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 totally worth visiting any time of the year.
We first visited Ouray 4 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. Click here to learn more about Downsizing Your Life to Travel More.
Regardless, Ouray is still an amazing town and somewhere I highly recommend passing though on your travels one day.
There is a lot to do here, but these are my 8 favorite things to do we I visit Ouray, Colorado.
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. And as an added 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.
We love renting a razor from Rock Pirates in Silverton. Their fleet of brand new razors are 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 on 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 drive way 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 temperature so you can find one that suits you.
Personally, 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 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! 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.
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.
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 all the way 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 obviously watch what I eat and don’t have trouble controlling my sweet tooth.
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:
- Colorado Adventure Road Trip Itinerary
- 7 Things to do in Telluride in October (make sure you check out the Via Ferrata)
- 7 Epic Things To Do In Crested Butte (go Mountain Biking)
- 24 Things to do in Silverthorne (near Breckenridge) (so many rad hikes here!)
- Ultimate Guide To Skiing Breckenridge Resort (and snow boarding)
- Ultimate Guide To Skiing Keystone (yep, boarding too)
- Things to do near Breckenridge in Winter (besides skiing)
- Mountain Biking Breckenridge
- Fall Hikes in Breckenridge
- Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park (+tips for visiting)
- Backpacking Maroon Bells in Aspen
- Rock Climbing Colorado: 3 Great Spots for Families (+ Beginner Leaders)
What do you like to do in Ouray? Tell us in the comments