Ouray’s Newest Watersport

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."

Read more about Ouray's canyon's below. To book a canyoning adventure for you and your family check in with our local guides.

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ouray canyoning festivalPhoto courtesy of Ouray Canyon Festival

Canyoning (versus the more hiker-friendly canyoneering through dry slot canyons) is the preferred term for the sport of descending steep alpine canyons. The quality and variety of canyons found in mountains surrounding Ouray – from the family-friendly trip down Portland Creek to the 280-foot rappel down Cascade Falls – is staggering. All of them feature one crucial element – water: plummeting over cliffs, cascading down tight rapids, and swirling around deep, cold turquoise pools.

Water determines the season for canyoneering, too, which varies from year to year due to spring runoff and fall snow. The canyons are most accessible in August and September, when the weather is warm and the water is low. In early summer, when mountain runoff peaks, most of the canyons are too dangerous to descend.

Canyoning isn’t easy; canyoners use specialized equipment like wet and dry suits, harnesses, ropes, carabiners and anchors to slide through rapids, maneuver around loose rocks and descend precipitous cliffs and waterfalls. While the interior of Ouray’s local canyons may feel very remote, many of them exit right into downtown. Canyoning is an incredibly technical activity, so be safe and learn how to explore Ouray’s canyons at the 2015 Rendezvous International for Canyoning in August or hire a guide to teach you the ropes (and knots) of this thrilling sport.

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