Monday, April 4, 2011

Take a Hike: Ouray, Colorado

Ouray Colorado, known as the Switzerland of America and Jeep Capital of the World, has history, beauty and entertainment opportunities for the entire family.  It has become one of my most favorite places to visit and most recommended trip. 

Jeeping:
If looking for some outdoor adventure and ability to see some of the most beautiful country not available to most, my recommendation is to rent a Jeep or 4-Wheeler for a day or two and tackle the hundreds of miles of off-road trails the area offers.  The difficulties of the trails are numbered from 1 (Easiest) to 5 (Most Difficult).  You can view a map and listing of trails at http://www.ouraycolorado.com/pdfs/Jeeping.pdf. 
The easiest routes I recommend taking for those a wanting to ease into it is Last Dollar Road connecting Telluride and Ridgeway or Ophir Pass connecting Silverton to Telluride.  I love going to Animas Forks, which is an old mining town with many of the homes still standing and able to tour.  The mining community was growing at one time, but ended after an avalanche that killed many of them.  The easiest route to get there is by going to Silverton and taking highway 110 through Eureka to Animas Forks.  From there you can take Cinnamon Pass to Lake City.  If you want to take a more challenging route to Animas Forks, you can get there through Engineer Pass.  My favorite routes include Imogene Pass (hwy 361- near Box Canyon Falls trailhead) which goes from Ouray to Telluride, Cinnamon Pass, and Yankee Boy Basin which is on Hwy 361 starting on the south side of Ouray.  A map can be bought at multiple places in town for more details.  

You can rent a jeep at the Ouray KOA or at other Jeep and ATV rental places located on http://www.ouraycolorado.com.  Most places have you pick up the jeep around 5 pm the day of rental and return it by 4 pm the following day.  On return, the car must be filled with gas and washed.  This can be done a couple of the local gas stations on Main St. 
video


box canyon falls


Hikes:  Here are my recommended hikes, outlined by difficulty.
Easy- 
1.Box Canon Falls- Located 2 blocks up the hill at the west end of Third Avenue.  This is a short ¼ mile easy hike into a canyon.  There is a small admission to the park around $3.00 for adults and $1.50 for children.  
2.Lower Cascade Falls- Drive up Eighth St. to the trailhead parking lot and take short ¼ mile hike to Cascade Falls. 
3.Riverwalk- The river that runs through town starting at the county park/hot springs parking lot has a trail that follows it a couple miles outside of town. 

Moderate-
Alpine Overlook of Ouray
Weehawken Trail to Alpine Mine- Drive to the south end of Ouray and turn right onto Camp Bird Mine Road.  Drive a few miles up this dirt road and you will see the Weehawken Trailhead sign on the right, parking lot on the left.  Once hiking, follow trail signs to Alpine Mine for a magnificent overlook of Ouray from a high elevation.  This hike totals a little over 5 miles.   

Difficult-
Bear Creek Trail to Grizzly Bear Mine- This trailhead is located off of Hwy 550 heading south toward Silverton.  There is a parking lot of the left side of the road right after going under this bridge.  The hike has a steep climb and dangerous narrow ledges.  With evening storms being common, this trail can become dangerous as you gain elevation so starting early in the morning is recommended.  As you hike there is a beautiful canyon below and the mountain is made of colorful slated rock. 

Parking Lot on left-cross street and hike
 above bridge
  
slated rock on hike

canyon below trail
Activities:
Spend a day playing volleyball in the city park, surrounded by mountain views.  Take a dip in the heated Hot Springs pool, go horseback riding, hot air balloon ride, river rafting, or shop at the many souvenir, candy, jewelry, blown glass, and outdoor gear shops in town.
Find more information at http://www.ouraycolorado.com.

Lodging/Food:
The KOA campground has been a favorite of ours throughout the years.  They offer numerous cabins and campsites.  Reservations are recommended, especially during the 4th of July weekend when Ouray has an annual parade and firefighter water fight on Main Street.  It is extremely busy!  http://www.koa.com/campgrounds/ouray/

The Historic Beaumont Hotel offers free tours throughout the week which explains the history of the hotel and antique pieces/furniture located within the hotel.  A nice bar with a heated patio, book store, and Mexican restaurant are also located within the hotel. 
The Goldbelt is another favorite located on Main Street, which is a reasonably priced restaurant with an outdoor patio where you can get a great view.

Scenic Drives:
The Million Dollar Highway located between Ouray and Silverton (Hwy 550) is one of the prettiest drives in the world.  Silverton is another historic mining town with great shopping and beautiful scenery. 

Drive to Telluride by heading north on hwy 550, then take Hwy 62 West, and Hwy 145 South.  In Telluride you can rent a bike and hit the trails in town or take it up the free gondola ride to the top of the ski hill and bike one of there many trails down the mountain.  They also have great shopping and restaurants.  

Driving to Durango by heading further south from Silverton can be another fun days drive to walk through the city.  In Durango, you can take the Narrow Gauge Railroad train through the canyon up to Silverton.  Visit www.durangotrain.com for more information and prices. 

Any further questions, please comment below.

Drive to Telluride Hwy 62

Telluride

Durango train station
   
Silverton downtown




 

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