand new bridge; that’s the start of the Keystone Gorge trail. At the trail’s turnaround, there is another new bridge; cross the bridge and head back up the valley until it reconnects with the Goose. The lower bridge is a great place to pause and take in the view. “This is really beautiful,” says Kees, gesturing above us at the water jostling over huge boulders and settling into calm pools. “What a great new trail.”