Do you have a favorite off-the-beaten-path mountain town in Colorado? For Alan and me, Ouray takes that honor. Situated at 7,700 ft in the San Juan Mountains, the former mining town is a quaint counterpart to upscale Telluride—a skip and a jump over the mountains to the west.
When it comes to charm combined with fun in the outdoors, you can’t beat Ouray. Two-thirds of the town’s original Victorian structures are still used as shops, galleries, restaurants and homes.
Take a self-guided walking tour around town to see what I mean. The Ouray County Museum makes an informative starting point if you’re interested in learning about southwestern Colorado’s mining history.
Outdoor adventures are sprinkled throughout the 13,000 ft mountain peaks that loom over Ouray. Hikers trek to Box Cañon Falls Trail or Lower Cascade Falls Trail directly from town.
A short drive in any direction leads to trails that wind high into the San Juans. Frequented by mountain bikes, ATV’s and four-wheel-drive vehicles. The trails offer fun Colorado adventures wrapped in a scenic setting that just might inspire you to belt out a round of “The Hills Are Alive” from the Sound of Music. It’s that good.
If you’d rather someone else do the driving while you enjoy the views of Colorado’s “Swiss Alps,” several companies offer 4-wheel-drive tours. As an expert driver guides the vehicle along bumpy trails with jaw-dropping views, you’ll be taking non-stop photos. And there’ll be opportunities to explore the many abandoned mines and ghost towns, crumbling relics from Colorado’s silver and gold mining boom.
Lodging choices include bed and breakfasts, historic hotels and chain motels. Some have their own hot springs.
Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodge sits atop a cave system where Ute Chief Ouray once steeped in the waters. Today, patrons come to relax and renew themselves in the vapor caves.
Across town, steam rises from the rocks above Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs. A series of decks house redwood hot tubs holding hot spring water.
On your visit, follow our lead, explore Ouray on horseback followed by a soak in city-owned, Ouray Hot Springs Pool. It’s a soothing ending to a fun day of exploring in our favorite Colorado mountain town.