Touch the Mountains This Summer & Fall
Ouray’s mountains are right at your front door, so if you crave adventures that take you away from the pavement, here are five unique ways to fill your days in the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Colorado.
1 - Dust off Your Trail Shoes
If you're looking for a perfect late 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 scenery 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 side trips into the Sneffels Wilderness Areas).
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 colorful meadows and rugged peaks are spectacular and easily accessible from the highway.
2 - Get Your Off-Road Motor Running
The San Juan’s are home to 100+ miles of historic, high-alpine mining roads that you can explore with your Jeep, 4x4, ATV, side-by-side and dirt bike. Here’s our favorite full day, off-road itinerary:
Start in Ouray and visit Yankee Boy Basin and Governor’s Basin, then take Imogene Pass to Telluride and come home via Last Dollar Road and Ridgway. Even after the peak of wildflower season, these rides will take your breath away!
Get more information about our off-road trails here. If you don't feel like driving, contact one of our local tour companies for a trip into the hills with the added bonus of great stories about the natural and mining history of the area.
3- Get Wet (and a just a little wild)
Adventurous types will love the wild whitewater of the Uncompaghre River and surrounding snowmelt-fed waterways with a rafting adventure and the unique experience of canyoning through Ouray's many water-filled high alpine gorges and late-summer is the perfect time to go exploring. It's a must do for anyone that enjoys climbing and watersports. If you want a gentler view of a deep gorge, Ouray’s Box Cañon Waterfall and Park offers a short walk to the base of a 285-foot waterfall crashing into a narrow canyon.
If mellow water is more your speed, spend a quiet day fishing one of our many rivers and lakes or ride a tube down the mellow waters of the Uncompahgre River from Ridgway to the State Park. Take in the views and a late-summer sunset on the Ridgway Reservoir on a stand up paddleboard. The healing waters around Ouray extend far beyond our famous hot springs.
4 – Walk Through History
The history of the San Juan Mountains is just as rich as the scenery. Take the famous Million Dollar Highway south of Ouray to explore the ghost towns in Ironton and the Red Mountain Mining District. This area features historic headframes, tunnels, homes and cabins. During its boom time, this valley was home to as many as 10,000 people, 100 businesses, a post office, jail, schools, newspapers, saloons and gambling halls. Must-do hikes in the area include short (and relatively level) trips to the Colorado Boy Mine and the Corkscrew Turntable, which was the terminus of the supply train from Silverton before the steep cliffs of the Uncompahgre Gorge made train travel impossible.
Venture underground at the Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour in Ouray and the Old 100 Mine Tour in Silverton to experience what life was truly like for the miners of the 1800s, then travel back in time in Ridgway to the classic Westerns that were filmed in the San Juan’s on the Ridgway True Grit Film History Tour and to the time when the Rio Grande Southern, Silverton and Durango & Rio Grande railroads ruled the transportation industry at the Ridgway Railroad Museum.
5 – Climb Every Mountain
The mountains surrounding Ouray are home to some of the finest alpine mountaineering and rock climbing routes in all of Colorado, with some of them right in town! A summit photo from the top of our classic 14-er, Mount Sneffels, or less-explored peaks like Hayden, Chimney and Courthouse Mountain, will be a treasured souvenir of your trip to the San Juan’s (and the envy of all of your friends).
Try bouldering along Camp Bird Road, sport climbing at Rotary Park, or multi-pitch climbs in the Uncompahgre Gorge. There are great areas for beginners and families, and an ever growing number of high quality routes for more advanced climbers. Be sure to check in with one of our local guide services and let them teach you the ropes safely. Always wear a helmet, and check out our bookstore and outdoor shop for the latest edition of local guidebooks. (Don’t forget to come back in winter, when the Ouray Ice Park offers endless blue ice to climb.)
At the end of each day, come home to Ouray for delicious food, delightful shopping and a relaxing soak in our sulfur-free hot springs. Stay a few days and explore everything the San Juan Mountains have in store for you.