Hiking in Ouray
Extraordinary Experiences on Foot
Photo Courtesy of Steve Cushard
Whether you call it hiking, trekking, going on a walkabout or rambling, putting your feet into motion and heading into the hills is a wonderful way to experience Ouray. Many of the trails listed below begin in the foothills around town. All of these trails provide you with postcard perfect backdrops and awe-inspiring views. Be sure to look down and around you on the trails. Identifying diverse species of plant and animal life and geologic treasures along the trail is a worthwhile pastime. There is nothing quite like discovering tiny tundra blossoms clinging to the bottom of a rock or unearthing a quartz crystal or even gold in quartz in the trailings of an old mine.
The Ouray Trails Group, a local non-profit, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, has developed and maintains over 76 spectacular hiking trails in the area. The region provides trails for all experience levels, ranging from easy, shorter hikes to longer and more challenging ones. The Hiking Trails of Ouray County, a customized area topographical map and guide, is an excellent source for detailed information regarding the difficulty level, attractions, hazards and location of the trailhead for each of our area hikes. This map is issued by OTG and may be purchased in some of the local shops or at the Visitor Center for $10.
Ouray trails are as varied as they are vast. They often lead to the tops of peaks, where an entire panorama of mountains sits at your feet, but remember to always be prepared by bringing along adequate supplies and letting others know where you are going and when you expect to return. Below are some trail etiquette rules and a checklist of what to take on your journey into the high country.
- Hike with at least one partner
- Pack it in, pack it out
- Don't pick wildflowers or disturb historic sites
- Honor posted signs and do not trespass
- Check daily conditions
- Do not disturb wildlife
- Stay on trails to avoid erosion
- Mountain bikers yield to hikers and horses; all users yield to horses
- Avoid hiking or riding in muddy conditions
- Riders and hikers traveling downhill yield to those traveling uphill
- Trail users should travel single file
- If you use earphones, keep the volume low to hear potential threats or other travelers along the trail
- Make sure children know what to do if separated (hug a tree & stay put)
- Pick up after your dog and obey leash laws
- Call 911 in case of emergency (Ouray Mountain Rescue, under the direction of the Ouray County Sheriff's Office, is always on call for assistance.)
Remember to protect these trails: “Take only pictures, and leave only footprints."
Checklist and Precautions for Day Hikers
- Hydration (water, water treatment device)
- Food (two-days worth: salty & calorie dense)
- Layers of insulation (jacket, gloves, hat)
- Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, hat)
- Light (flashlight, head lamp)
- Camera & cell phone
- Navigation device (map, GPS, compass)
- Fire (lighter, waterproof matches, fire starter)
- First aid kit (first aid supplies, knife, duct tape, pepper spray)
- Emergency shelter (reflective blanket, tarp, tent)
- Walking/trekking poles
It is always a wise choice to check on trail conditions before heading out into the high country. A detailed list describing local trails and current conditions can be found at the Ouray Trails Group website.
Please allow yourself to become acclimated to the elevation before taking strenuous hiking trips. Jogging or walking at lower elevations prior to coming to Ouray, or just starting out here, with the Perimeter Trail, will help significantly.
Give your self and your travel group peace of mind by purchasing a Search & Rescue Card. For only $3.00 a year or $12.00 for five-years, you are covered by the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Fund (COSAR). This fund reimburses counties for large costs associated with backcountry rescues such as helicopter air lifts. These cards are available at Ouray Mountain Sports and the Ridgway State Park.
Encounters with Wildlife Guidelines
While it is rare to encounter a black bear or mountain lion along a trail, we do share the alpine environment with them. Never approach, startle, or feed any wild animal, especially a bear or lion with young. If you encounter a bear: stay calm, back away, and speak softly. Step off the trail and allow the bear to leave.
If you encounter a lion: make yourself look larger by raising your arms or opening up your jacket. Never turn your back and run. Pick up small children to keep them from running.
A Ouray hiking guide is available for download or you can find it at the Visitor Center in Ouray.