San Juans » Things to do in Ouray
Ouray, Colorado is one of those charming towns that has something to offer to everyone. Whether you want a relaxing vacation, epic adventure, or a blend of both, you’ll find it in Ouray. Ouray is on the Western Slope region of Colorado, about one hour from Telluride. From the moment you arrive, you’ll fall in love with the towns vibrant colors and natural beauty. So what are you waiting for? Let’s take a look at 10 things to do in Ouray, Colorado that even those who haven’t been there before will appreciate!
Ouray Hot Springs is the perfect way to unwind after a day (or several!) of epic adventures. Whether you’re wanting fun and games or a nice relaxing soak, you’ll find it at Ouray Hot Springs. There are five different pools, each with their own characteristic and activities. The Hot Pool and Overlook are perfect for a relaxing soak. The Overlook Pool has infinity walls with panoramic views of the San Juan mountains. The Shallow Pool is perfect for families with younger kids, or for anyone wanting to join in on the fun! It’s a kid friendly depth and has a volleyball court, basketball hoop, and float area. The Activity Pool is another fun one. It has an inflatable obstacle course and rock climbing wall. The Lap Pool is exactly what it sounds like… a pool to swim laps. Whether you want to exercise, relax, play games, or a combination of all, Ouray Hot Springs is the perfect place to go.
Ouray is a charming mountain town and hub for adventure. It sits inside a geographical bowl surrounded by stunning mountain peaks. Shops, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and museums line downtown.. Whether you’re interested in clothing, art, home decor, books, or outdoor gear, there are shops for you. Visit the Ouray County History museum to learn about the history of Ouray. An old 1800s miners hospital holds their collection of local history exhibits. Visitors LOVE the Ouray Alchemist Museum. Here, you can explore the history of pharmaceuticals in the wild west. The owner offers private guided tours that must be booked in advance.
Ouray hosts a large collection of art galleries. You can see local photography, painting, glassblowing, and more. Get involved with art by requesting an “art party” from Mountain Dog Arts. They offer private art classes from painting to pottery. In addition to Ouray Hot Springs, downtown has several soothing spas. Many of the local lodges and hotels offer more secluded or even private soaking pools and hot tubs. You can also freshen up with a personalized spa treatment, from messages to mani/pedi’s. There are SO many options for things to do in downtown Ouray. No matter your taste, you’ll certainly find something to enjoy
Ouray has so many great restaurants with a variety of cuisine. For the best mountain views and delicious craft beer, visit Ouray Brewery. Find a table on the top floor, which features open air seating on the top of the building. For a fancier restaurant (that doesn’t lose it’s cozy, mountain town charm) visit Brickhouse 737. They offer farm-fresh American culinary experience. If a classic burger joint is more your style, visit Maggie’s Kitchen. Bon Ton has excellent fine Italian dining. Their creamy Tuscan chicken alfredo as a crowd favorite. Thai Chili serves can’t-miss drunken noodles, ramen, and Tom Kha soup. Mi Mexico serves amazing Mexican dishes at massive portions. Whether you want enchiladas, fajitas, or tacos you’re sure to leave very satisfied. After dinner, visit Mouse’s Chocolates for the best homemade desserts.
The San Juan mountain range is famous for its OHV trails. There are so many great off-roading trails near Ouray. One that HAVE to experience is Yankee Boy Basin. This 9 mile route sits below several dramatic peaks, the most famous one being Mount Sneffels. Mount Sneffels is one of Colorado’s 58 14ers, or, mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet. While you climb above 12,000 feet, you can expect to see gorgeous mountain views and alpine terrain. It’s a great place to see wildflowers in the summer.
The trail starts of pretty easy but gets progressively harder. A high clearance vehicle is required. There are great hiking trails along the way too, such as the Blue Lakes Trail. The Mount Sneffels trailhead is also in this area. Only attempt to summit it if you’re experienced at hiking 14ers and expect the hike to take all day. For any trail above the treeline, start early and be back in your car by the afternoon. This will help avoid being stuck in potentially deadly thunderstorms. Other great OHV routes nearby include; Animus Forks (a super cool ghost town!), Ophir Pass, or Imogene Pass (a high elevation route between Ouray and Telluride).
The Ouray Perimeter Trail is a scenic 6 mile loop around the town. You’ll see stunning views of the town and some of the best natural attractions. The trail passes by waterfalls, bridges, parks, and unique geological formations. You’ll walk by Box Canyon Falls and can add on a visit to the lower falls trail to your hike. You’ll see Cascade Falls, the Baby Bathtubs, Ouray Ice Park, and the Uncompahgre Bridge. The trail officially starts at the Ouray Visitors Center, but you can begin anywhere with an established trail. The full loop takes around 4-5 hours and has about 1500-1600 feet of elevation gain.
