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8 Reasons To Visit Ouray Colorado

Pin for 8 things to do in Ouray, Colorado

Ouray is known as The Switzerland of America.  Granted there are high mountain peaks and waterfalls in every direction you look, but I’ve been to Switzerland a few times and I’m sorry to say, Ouray isn’t Switzerland. However, Ouray is gorgeous and worth visiting any time of the year.

We first visited Ouray 6 years ago on our very first trip to Colorado and instantly, I fell in love with its quaint small-town feel and how tightly it’s nestled between the mountains.

At the time, I had never been to any of Colorado’s other epic towns like Telluride, Breckenridge, or Crested Butte and thought I had discovered the best place on earth. Since then, we’ve been to 26 countries and discovered more hidden gems than I can count.

Regardless, Ouray is still an amazing town and somewhere I highly recommend passing through on your travels one day.

Ouray Pack List For Adventure

8 Things to do in Ouray

There is a lot to do here, but these are my 8 favorite things to do when we visit Ouray, Colorado.

Be sure to check out our Guide to Driving the Million Dollar Highway. It has everything you need to know about the best adventures between Ouray and Durango.

Reasons to Visit Ouray Colorado #1: Climb On!

Ouray rock climbing is right in the middle of town.  How many places can you walk from your house or campground right to the climbing in less than 15 minutes?

The approach is super easy, it’s right across the street from the visitors center and there’s also a great climbing area by the old skating rink.  As a bonus, there are quite a few easy climbs that are good for kids or new lead climbers.

Reasons to Visit Ouray Colorado #2: Jeeping

You haven’t had an adventure til you rent a jeep and go 4WD in the mountains surrounding Ouray.

There are so many off-highway roads to explore! Ouray sits between the towns of Telluride and Silverton and the network of dirt roads between the three towns is mind-blowing. The number of waterfalls, jagged peaks, gorgeous valleys, and history you will discover off-roading is epic.

reasons to visit Ouray Colorado: jeeping

We love renting a razor from Rock Pirates in Silverton. Their fleet of brand-new razors is so easy to drive and the owners, Jody and James, are super nice and were very thorough in getting us set up properly to make sure we had a fun and safe adventure. Honestly, we’ve done a lot of rad things, but off-roading from Silverton is of our top 10 epic adventures ever!

If you want an easy and more mellow ride, head to the mining town of Animas Forks. We chose to continue on past Animas and went over California Pass and Hurricane Pass, which overlook a gorgeous turquoise lake. This route was pretty easy to drive and had only a few technical spots.

A few years ago we tackled the challenging Engineer Pass that connects Silverton with Ouray. That was intense (check out the YouTube video below). You can add Cinnamon Pass and complete the Alpine Loop. Unfortunately, there was too much snow for us to do that when we were there in May of 2015.

If you want to get to Telluride, there are a few off-road options. Black Bear Pass is one of the most famous roads out here but you can’t take rental vehicles on due to the number of sheer drops, hairpin switchbacks, and loose shale base. Equally as popular, but not as risky, is Imogen pass. There’s also the much easier driveway to get to Telluride through Ophir Pass.

Reasons to Visit Ouray Colorado #3: Hot Springs

Also, right in the center of town, there is the Ouray Hot Spring pool.  They have pools of varying temperatures so you can find one that suits you. 

I like playing on the inflatable obstacle course in the colder pool (72 degrees), thawing in the warm one (90 degrees), and then baking for a few minutes in the super hot one (108 degrees!). They have a fun waterslide for the kids.

If you don’t feel like swimming they also have a gym to get a workout in and there is a great park outside, which holds weekly concerts in the summer.

Reasons to Visit Ouray Colorado #4: Perimeter Trail

This is a five-mile trail that, as its name says, goes right around the town.  Ouray is nicknamed the Switzerland of America for a reason.  The views are beautiful and one perk is you can’t get lost, the trail goes in a circle!

It does tend to get muddy when the snow melts, so don’t try to hike it in flip-flops like we did the first time!  

There are tons of other great hikes in the area too like Mount Sneffels, which unfortunately has remained on our bucket list because you need a high clearance vehicle to get to the trailhead. We did finally get to do Ice Lakes though and I highly recommend doing that one. You do have to drive down a dirt road for 5 miles, but we did it in our motorhome and it was fine.

Related Blog: How to Hike Ice Lakes

Reasons to Visit Ouray, Colorado #5: Ouray Brewery

A favorite hangout for locals and visitors.  This brewery has great brews on tap, good food, and awesome views.  I especially like the swings you sit in at the downstairs bar.

Ouray brewery, Colorado, things to do
Ouray Brewery has an awesome rooftop terrace where you can enjoy a drink with a view

Helpful hint, don’t forget your ID!  They card you if you look under 100 years old and mean it.  I haven’t been carded in years and I had to walk back to my campsite to get my ID.

Reasons to Visit Ouray, Colorado #6: Scrap Cookies

The first time I walked into Mouse’s Chocolate and Cookies and ordered the scrap cookie the lady behind the counter said, “Be careful, they are addictive,” to which I thought, Yeah right!  I watch what I eat and don’t have trouble controlling my sweet tooth.

Ouray scrap cookies, Colorado, things to do
Scrumptious scrap cookies are the specialty of Mouse’s Chocolate and Coffee Shop in Ouray

I was wrong.

I couldn’t go a day there without eating one of these treats.   Trust me.  Leave your ego outside the door, along with your nutrition habits, and indulge!  

Reasons to Visit Ouray, Colorado #7: Ice Climbing

Since we visited in summer there wasn’t any snow.  However, I have friends who ice-climb there and say it is amazing.

This is a human-made ice climbing venue right in the heart of town (actually it’s part of the perimeter trail). Best of all, use of the park is free (however, equipment and instruction aren’t).   There are plenty of knowledgeable guiding services in town to teach you. 

Reasons to Visit Ouray, Colorado #8: Camping

For me, the best part of staying here was that there is a campground right in the middle of town, which means you literally can walk to every one of these attractions right from your campsite and it makes it easy to do multiple activities in one day!

If you drive to/from Ouray via Durango, make sure to stop at the James Ranch Harvest Grill for the best grass-fed hamburgers ever! They also have a little shop that sells free-range meats, eggs, local cheeses, and other specialty items.

Related Colorado Blogs:

What do you like to do in Ouray?  Tell us in the comments

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Judy Hagemann

Monday 3rd of May 2021

those scrap cookies are to die for!

Colorado Road Trip Itinerary For Adventurers • Nomads With A Purpose

Monday 16th of April 2018

[…] Related Blog: 8 Reasons To Visit Ouray   […]

The Best Sport Climbing Destinations to Take Your Kids • Nomads With A Purpose

Monday 14th of August 2017

[…] While there’s climbing by the old ice rink that has absolutely no approach (you park at the base of the climbs), I preferred the walls above the hot springs, mainly at The Alcove (the Pool Wall).  They do require walking up some screw to get to, so it’s not the easiest approach, but there are a few climbs here that are so great for little kids. I loved seeing the expression on my four year olds face when she topped out First Time Out.  If you’re making a climbing trip to Colorado with your kids check out our other blog, 3 Places to Take Your Family Climbing in Colorado and 8 Reasons to Visit Ouray. […]

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