Home » Colorado Rockies Activities » Ouray Attractions
Ouray, Colorado is a tiny village at the bottom of a steep box canyon in the Colorado Rockies. Ouray attractions include ice climbing in the winter and exploring the abandoned gold mines in the summer.Ouray lodging is available year-round as cozy bed and breakfasts and affordable chain hotels.
Because of its breathtaking scenery of steep snow-capped mountains, Ouray has been called “The Switzerland of America.”
We here at Rockies.com have compiled a list of activities to help you start planning your vacation to beautiful Ouray. Enjoy!
Discover Ouray’s History
This town at almost 8,000 feet was first established in the San Juan Mountains when the gold and silver rushes were overtaking the state, around 1870. The Ouray County Historical Museum (the former Miners Hospital) is a good place to start, but to fully understand what it was like, you need to visit the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine, or one of the other now abandoned mines. There were once 30 operating in the area!
Ouray’s Geothermal Hot Springs
Going even further back in Ouray’s history are the area’s hot springs. The geothermal mineral waters have been erupting since the creation of the Rockies, and were visited by the original habitants of the area, the Ute Indians. Even Chief Ouray, who the town is named after, used to frequent the town’s pool. Some area hotels even have hot springs on their grounds for guests to relax in.
Spectacular Waterfalls near Ouray
The Ouray area waterfalls are plentiful and include Twin Falls, in the nearby Yankee Boy Basin. Another popular hike takes you past fields of wildflowers to Box Canyon Falls, which falls 285 feet to the basin below.
Ice Climbing in Ouray
Thanks to all the waterfalls in the area, Ouray has also become known as an ice climbing capital. The Ouray Ice Festival occurs each January and draws climbers from all over the world. For the festival, locals have helped along Mother Nature, installing drip hoses along more than a mile of falls along the Uncompahgre Gorge. The free park has frozen cascades 80 to 200 feet high.
Autumn in Ouray
As the canyon is filled with aspen trees, the change of the leaves from fertile green to brilliant orange and red is quite a sight to see. Drives in the area in the Fall offer some of the best landscapes in the Rockies. To reach the town, you have to cross some difficult terrain, so it is no wonder that it is considered the Jeep capital of the world. The Jeep Jamboree is an event that takes place in the fall in Ouray, bringing together the outdoors and Jeep owners from miles around.
Skiing near Ouray
Ouray has its own ski hill with a free towrope, a great way to get those leg muscles warmed up for the season. When you’re ready for a big resort, head to Telluride, about an hour away. Save tons of money staying in Ouray and keep your money for the lift ticket! Silverton is an extreme skiing resort south of Ouray, and the San Juan Mountains offer backcountry skiing in every direction.
Much of the old Victorian architecture and 1800s buildings from the mining days are still standing in Ouray. Walk around town to see the Beaumont Hotel & Spa (1886), St. Elmo Hotel (1898), Walsh Library (1899), Livery Barn (1883), and the Historic Western Saloon Restaurant (1881). In 1983, both the Colorado and National Historic Authorities named Ouray a National Historic District. There are also modern shops and trendy boutiques for those who like to shop!
The Million Dollar Highway
This 25-mile stretch of pavement runs north to south between Silverton and Ouray. It is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. It is open year-round, but is a potentially dangerous drive, especially in winter. The stretch through the Uncompahgre Gorge is particularly sticky, with lots of hairpin “S” curves and no guard rails. During the ascent of Red Mountain Pass the remains of the Idarado Mine are visible.