TBF First Timer - So Many Questions!

2017 is our first run at Telluride Bluegrass Festival and we are so stoked! Great lineup to make it our first. That being said, I have so many questions!

  • Excluding food, booze and clothing, what are must-have/can’t-forget-to-bring items?
  • We’re camping at Mary E. Ilium and will be getting into town around 2pm on Wednesday. Where at the campground is the best spot to camp? Any insights?
  • We’re planning on bringing our bikes to bike into town. Is this doable or a dumb idea? Should we just take the shuttle and ditch the bikes?

Any other tips and tricks of the trade? I’m a pretty avid festival goer, so I know the basics but looking for any insight into TBF in particular.

Again, so excited for this experience!

excluding food booze and clothing sounds risky … welcome to Telluride !


Hey. It will be my our first TBF too. My wife and I are also camping at Mary E Ilium. We will be getting there the Saturday before the festival week. We also will be bringing bikes. We plan on doing some trail riding, as well as riding to and from the festival grounds. I’m sure a few times we might rely on the shuttle, but the plan is to use bikes, 7 miles isn’t that far! We hope to get a spot near the river at the camping area. We are bringing instruments, hiking gear, of course bikes, stoves, hammocks, 5 gallon water containers, dish washing station, radio, solar lights, and comfy chairs, tarpestry for festy grounds, and our regular car camping gear.

  • WATER & SUNSCREEN! Use plenty of both!
  • Bikes are fun even if you end up using the shuttle. Bring them.
  • When you come to the festival pack a day bag with water bottles, sunscreen, rain gear, cold weather gear. The temps can go all over the place each day and cold at night. I also pack a garbage bag to put my day bag in when it rains.

Just throwing it out there that the road to and from the festival is not your typical 8 mile ride. There is no shoulder and it’s very steep and winding. There’s also no ambient light, so a ride home in the dark would be a bit harrowing. I say bring your bikes for the trails, but maybe check out the road in a vehicle first before you try it on your bikes…just in case.

Sounds like a sweet night ride to me!!! Not sure about others, but we have night lights for our bikes, and are uber avid riders. I know not everyday riding will be in the plans, but I look forward to the relaxing solitude of a ride home after getting my festy on! Once I rode from Ridgeway to Telluride in the dark on Last Dollar Divide, now that was freaky.

:eek That’s intense! :cheers

Hi kmiddl2,

Like another had said … Sunscreen! The rays are intense at T-ride altitude. Also, you need to keep hydrated (as mentioned by another Festivarian). As for ‘best spot to camp’ … while a shaded spot is preferred …I don’t think there is a bad spot anywhere. Heck … you’re in Mary E. and a short jaunt from T-ride :).
Considering that you are arriving Wednesday afternoon, it’s likely that most of the shaded spots will be occupied. Seasoned Festivarians are pretty friendly (actually … all are in my experience) and you may be able to set-up close to another camp in the shade. To be safe tho, recommend you bring along an easy-up that you can place over your tent during the day to provide shade (and keep your temporary homestead dry if it rains).
Bring the bikes … lots of trails. Like another posted tho, the road is not really bike-friendly. You’ll be fine during the day, but nighttime riding can be a bit sporty.
Also … since this will be your first time to TBF … make sure to check out the Elks Park schedule … they have phenomenal talent there in the heart of downtown T-ride. I think the schedule will be out in May so keep an eye out for it. Many main-stage acts do workshops and performances at that venue.

Guaranteed … you will have a blast and will want to come back every year henceforth.


I’m not sure if bicycles are even allowed on Highway 145 from Telluride to Illium at night (even with a headlight) as it’s a pretty treacherous road. There is literally no room between the shoulder and traffic from both directions.
You would definitely have to be in extreme physical shape to make the trek with elevation changes from somewhere between 7000 to 10000 feet.
Then there’s the time it would take versus the shuttle that may not make it worthwhile.
Peddling back after a full day of festivating could put you over the edge.
There may be a bike trail that goes from Illium to Telluride, but I’m not sure.
You would have to check with the U.S. Forest Service there (970) 327-4261 Mary E. (in Ilium)
Some of the shuttles have bike racks on the front so you can take them into town to get around during the day, so it can’t hurt to bring them in either case.


Wife and I honeymooned TBF 38(maybe 37). Camped at the ballpark outside of town. Got there a few days before fest. No shuttles so our bikes were awesome to have to get into town. There is a bike trail that takes a little effort but pretty easy. Bring headlamps or other hands free light for night biking back. Once shuttle started we didn’t use bikes but would’ve had a hard time up to that. We didn’t bring food. Lived off brown dog pizza, diggity dogs, and there is a Brew pub in town. Bring reusable canteen to fest grounds. They have potable water. We had option of reusing beer cups for discount beer. Only bought 2 cups all week and still have them. We had great weather 70-80 the whole time until Sunday it rained and woke up Monday to pack in 2 inches of slush. My hands were freezing. Bring extra gloves, you’re in the Rockies.

There are no legal limits to where you can and cannot ride a bicycle. If you are allowed to drive a car, you can ride a bike there. Some places have mandatory bike light rules, but in my opinion if your cycling at night without a light your just asking for problems!

 :wave Welcome to camping out at Mary E.  :cheers As far as bicycles on the road,  pretty sketchy if not all out dangerous. [u]Some[/u] of the buses have bike racks on the front though. There is not allot of spaces down by the river, gets kind of rocky. There are no set spots [b][i]However[/i][/b] the further back you go in the camp the louder it gets. With both river noise and party noise. That's how it is usually ran anyway.  Where you find a good flat spot is where you set up your camp. Get to know your neighbor. Who knows you may become life-long friends. 
It gets cold at night. Not unusual to wake up with frost on your sleeping bag and tent. Extra blankets are heavily recommended. There is only porta-potties provided, sorry. Bringing some way to shower is also an idea. You can do a hippy bath in the river. But that one can be a bit nippy.

Thanks for all of the information folks! Much appreciated.

We live in Denver and camp up at Alta Lakes in T-ride every October, so we’re used to the cold nights.

Based off of y’alls info regarding bikes, we’ll probably bring them but not bike to from the actual festy grounds. That being said, do y’all know of any good trails close to Mary E. for beginner mountain bikers? My boyfriend is a gnarly rider but I’m making him stick around with me for the weekend and he can over estimate my skill level. Any trail tips welcome!

Thanks again!

I sent you a message. And we should go biking together. By the time we get closer I’ll have maps of all the local trails, and we are also in Ilium!

Thanks for all of the words of wisdom everyone!

Just had a new question pop up… What’s the situation when arriving to Mary Ilium campgrounds late at night. Like 1130p-midnight Tuesday night? Is that allowed? Do they have folks there to lead you to open spots? Do you just cruise around and snag the best spot you see? Don’t want to be waking people up with noise or headlights late at night.


There won’t be anyone there to lead you around. Just walk around until you find something. It’s been a few years since I’ve camped at Mary E, but 11:30 is still early in Town Park. You’ll be just fine.

Hello, Good news. :thumbsup Tuesday is the day the the volunteers start to stay at the welcome tent until about midnight. We volunteers TRY to keep track of where all the open spots are. We have even been known to help people look for their spot. No worries.

Great news, SkyRunner! Thanks so much for this info!!!

Hey there. This looks like a great ride from Illium into town. Probably going to check this trail out on Tuesday, and decide if we want to ride it to the festival on Thursday or Friday. Hoping to do Nightgrass Sat and Sun so not planning on riding those days.

Awesome! We’re in if it’s a mellow ride to and from. We get in late Tuesday night. Looking forward to it!