Hiking in Ouray, Colorado

Updated on June 8, 2018
Ramkitten2000 profile image

Deb thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and is a Search & Rescue volunteer and writer living in Flagstaff, AZ.

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:

  • Bird-watching
  • Carriage rides
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking and Backpacking
  • Horseback riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Jeep touring
  • Mountain Biking
  • Mountaineering
  • Rock climbing
  • Ice Climbing
  • Cross-Country skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • 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

Ouray Hiking Guide: Favorite Hiking Trails of Ouray, Colorado
Ouray Hiking Guide: Favorite Hiking Trails of Ouray, Colorado

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.

Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail


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.)

Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail


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.

Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter 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....

Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail


....and then through a tunnel before taking you down the mountain to Pinecrest Street and back into town.

Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail

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.

Ouray Box Canyon hike
Ouray Box Canyon hike
Ouray Box Canyon hike
Ouray Box Canyon hike


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.

Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado
Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado

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.

Ouray Ice Park
Ouray Ice Park


For more information on the Ouray Ice Park, visit OurayIcePark.com.

Check out the Ouray Ice Festival, held every January.

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.

Ouray Oak Creek Trail
Ouray Oak Creek Trail


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.

Hiking the Oak Creek Trail in Ouray
Hiking the Oak Creek Trail in Ouray

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.

Hiking in Ouray, Colorado
Hiking in Ouray, Colorado


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.

Hiking Neosha Mine Trail in Ouray
Hiking Neosha Mine Trail in Ouray
Hiking Neosho Mine Trail in Ouray
Hiking Neosho Mine Trail in Ouray
Hiking Neosho Mine Trail in Ouray
Hiking Neosho Mine Trail in Ouray

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.

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.

Questions & Answers

    Have You Been To Ouray? - Share Your Comments Or Questions Here

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      • needhamp lm profile image

        needhamp lm 

        5 years ago

        I miss living in Colorado, Ouray is a magical place, year round.

      • Steph Tietjen profile image

        Stephanie Tietjen 

        5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

        I would love to see this beautiful place. Your photos are wonderful.

      • profile image

        RinchenChodron 

        6 years ago

        Yes, I love it in this spectacular place. Great lens.

      • profile image

        RinchenChodron 

        6 years ago

        Yes, I have and it is spectacular! Love it there. Enjoyed your lens and photos.

      • Wednesday-Elf profile image

        Wednesday-Elf 

        6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

        I love the beauty of the mountains in photos, but I'll leave the hiking to you and other hikers. Enjoyed my 'armchair' tour of your hiking adventure. Colorado is a beautiful state and this page fits well on the 50 States Monsterboard!

      • profile image

        fullofshoes 

        6 years ago

        I had the joyful and unforgettable privilege of traveling through Ouray when I was in Colorado many years ago. It is everything that you say here and more. Of all of the scenery that I have laid eyes on in my travels throughout the U.S. the Ouray trip is the one I talk about the most. Wonderful and very ~blessed~.

      • KateHonebrink profile image

        KateHonebrink 

        6 years ago

        Amazing, spectacular scenery which beautifully complemented your wonderfully-written article! Congratulations on being featured on the 50 States monsterboard!!

      • Scarlettohairy profile image

        Peggy Hazelwood 

        6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

        I lived in Colorado for years (20+) but never made it Ouray. It's a gorgeous spot! Thanks for the photos.

      • profile image

        ohcaroline 

        6 years ago

        You have presented an outstanding lens on hiking in Colorado. Makes me want to go with you.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        6 years ago

        As a child. Did you know the original True Grit movie staring John Wayne was filmed in nearby Ridgway?

      • BlueTrane profile image

        BlueTrane 

        6 years ago

        I've lived in Colorado since 1994 and I'm ashamed to say that I've not yet made it to Ouray. I've been to that part of the state but never to Ouray...it's now on my to do list. Thanks for the great lens...and the shove...

      • ZestCareerCoach profile image

        ZestCareerCoach 

        7 years ago

        It looks lovely, thanks for all the wonderful pics. And for including the search and rescue info, so many hikers don't think about it till it's too late

      • profile image

        trippste 

        7 years ago

        Well put together lens! thumbs up!

      • mbgphoto profile image

        Mary Beth Granger 

        7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

        wow...great information and beautiful photos. Blessed.

      • kTerrain1 profile image

        kTerrain1 

        7 years ago

        Never been -- but your Box Canyon picture has me planning to go.

      • AlexandraHubbard profile image

        AlexandraHubbard 

        7 years ago

        Its so lovely! Those waterfalls!

