Sometimes called the Switzerland of America, Ouray (pronounced, your-ay) is one of the prettiest mountain towns in Colorado, and that’s saying something because there are a lot of them! Located on US Highway 550, aka The San Juan Skyway, which runs from Montrose, Colorado, via Silverton and Durango, Colorado, then 550 continues down to Bernalillo, New Mexico. The portion of the road from Ouray to Silverton is called the Million Dollar Highway, and is one of the most scenic drives in the United States.
The closest major airport city to Ouray is Grand Junction, Colorado, so that is where our trip will begin.
*Recommended hotel in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn.
⇒From Grand Junction, take US Highway 50 south toward Delta, then to Montrose. Continue south through Montrose on US Highway 550 to Ouray. This route follows the Uncompahgre River to Ouray. Drive time between Grand Junction and Ouray: 1.75 hours.
Bonus stop: Ridgway State Park. Located just north of Ouray, this park offers numerous camping options, including yurts. Boating, fishing, wildlife watching, hiking, and birding are some of the activities found at this park. Plus the scenery here is spectacular! Here’s a link: Ridgway State Park.
Destination: Ouray, Colorado
Here is a website link for information about lodging, food, and things to do: Ouray, Colorado
Our first stop in Ouray is Box Cañon Falls Park. Admission: $4.00 per adult and $2.00 per child. Take a nice, easy trail from the entrance to the falls. You will hear the falls before you see them – they roar! Most of the water cascades behind the walls of this slot canyon, but you will catch glimpses of the falls through gaps in the rock and at the bottom. At times, the rushing water seems to appear out of nowhere. This stop is well worth the admission price. We will let the pictures below speak for themselves.
In addition to the easy trail to the falls, there is another trail to the top of the falls that is a little more strenuous (quite a few stairs), but the views are worth the hike.
Upon entering the park, you may notice pipes and sprayers arranged on the rocks along the side of the road. These are used to make ice in the winter. Ouray has become an acclaimed ice climbing destination, and the town hosts the Ouray Ice Festival every January.
Our next stop is for a short hike at Cascade Falls. Although it is only about a quarter mile to the falls, this is a moderately strenuous, steep, uphill hike. However, the waterfall is worth a little panting, and there is a nice covered area with benches at a viewpoint.
While visiting Ouray, take a few minutes to learn about the town’s namesake: the great Ute Chief Ouray, and his wife, Chipeta. Their former farm, located on the Uncompahgre River south of Montrose, is now the site of the Ute Indian Museum. Another home, a cabin, stood near where the Ouray Hot Springs Pool is today in Ouray. By the way, the pool, which has recently been renovated, will delight the entire family! Here’s a link: Ouray Hot Springs Pool.
Eight square blocks of the original town of Ouray are a National Historic District. We would encourage anyone visiting the town to take a walking tour along Main Street. Stop in at the Ouray County Museum for a history lesson and pick up a walking tour map, then take in the many historic sites, as well as the shops and restaurants along the way.
The scenery is breathtaking, and just getting to spend a few hours or days in the peaceful solitude of this town makes it well worth the trip. Unfortunately, our visit was cut short by a large screw embedded in our tire.
We hope our overview of Ouray, Colorado was informative and that we’ve inspired your wanderlust. As we always say, “Just get in the car!” With a little planning, there’s nothing more fun than a road trip, especially when you get to see scenery like this! Until next time…
Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.