Spring and Early Summer in the San Juan Mountains
The San Juan Mountains have a unique season at the start of summer that we like to call “waterfall season.” In June, the high-country snows begin to melt and nature’s faucets turn on full force. The ice-cold runoff is channeled into the craggy folds and steep cliffs of the San Juans and turn them into spectacular waterfalls. Don’t miss the quick hikes to Cascade Falls, the Box Cañon Waterfall and Park and the Baby Bathtubs right in town. A Jeep Tour into Yankee Boy Basin is highly recommended, where you not only see waterfalls like the scenic Twin Falls but you’re likely to drive under one, too!
Touch the Mountains
Ouray’s mountains are right at your front door, so if you crave adventures that take you away from the pavement, here are some unique ways to fill your days in the Recreation Capital of Colorado. All of these adventures are family-friendly, so don’t forget to bring the kids along! Regardless of what your adventures might be, at the end of each day Ouray’s charming and historic downtown will be waiting for you with 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.
Here are five unique ways you can celebrate the spring and the start of summer.
1. Soak in the Views: Nothing beats a hot springs soak to start or end a day of adventures. This year, we invite you to experience the Ouray Hot Springs Pool. Just in time for its 90th birthday, Ouray's historic pool unveiled a multi-million dollar renovation. Enjoy the beautiful views of Mt. Abram, the Sandias and the Amphitheater from the elevated Overlook Pools and spread out among the expanded seating nooks. While you're here, explore all five of our and private Ouray County hot springsxplore all five of our and private Ouray County hot springs. If you need even more heat, extend your Colorado stay, and travel the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop.
2. Break out your trail shoes & camera: If you're looking for the perfect spring waterfall hike but the high country snow is still too deep to get above treeline (and you've already ticked-off the must-do Ouray Perimeter Trail) try out the Sutton Mine Trail, just south of Ouray off of County Road 361/Camp Bird Road. After a tough climb, it levels out above the Dillion Dollar Highway, has million dollar views of Bear Creek Falls, some of the earliest wildflower pockets AND historic mine structures at the end. Don't forget to take lots of pictures and learn how we Leave No Trace in Colorado so that we can preserve the beautiful landscape and historical buildings for generations to come.
3. Ouray's Wonderful, Watery Canyons: Located on the floor of a box canyon and surrounded by high mountains carved by wind and water, Ouray hosts some of the highest quality alpine canyons in the United States; Outside magazine recently chose canyoning in Ouray as one if its "Best Southwestern Adventures." Book a canyoning adventure for you and your family with our local guides and learn how to rappel down our spectacular local falls and gorges. If you want a gentler waterfall experience, Ouray’s Box Cañon Waterfall and Park offers a short but imposing walk to the base of an 85-foot waterfall crashing into a narrow canyon.
4. Get on the Water!: Spring and early summer offer two watery experiences. Raft the exhilarating spring runoff on our local rivers or rent an SUP and chill out at our local "beach."
With the coming of each spring, snowmelt from high in the San Juan Mountains brings increased water flows to our local rivers and adventure opportunities for rafters and kayakers alike. Enjoying this magical time of year is a must, and there is no better way to experience run-off than by boating down an exciting river!
An SUP is the perfect way to explore our calmer waters for a refreshing workout while basking in sunlight under the breathtaking backdrop of the towering San Juan Mountains. A handful of placid lakes and reservoirs make stand up paddle boarding a great way to unwind after a vigorous hike or off-roading adventure. Because many of the lakes and reservoirs don't see choppy waters or wakes from motorized watercraft, first-timers can enjoy SUPing without worrying about high tides or heavy traffic. Visit one of our local outfitters for SUP rentals and ask about the best places to paddle - like Ridgway State Park and Crystal Lake.
5. Crag Hop in Town: While Ouray is probably best known for its ice climbing, the mountains surrounding Ouray are home to some incredible alpine mountaineering and rock climbing routes, with many of them right in town! Spring is a perfect time to explore the lower-elevation local crags when the big peaks are still covered in snow.
Try sport climbing at Rotary Park, in the Sandias or on the Pool Wall and challenge yourself on multi-pitch climbs in the Uncompahgre Gorge. There are 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 or take a bouldering break at Basecamp Ouray in town to learn the basics 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, craft beer, spirits, coffee and chocolates, delightful shopping and, of course, relaxing soak. Stay a few days and explore everything the San Juan Mountains have in store for you!
Bonus: Live like a local
Ouray County may just hold the title for most craft brewers per capita in Colorado, and it’s a distinction we’ll gladly claim. With 3 breweries, 2 distilleries, 3 coffee roasters and 2 chocolatiers to our 4,500 locals, we definitely like our craft beverages and sweets! Tempt your beer taste buds and sweet tooth more after the link!
Ouray has been a special destination of world travelers for more than 100 years. This small intimate community is nestled in some of the most rugged and towering peaks of the Rockies. Set at the narrow head of a valley at 7,792 feet and surrounded on three sides with 13,000 foot snowcapped peaks - Ouray is home to hundreds of miles of historic Jeep roads, sulfur-free hot springs with stunning views and the world-famous Ouray Ice Park.
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.