Welcome to Summer in Ouray!
With inspiring peaks right at your door, we invite you to get in touch with our trails, canyons, history and soothing hot springs.
The wildflowers are just starting to open in the high country around Ouray. If you haven’t experienced summer in Ouray County and the San Juan Mountains, now is your chance. Experience some of the most spectacular views in Colorado and accesses boundless public lands and adventures that range from fishing, climbing, canyoning, biking and rafting. Take a trip back in time with our unique museums, ghost towns, historic hikes, horseback rides and cattle drives and old-mining-roads-turned-Jeep and OHV trails along the route.
Photo Courtesy of Mark Johnson, BoxCanyonBlog.com
Touch the Mountains in Ouray
If you crave adventures that take you away from the pavement, here are a few of our favorite summertime activities:
Discover Wildflower Meadows
The wildflowers peak in the high country around Ouray between mid-July and mid-August, though you can find flowers from early June through Labor Day, depending on the weather conditions and your elevation. If you're on foot or in a trail-ready vehicle, any mountain meadow above 9,000 feet will be exploding with color. If you're driving the scenic San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway, some of our favorite photo stops in the region are along Red Mountain Pass or Molas Pass during July for wildflower meadows, and Lizard Head Pass in July and August for flowers with a backdrop of the imposing peaks at the pass. Make sure to stop at Ironton for a short ghost town hike through the green aspens and wild raspberries.
Here are two of our favorite full day, off-road itineraries:
- Ouray to Yankee Boy Basin and Governor’s Basin. Then take Imogene Pass to Telluride and come home via Last Dollar Road and Ridgway. Both Yankee Boy and Governor's Basin are covered in blankets of wildflowers each July.
- The Alpine Loop: Ouray to Lake City via Engineer Pass, then back to Silverton via Cinnamon Pass and back to Ouray via Corkscrew Gulch. A classic long 4x4 route that will probably take you 2-3 days with all the photo opportunities you'll find! A favorite side hike is heading north along the Horsethief Trail atop Engineer Pass to Wild Horse Peak.
Find more details about our OHV trails here. If you don't feel like driving, contact one of our local Jeep tour companies for comfortable and relaxing tours into the mountains that give you the added bonus of a great commentary about the natural and mining history in the area.
Dust off those Trail Shoes
If you're looking for a perfect summer hike or bike ride, we'd recommend any section of the Dallas Trail system that starts in Ouray and continues through Ridgway into Telluride, with off-shoots to the famous wildflower basins of Blaine Basin and Blue Lakes. Make it a multi-day trek and stay in one of the cozy San Juan Huts or let a horse pack your gear while you camp. The whole Dallas Trail is accessible to mountain bikes, too (you'll need to check them at the trailhead for offshoots into wilderness areas), but it is a long ride. If you're looking for shorter bike loops with incredible views, check out the Ridgway Area Trails - or RAT - near Ridgway State Park. For an uncrowded hike, check out Spirit Basin near the Red Mountain Mining District Overlook. Its wildflowers and peaks are spectacular and easily accessible from the highway.
Get Wet (and a little Wild)
Ouray's mountains are home to tranquil alpine lakes and meandering streams that give way to waterfalls and fast-moving waters in a heartbeat.
Kayakers, rafters and canoeists, will find adventure in the white-caps of the area’s rushing rivers. Book a raft trip down the rapid-filled Gunnison River Gorge and marvel at the pristine wilderness, world-class fishing and stunning geology. Adventurous types will love the unique experience of canyoning down Ouray's many water-filled high alpine gorges. It's a must do for anyone that enjoys climbing and watersports.
If mellow water is more your speed, spend a quiet day fishing one of our many lakes or tubing down the mellow waters of the Uncompahgre River from Ridgway to the State Park. Rent a boat on Ridgway Reservoir so the kids can waterski or tube in the shadow of Mount Sneffels and the Cimarron Range. Or, take it easy by enjoying a quiet summer sunset on the lake on a stand up paddleboard. The healing waters around Ouray certainly extend far beyond our famous hot springs.
Discover Some Colorful History
The history of the San Juan Mountains is just as rich as the scenery. Here are our favorite historical stops in Ouray County and beyond:
- Ouray County Historical Museum (Ouray): named one of the best small museums in the West by Smithsonian Magazine, the Ouray County Museum is housed in the former miner's hospital in downtown Ouray. Their current exhibitions (in addition to permanent displays) are "How the San Juan Peaks Got their Names" and the annual quilt show.
- Ouray Alchemist Pharmaceutical Collection (Ouray): take a tour of the history of medicine through the lens of a frontier physician. The tour showcases a fascinating collection dating back to 300 B.C. led by a former pharmacist and curator of the museum.
- San Juan Odyssey (Ouray): a multi-screen panoramic theater production about the history of Ouray and the San Juan Mountains narrated by Ouray's own C.W. McCall, presented Friday- Monday at 7:30 PM through the end of September.
- Historic Gold & Silver Mine Tours (Ouray & Silverton): The Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour in Ouray and the Old 100 Mine Tour in Silverton let you experience what life was truly like for the miners of the 1800s in the San Juan Mountains. Step back in time for an hour, then try your luck at panning for gold or have a miner's breakfast on weekend mornings.
- Ridgway True Grit Film History Tour (Ridgway): a weekly tour of historic filming locations for the origina True Grit. Tours leave the Ridgway Visitor's Center on Fridays at 11:00 AM through the end of October.
- Ridgway Railroad Museum (Ridgway): displays the history of Ouray County's world-renowned Rio Grande Southern, Silverton and D&RG narrow-gauge railroads. Don't miss Railroad Days for some hands-on history and hikes along historic railroad grades between September 17-20, 2015.
- Ouray County Ranch History Museum (Colona): about ten miles north of Ridgway, this jewel of a collection in the historic Colona School celebrates the pioneer ranchers of Ouray County and the Ucompahgre Valley. Open Sundays, 1-5 PM, through the end of September.
- Durango, Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (Durango): This historic steam train travels between Durango and Silverton daily through the end of October. Even if you can't take the full train ride, definitely visit the incredible railroad museum in downtown Durango.
Remarkably, two-thirds of Ouray's original Victorian structures, are still occupied, and have been lovingly restored in order to preserve their turn-of-the-century charm.