Hiking in Ouray, Colorado
Outdoor Recreation is Big Around the Little Town of Ouray
Spending our vacations with packs on our backs is not unusual for my husband and me. In fact, that's how we spent our honeymoon, when we went for a five-day hike in the Grand Canyon, where we'd met a few years earlier.
Several months after our wedding, we again hoisted our backpacks for a week-long trek in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Since then, we've enjoyed many days of trail-walking and camping from New England to the Southwest.
And our latest vacation was no exception. We returned to Ouray, Colorado, one of our favorite destinations -- a small town of about 800 year-round residents at an elevation of 7,700 feet in the heart of the Rocky Mountains -- where we camped and hiked and enjoyed some great food (and Steve had some mustache-foaming home brew at Mr. Grumpy Pants a.k.a. the Ourayle House) after we finished our trail-walking each day.
Below you'll find photos from our trip and some of our favorite things to do in Ouray, along with additional information and resources in case you're planning a visit.
All photos on this page were taken by me.
Outdoor Fun in Ouray, Colorado - Here are some of the activities you can enjoy in the fresh air in and around this mountain town.
Click for more information on these things to do:
- Carriage rides
- Hiking and Backpacking
- Horseback riding
- Hot air ballooning
- Jeep touring
- Mountain Biking
- Rock climbing
- Ice Climbing
- Cross-Country skiing
- River rafting and Kayaking
- Exploring ghost towns
- Wildlife and nature photography
- Soaking in natural hot springs
- Trail running (and the 17.1-mile Imogene Pass Run from Ouray to Telluride is held every September)
- Guided Tours
A Guide to Ouray Hikes
Pick up this book on Amazon or at the local Ouray outfitter.
Written by a local hiking enthusiast, this is a valuable and accurate resource for anyone interested in hiking around Ouray.
Our Favorite Hike in Ouray: The Perimeter Trail
A Work in Progress and a Great Leisurely Loop Hike
I'm not sure of the actual mileage of the Perimeter Trail (and neither were the folks in town we talked to, including the nice guy at the outdoor store), but we were told three miles, five miles and six miles, and Steve and I think it was about four miles.
At any rate, it was a wonderful, leisurely hike with opportunities to connect with other area trails along the way.
To reach the start of the Perimeter Trail, you can walk or drive from downtown Ouray to the east end of unpaved 8th Avenue. From the parking area, head up to Lower Cascade Falls, where the Perimeter trail departs to the right. (Eventually, the actual trailhead will be located across from the Ouray Visitor Center.)
The route leads hikers through the forest and around the Amphitheater, which was formed by a volcanic eruption. The well-signed Perimeter Trail then connects with the Baby Bathtubs Trail and heads south across Portland Creek and up to the Three Pines area near Portland Mine road.
The trail continues across an open area called the Potato Patch, with views of Twin Peaks and Whitehouse, then descends to Highway 550, crosses the road and intersects the Ice Park trail.
The Perimeter trail follows the Ice Park trail to the Camp Bird mine road. After crossing the bridge, the trail heads up to the Box Canyon bridge....
....and then through a tunnel before taking you down the mountain to Pinecrest Street and back into town.
Ouray's Box Canyon
A Side-Trip From the Perimeter Trail Or A Walk-In Destination
As we approached the Box Canyon high bridge on the Perimeter Trail, we decided to take a little side-trip, descending to the bottom of the canyon for a walk along the walls of stone to the falls.
Interpretive signs along the metal-grated walkways, which allow you to see through to the whitewater below, explained some of the geology and natural history of the area. Another short side trail identifies native plants and the location of the now-vaulted hot springs that are piped to the popular soaking pools across town.
After checking out Box Canyon from below, we hiked back up to where we'd left off the Perimeter Trail and continued on our way.
