The Switzerland of America
The mountains and canyons surrounding Ouray are filled with some of the West’s most unforgettable scenery. Heritage activities abound along the back roads and Scenic Byways: you can see vistas where old Hollywood westerns were filmed and explore high country ghost towns that were once booming mining cities. In our scenic mountains, four-wheel-drive adventures are the height of Ouray’s driving experiences; we are, after all, known as “The Jeeping Capital of the World.” Ouray’s Jeep roads, carved from historic wagon trails, traverse a variety of terrain from extreme high mountain passes and rugged winding roads to wide, flower-filled meadows and pastoral valleys.
Centrally located in Southwestern Colorado, Ouray is the perfect basecamp for your explorations. Whether you want to discover the peaks and valleys of the San Juan Mountains by hiking or biking, wander through ancient Native American ruins, visit national parks, or ride on a historic steam train, Ouray is a perfect point of departure for daily adventures. Ouray offers diverse lodging including unique hotels, charming bed & breakfasts, comfortable vacation rentals, and public and private campgrounds. You will find the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate after the day’s travels.
Don’t forget to ask a local for their favorite secret spots, pack your camera and a picnic lunch, and always leave with a full tank of gas. You never know where your journey may take you!
Recently a man walked into a Main Street retail shop and asked, in a very loud voice, "Why did I not know this place exists?" He then walked closer to where the store proprietor was standing and said, "Seriously, this town is amazing, one-of-a-kind, it should be featured in magazines, on calendars, and people need to know about this little gem nestled here in these mountains." The curious thing is this all took place in a retail shop where the owner creates calendars, postcards and other media with beautiful images of these mountains, and Ouray itself is often referred to as the "Gem of the Rockies." The gentleman who came into town from Red Mountain Pass was speaking what many of the citizens and previous visitors already knew: Ouray is a very special community snuggled among some of the most stunning scenery on the planet.
The purpose of this website is to share some of the beauty and exceptional qualities that make this a great place to visit and to live. Like the gentleman above, many people in Ouray are first attracted by the picturesque setting of the historic Victorian buildings and the steep mountain background. The Ute Indians, who came here for the spiritual qualities attributed to the hot springs waters, surely appreciated the mountain vistas, too. In the 1800s, people were attracted by the rich ore buried in the hardrock of the San Juan Mountains. Today, many of us enjoy hiking or riding in a comfortable four-wheel drive vehicle to explore these 100-year old mining structures as we imagine what it was like in the miners' quarters in the days of mules and long, cold winters at 12,000 feet above sea level. The historic structures provide a contrasting backdrop to the comforts of today, with fine restaurants, breweries, recreational trails, live music and art shows and lodging ranging from simple to plush and deluxe. There are still people in Ouray who wander the mountains in search of gold and silver; the annual Highgraders' Holiday is a fun event celebrating hardrock mining's past, present and future. Many more people wander the hills in pursuit of precious scenery, rare bird species (visit Box Canyon Falls for an opportunity to see nesting black swifts), meadows of endless wildflowers (click for descriptions of hundreds of wildflowers and get your mobile flower field-guide app here), slopes of golden aspen or a relaxing respite near a clear, cold mountain stream. In the winter, people are drawn to Ouray to experience world-class climbing, backcountry and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and to relax in the peaceful quiet that blankets town like a warm quilt.
Regardless of the season or the purpose of your visit, a trip to the famous, sulfur-free Ouray Hot Springs Pool is always a treat. With nearly one-million gallons of naturally heated water from deep in the earth, the hot springs pool has been a soothing destination for generations. Now there is no excuse. You know Ouray exists. Explore this website, plan a trip, stay for several days, and remember, we warned you...Ouray is a gem, and you will keep coming back!
- Patrick Rondinelli, City Administrator & Rick Noll, City Resources Director