Ouray, Colorado

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Thursday, February 11th, 2010

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This tiny town in southwest Colorado has often been called the Switzerland of America, with its picturesque snow-capped mountains surrounding the town on three and a half sides.

Ice climbers challenging themselves on a frozen waterfall in the Ouray Ice Park. (Colorado Tourism Office)

At nearly 8,000 feet, Ouray has been established in the San Juan Mountains part of the Rockies since the gold and silver rushes of Colorado in the 1870s.

While most small towns that flourished during the time have died away, Ouray survived. There are around 800 residents, but the number swells thanks to the excellent Ouray attractions.

Ouray lodging options range from affordable hotels to luxurious bed and breakfasts with their own hot springs.

The quaint town of Ouray is a great place for a relaxing vacation. Natural geothermal hot springs feed the town pool, which both tourists and locals love to soak in. People even say that the Ute Indian chief which the town was named after, Chief Ouray, used to come to the pool often.

Area waterfalls are another big draw, for hikers, photographers and every kind of nature lover. A popular hike is up to Box Canyon Falls, which has cascades 285 feet high.

Yankee Boy Basin is just outside of town and is where you’ll find the spectacular Twin Falls.

Each January, the Ouray Ice Festival livens up the winter. Autumn brings the Jeep Jamboree and a brilliant show of the red and orange changing aspen leaves.

History buffs will love the town’s museum, which takes visitors back in time to the gold rush, when some thirty mines were active in the region. If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience, go to the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine and see in person where the old miners used to work.

Skiing is divine at nearby Telluride Ski Resort, just ten miles northeast, although because the shortest route is so treacherous, it’s for all intensive purposes about 50 miles (an hour) away.

Ouray is the nation’s winter ice climbing capital. It is the site of the world’s first ice climbing park, which expanded on the already popular natural falls. The falls range from 80 to 200 feet high and can be found along more than a mile of the Uncompahgre Gorge. The park is free and attracts climbers from all around the world.

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