Can you imagine a place where every single year, hundreds of people gather to hunt for mushrooms, drink mushroom beer, dress up like their favorite fungi, and celebrate the wonderful world of mushrooms?
It sounds crazy, but this unique and incredible event is 100% real.
It’s called the Annual Telluride Mushroom festival, and if you have any interest in mushrooms whatsoever, you should definitely consider going.
What Is The Telluride Mushroom Festival?
The Telluride Mushroom Festival is an annual event held high in the Rocky Mountains in August. It kind of goes without saying, but the event takes place in the town of Telluride, Colorado.
It is a multi-day gathering that celebrates mushrooms with lectures, forays, mushroom cooking classes, mushroom cultivation workshops, and yes…. even a parade.
What Kind Of Events Are There?
There is more than enough to do at the festival, whether or not you’re totally new to mushrooms, or are a veteran of the fifth kingdom.
Mushroom hunting in Telluride is a special experience and sure to be a highlight of your trip.
Especially if you’ve been interested in hunting wild mushrooms before, but have been a little nervous about doing it yourself.
The festival hosts 3-4 forays every day, led by expert mycologists and people familiar with the mushrooms in the area.
You’ll easily find the good places to go, what to look for and how to identify different all different types of mushrooms- edible ones, poisonous ones, and others that may just have some interesting characteristics.
There are also some all-day forays, which you need to sign up for in advance. These mushroom hunting adventures go further into the surrounding mountains.
So how are the forays organized?
People sign up to the forays at the Sheridan Opera house in the center of town. Make sure you get there early to reserve your spot!
From there, you will head off into the surrounding mountains. They sometimes have buses to drive to the foraging spot, but if you have a vehicle it’s better to drive yourself or carpool.
During the foray, everyone in the group will head off into the woods and collect as many mushrooms as they can find. Afterwards, everyone meets up, sorts all the mushrooms, and the foray leader will help identify them all, letting you know which are edible, which are poisonous and which have interesting characteristics.
Types Of Mushrooms
There is a huge diversity of mushrooms near Telluride, but the main attractions are Chanterelles and Porcini.
You’ll also find Sarcadon, Oysters, Shaggy Mane, other types of Boletes, Agaricus, and loads of Amanita Muscaria.
Because of the elevation, you can even find Morels, even though the festival takes place in August!
2. Mushroom Identification Tent
In the center of town, there is a common area with lots of booths and tents set up. There are a number of vendors selling really cool and unique t-shirts, food, art, and other mushroom related wares.
But the shining attraction is the mushroom identification tent.
This is an area where they have all types of mushroom species on display, so you can see them all at once even if you don’t go on a foray.
For example, if someone finds an Amanita muscaria, they will place it in the tent by a sign with information about that mushroom so everyone can look at it throughout the festival.
They also have volunteer expert mycologists at the tent who can help you identify the mushrooms you find in the wild. It is a pretty unique experience, and one of the fastest ways to level up your mushroom identification skills!
If you want to really dive deep into the world of mushrooms, you’ll want to check out the lectures.
There is a variety of expert talks, all day everyday, on all sorts of topics.
The lectures can vary from:
- Diving deep in the science of mushrooms, classification, new advancements in the world of mycology
- Talks on functional and medicinal mushrooms
- Keynote speakers like Paul Stamets and Tradd Cotter talking about broad mushroom-related topics
- Screening of movies like Fantastic Fungi, Know Your Mushrooms, and more
The lectures take place at a variety of locations. Many of them will fill up, so if you have a talk that you want to go to, make sure you show up early.
4. Workshops, Classes and Special Events
There are also workshops and classes, which generally aren’t included in the festival passes, but are really cool and worth checking out.
Some of these are full day workshops, like the hands on mushroom cultivation courses or the mycoremediation courses, while others are only a few hours, like the cooking classes. This is a chance to dive deep and learn a new skill in a very short period of time.
There are also other events like the “wild foods” dinner hosted by Katrina Blair. You will go out into the woods and collect a variety of edible mushrooms and plants, and then enjoy a dinner made from your loot. It is a super unique event. I haven’t gone myself, but the people who I’ve talked to who have gone see it as a highlight of the trip.
Of course, there is the parade.
To be honest, the parade itself is just OK. But the essence of it is what matters. Everyone is in a good mood, and celebrating a shared passion for fungi, which makes it a special event.
During the parade people dress up as mushrooms (there are prizes for the best dressed), beat drums, and sing and dance down the center of town.
The famous truck that looks like an Amanita muscaria makes it into the parade as well.
Aside from letting it all hang loose, you’ll meet so many great people.
There are also lots of events at night where you can hang out, drink mushroom beers, and have an awesome time overall.
Every year, the festival has a certain theme, which guides many of the talks and other events.
In 2019, Denver Colorado had decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms, so the major theme that year was “Healing The Mind, Healing the Planet.”
There was lots of talks about new research in the field of psychedelics, and more specifically promising ways that psilocybin might have a beneficial impact on mental health.
Top 3 Reasons To Go
1. Telluride Is Beautiful
Even if you don’t like mushrooms, Telluride is incredibly beautiful. There is tons of hiking, exploring, and overall good times to be had. The town itself is at 8750 ft, and the surrounding mountains are 14,000 plus making it a feast for the senses.
2. You Will Become Better At Identifying Mushrooms
This is one of the absolute best ways to level up your identification skills.
The foray leaders and mycologists at the identification test do a great job of really helping you to learn how to identify different species of mushrooms.
There is something special about actually holding a mushroom in your hand while learning about it, and there is no better place to do that then Telluride.
3. You Will Make New Connections
The mushroom community is great, and this festival is the perfect opportunity to meet cool people. In general, people are in a good mood and it is so fun to connect with people that share a similar passion.
This is one of the main reasons why if you go to the festival once, you’ll likely want to return time and time again.
Top Tips For Telluride
1. Get Early Bird Tickets
Many people ask why tickets to Telluride are so expensive, and it is a fair question. It’s definitely not a super-cheap thing to do. That being said, you can usually save a bunch of money by getting your tickets early. They usually go on sale in January.
Another thing to remember is that full festival passes do in fact sell out! Get your tickets early to ensure your spot.
2. Get Your Room or Campsite Early
There is lots going on in Telluride during the summer, so as soon as you get your tickets, you’ll want to make sure you book a place to stay. There is lots of lodging in the town itself, and pretty much everything you’ll need is within walking distance.
If you are planning on camping, there is a few state parks and campgrounds in the area. Again, these will be very busy, so you’ll want to reserve your spot as soon as you can.
There is one campground right in town that is first come first serve. If you want to stay there, make sure you plan on claiming your spot a day before the festival starts and have a backup plan incase it is full.
3. Sign Up To The Forays And Show Up Early To Events
Kind of being repetitive here, but make sure you show up early to sign up to the events, especially the forays. These ALWAYS fill up.
You’ll want to be at the Sheridan Opera House in the center of town at least 1 hour before the forays are set to start to ensure you get a spot.
4. Plan You Days
There are more things to do than time to do it. Make sure you take a look at the schedule before hand and plan out your days.
You can find the schedule and more information for the current year festival at tellurideinstitute.org.