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, check out the Chief Ouray Mine Trail. Although the trail is only 4.3 miles, it’s considered difficult because of how steep it is! You’ll gain around 1800 ft of elevation in only a mile and a half. The trail leads to the famous Chief Ouray Mine. You’ll pass beautiful waterfalls, a creek and have great views of Ouray. You’ll have to cross the creek, which can be tough if the water is high or icy. The trail is accessible from the east side of the Ouray Perimeter Trail. I recommend parking along Amphitheater Campground Road or the Cascade Falls trailhead.
Box Canyon Falls Park is home to a stunning 285 ft waterfall. It’s located in a narrow quartzite canyon with interesting geological formations. The park has two sections – upper and lower falls. The lower falls trail takes you inside of the canyon where you can see the falls and rock formations up close. Watch the water cascade down the falls in a cool, narrow canyon. The upper trail takes you to a bridge above the waterfall. Here, you’ll see breathtaking views of the canyon and town. Both trails are less than half a mile long. They have a considerable amount of elevation gain in a short amount of time that can be challenging to some. The park charges a $5 fee per person to enter, with discounts for seniors and kids. It’s a good place to have a picnic afterwards. The upper trail is part of the Perimeter trail. The two are easy to pair together! More on the Perimeter trail next.
Test your skills or learn to ice climb at the world renowned Ouray Ice Park. The Ouray Ice Park is a free, public park in the stunning Uncompahgre Gorge. It’s open from mid-December through late March. It features over 150 ice and mixed climbs, from beginner to advanced. Whether you’re a professional ice climber or a total beginner, Ouray Ice Park has an amazing climb for you. The park even has a kids wall. The park itself does not offer guides or gear rentals, but there are several companies in Ouray that do. Guided lessons are strongly recommended for beginners. To really experience ice climbing culture, come to the Annual Ice Festival in January. The festival is a celebration of ice climbing and features several ice climbing competitions. Visit their website to find more information. After spending the day on the ice, head over to Ouray Hot Springs for a relaxing soak.
The Million Dollar Highway is part of the San Juan Skyway. It’s the stretch between Ridgeway and Durango. The full drive makes a wonderful road trip. The most scenic section is between Ouray and Silverton. The drive to Silverton from Ouray takes about 45 minutes one way. You’ll want to factor in extra time though because there are so many great places to stop. You’ll get incredible views of Ouray while driving up the pass from town. You must stop to get a photo with the Switzerland of America sign or well… did you really even visit Ouray? You’ll get great views of the Uncompahgre Gorge and Red Mountain Pass.
There are many places to stop for photos or to explore. Stop at Idarado Mine to explore the outside of the mine and its quaint cottages. Crystal Lake is another popular place to stop. Some consider it to be one of the prettiest roadside lakes. The drive can be scary due to sections with steep drops and no guardrails. Make sure to pay attention to the road while driving. Use the pull outs if you want to stop to look around and take photos. The safest way to drive it is with an appropriate vehicle and in clear weather conditions. Silverton is another great town to explore. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into and old western movie set. There’s plenty of good restaurants and unique shops in town. Plus lots to explore in the surrounding wilderness.
Ouray via Ferrata is one of the most unique things to do in Ouray Colorado. A via ferrata is a technical climbing route. It involves steel cables and ladders attached to rock. Climbers must wear a harness and attach it to the metal fixture to limit any falls. Ferratas are sometimes used on paths to mountain peaks as an alternative to mountaineering or scrambling. Ouray via ferrata may not take you up to a mountain peak, but it’s an excellent place to practice and try out your skills. Ouray Via Ferrata is a free public park in the Uncompahgre Gorge. It’s open from May through October. It’s recommended for inexperienced climbers to hire a guide. Ouray has several local guides, as well as businesses that offer gear rentals. Ouray Via Ferrata has a downstream and an upstream route. Both routes are technical and physically challenging. Additionally, Basecamp Ouray has a private Via Ferrata on Gold Mountain. This route is great for beginners since a guide is required.
*WARNING: This activity can lead to severe injury or even death. Only attempt with the right gear and proper experience or a professional guide. A helmet, harness, and energy absorbing leash are required.
What are YOUR favorite things to do in Ouray, Colorado?
Do you know of something that should be on this list that isn’t? I’d love to hear all about it! Tell me in the comments below.