Hike Through the Ice Park
Ice Climbing In The Uncompagre Gorge
As my husband and I walked the Perimeter Trail, we came across the Ouray Ice Park, which we'd heard about on a previous visit but never had seen. During our June visit, there was no ice to be climbed, but we enjoyed checking out the piping and water sprayers spread along a one-mile section of the gorge.
Here, you can see Steve on the "catwalk," taking a closer look. Me, I was too chicken to go any further, so I sat down about five feet from the edge and enjoyed the sound of the rushing water below as I imagined the place covered with ice and climbers.
The Ice Climbing Festival In Action
This video includes clips from the ice climbing competition and "mixed climbing" (ice, rock, and other objects). I'll just watch, thanks!
Hiking Ouray's Oak Creek Trail
Instead of following the Perimeter Trail back down Pinecrest Street and into town, we decided to extend our dayhike by another 4.3 miles and continue on the Oak Creek Trail. There are longer options from that point, but we chose to connect with the Twin Peaks Trail and then the Silvershield Trail, which eventually brought us back down to the valley along the Uncompahgre River Walk. We then tromped an additional mile back to our campsite to finish our day of hiking where it had started.
The Oak Creek Trail climbed and climbed, then dropped down for a creek crossing and climbed again, rewarding us with amazing views and gorgeous mountain hiking.
The Neosho Mine Trail
After the ten miles or so we'd hiked on the Perimeter Trail, Box Canyon Trail, Oak Creek Trail, etc., we decided to do a shorter hike the next day. We chose the 4.4-mile, round-trip hike to the old Neosho Mine. We'd read that the first half-mile was steep but then the trail would level out. We'd also read there was a well-preserved blacksmith's shop and other remains of the mine to be seen.
And the hike, which was indeed very steep for at least the first ... well, I'd say it was more like three-quarters of a mile ... didn't disappoint. As always with Ouray trails, the scenery was amazing.
And the old mine site was really neat. In fact, I'd seen the blacksmith's building high on a ledge far above the road leading into Ouray, but I didn't know that's where we were headed on this hike until we arrived.
The Search & Rescue Card
For $3.00 per year or $12.00 for five years, this card will cover you by the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search & Rescue Fund (COSAR). This fund reimburses counties for costs of backcountry rescues. The cards are available at Ouray Mountain Sports and the Ridgeway State Park.
Camping In And Around Ouray - For RVers and tent campers
- 4J+1+1 RV Park & Campground
This is where we've pitched our tent on our visits to Ouray. Owned by the Clark family since 1956, this oddly-named campground is right on the edge of town, so you can walk from there onto the hiking trails or directly to the coffee shop in the morni
- Ouray KOA
Located along the Uncompahgre River, this is a motorcycle-friendly campground. You can also rent a jeep right at the campground and go explore ghost towns and old mines.
- Amphitheater Forest Service Campground
Located at an elevation of 8,400 feet among Gamble oaks and mixed conifers, this campground overlooks the town of Ouray and the "Ampthitheater," which was formed by a volcanic explosion. The campground is a couple of miles from town.
Soak Tired Muscles in Ouray Hot Springs
Open since 1927, Ouray's 250-foot public pool is filled with natural hot springs water, ranging from 96 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit in different areas of the pool. And the water doesn't have the strong sulfur smell common to many hot springs.
There are several soaking sections, a lap swimming section, a diving area, a big slide, a shallow section for kids, and a game area for water volleyball.
On a past visit to Ouray, after a long hike, we walked about five minutes from the 4J+1+1 Campground over to the hot springs facility on a very cold evening and spent a couple of warm hours soaking and yakking.
Orvis Hot Springs and the Wiesbaden Hot Springs and Vapor Cave are also nearby.
More Ouray Resources
- The Ouray Chamber Resort Association Website
Information on dining, shopping, businesses, and events in and near the town of Ouray.
- Ouray Mountain Sports
Need something for hiking, climbing or other outdoor activities while in Ouray? This is a great outdoors store, and I found the staff to be very knowledgeable about the trails and backcountry surrounding the town. You can also pick up guidebooks and