Bear Creek is easily the most moderate of hikes in the Telluride area which allows the widest range of individuals to leave pavement behind and access what is both a lush and dramatic excursion into the backcountry. There are easily a dozen waterfalls of various shapes and sizes which are either visible from out in the open or tucked away in some lost little nook or cranny carved out by ages of weathering and the force of water rushing through the canyon. I suppose some might retort the river trail hike is the easiest in town (which is true), it does not transport one to an almost immediate and close contact with the natural surroundings abound.
The “official” Bear Creek trailhead starts out on the very southern end of Pine Street (which runs perpendicular to main street), but one can also gain access to the creek from a variety of other lesser known trail heads and egress routes such as starting out from the southeast corner of Town Park, along the Gold Hill ridgeline (near electra), from Ophir and Bridal Veil Basin (or any of the other basins to the east) … all of which (except the entrance @ the SE corner of Telluride Town Park) are higher elevation routes. All of these routes are accessible year round; however, backcountry travel in the winter requires proper gear and the ability to use such in the face of an ever present danger of avalanche.
The main Bear Creek trail is probably 1.5 – 2 miles to the “main” waterfall (as well as the Wasatch trailhead) and for the most part is a very gentle trail in so far as it not being too steep at any one stretch. It is also wide and accommodating for those who like room from side to side. The point being, it is not uncommon to encounter a 7 year old child and a 77 year old adult enjoying Bear Creek from top to bottom.
Early this summer, I was struck by how easily one can see the Telluride Ski Area’s new Revelation lift from the main trail in Bear Creek. What’s done is done regarding this lift, but it clearly demonstrates the level of visual obtrusion which ski lifts impose upon those who are simply seeking to immerse themselves in a natural setting The higher one travels on the Ballard (east) side of the creek, the more noticeable the new Revelation Bowl lift becomes. This would also hold true for any new ski lifts which might come online down the road. If a new lift is installed in upper Bear Creek, then surely it will visually affect those who enjoy hiking on the Wasatch Loop … which traverses through an extremely unique and pristine high alpine setting.
It seems to me, Bear Creek is without question a national “jewel” in every respect and rests partially within the National Forest Service’ jurisdiction. I have hiked and traveled extensively throughout the state of Colorado and can say with absolute certainty there are not any clones of Bear Creek in existence and very few areas come close to approaching it’s natural stark beauty and rugged landscape. Since Bear Creek is already accessible (to ski or snowboard at one’s own risk) via an access gate from the Telluride Ski Resort, it seems we’re currently at a “build out” of the “best of both worlds” situation: skiers and snowboarders are able to indulge in all of the adventure offered, while other non-skiers can enjoy the most natural of experiences possible. I also believe access to the general public to a Bear Creek which is not built out or mechanized ought to trump ANY ambitions the Telluride Ski Area may have.