      • LuvColorado profile image

        LuvColorado 

        7 years ago

        Isn't Ouray beautiful! I am originally from Durango and I do lots of hiking in the Denver area.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        These lens of yours are great. Keep em coming

      • profile image

        RinchenChodron 

        7 years ago

        Fabulous photos of a wonder-filled place. I've also written a lens on Ouray and Ridgeway. Highly recommended place to visit.

      • profile image

        bujanan 

        7 years ago

        Right on! I've been there and the pictures (for a change) actually make it look as good as when you see it. Very nice

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        I havn't been to Ouray, but I must say that it looks fantastic. Makes me want to step out the door right now and start exploring new trails...

      • profile image

        ShamanicShift 

        8 years ago

        No, I have not been yet, but now Ouray is on my list.

      • Sensitive Fern profile image

        Sensitive Fern 

        8 years ago

        I've been through Ouray a few times but haven't hiked around there. I would like to spend a week there. This is just the lens for me today because I'm jonesing for a trip to Colorado.

      • mythphile profile image

        Ellen Brundige 

        8 years ago from California

        Oh my goodness! I've done several of these hikes as a youngster! Also one up on Red Mountain... I think? It's been so long.

        I loved Box Canyon. Never got to Ouray in the winter to see the ice falls.

        Have you ever tried Jeeping? We always took a jeep up from Ouray to Imogene Pass, stopping here and there along the way so as to get out and stretch our legs. Tomboy up at the top, and Imogene Pass and Ptarmigan Lake, are just extraordinary, if you get there when the snow's pulled back and all the flowers are blooming.

      • Kiwisoutback profile image

        Kiwisoutback 

        8 years ago from Massachusetts

        You see so many things hiking that you can't see from most campgrounds or on the road. I've never been to Ouray, but it looks beautiful.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        8 years ago

        Now, this is beautiful country to see Deb. Thanks for taking us along by way of this awesome visual tour of Ouray. You and Steve sure do have fun!

      • drifter0658 lm profile image

        drifter0658 lm 

        8 years ago

        It has been far too long...far too long. How ya doin' Rammy? I was doing some lens research earlier and remembered being on this lens before. Ouray is where the original True Grit was filmed, and through your images, I can see why...

        Do they have motorcycle trails? I can see they have the beer ;)

      • profile image

        julieannbrady 

        8 years ago

        I have made my mind up, thanks to our little monster Kipsy, to start hiking the great sights of the world ... why not start right here in Colorado -- hey? Doesn't Gil live in Colorado??? Maybe he and I could go hiking together ... he might have the edge on me though! Let's get it started ...

      • ElizaRayner profile image

        Eliza Rayner 

        8 years ago from Boulder, Colorado

        I just found this page and will lensroll it to my explore the Ouray Ice Park page. I have only been to Ouray in the winter to climb in the ice park (I am headed there in 2 weeks in fact!). I would love to visit in the summer, beautiful pictures you have here!

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        8 years ago

        Happy New Year! I was able to visit your website and found it very interesting and helpful. I am working the month of January for a startup company here in Boston that has created a website for outdoor enthusiasts to find hiking, biking, climbing or skiing in their area based on their interests. The Website is called www.alltrails.com. This is (and will always be) a free website thatâs goal is to make access to the outdoors possible for anyone and everyone in the United States. To be successful, however, we are going to need help building more specific content for the website. This is where we would love to have you assist us. In return we can offer you specific incentives through our website that would include driving people to your site. Please know that we are not at all trying to just take your already very useful information. We are simply trying to create and interactive website that will allow people to further discover the outdoors. If you are interested, I would love to talk with you about the opportunity.

        Thanks and Best,

        Mike Bower

        bowerm@mit.edu

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        9 years ago

        Great lens - have been in that general area - it is beautiful

      • HorseAndPony LM profile image

        HorseAndPony LM 

        9 years ago

        Great lens! We need to add this to our list of places to explore.

      • profile image

        high-country 

        9 years ago

        Great lens...I just started mine for Summit County, Colorado.

      • dc64 lm profile image

        dc64 lm 

        9 years ago

        Oh...I want to go! It's so amazing. Colorado is one of the places I really want to visit. Why didn't I move there instead of Alabama?

      • drifter0658 lm profile image

        drifter0658 lm 

        9 years ago

        Beautiful place and a spectacular guide to it. Just another of the 60 reasons why you're are one of the best.

      • Mihaela Vrban profile image

        Mihaela Vrban 

        9 years ago from Croatia

        Haven't been there but I would love to go! :) Beautiful place and wonderful pics! And a blessing! ;)

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