Known as the Switzerland of America, Ouray is a world-class mountain towns and a gateway into the San Juans. Nestled between steep rock faces and 13,000 & 14,000 foot mountains, Ouray is a playground for adventure of the most unforgettable quality.
What’s most amazing about Ouray is that no matter your skillset or fitness level, you can access one of the most stunning core mountain ranges in the world, comparable to the Alps. This is due to the amazing network of off-roading that complements the limitless trails and climbing routes in the San Juan mountain range.
Ouray is simply amazing so when fall colors arrive in October, the beauty only multiplies with vivid yellow aspens scattering the mountainsides.
With the summer crowds dissipating, October is probably the most incredible time to visit Ouray. Check these epic things to do in Ouray in October…
1 | Go Off-Roading in Ouray
Off roading in Ouray is a bucket list experience you CANNOT miss! We’ve done a lot of epic things over our 7 years of full time travel, but off roading near Ouray is one of our top 10 epic adventures ever!
Off roading feels like all-crime no-punishment as you get to tour through one of most stunning mountain regions in the entire world without strenuous trekking.
Ouray sits right beside the towns of Telluride and Silverton and between these 3 towns is a high volume, condensed network of dirt roads. The number of waterfalls, jagged peaks, gorgeous valleys, and history you will discover off-roading is epic.
Unlike many beautiful mountain ranges that are remote and require long hikes or climbs, most of the best views on the San Juans have 4×4 roads to get there!
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.
From Silverton, you recommend a ride up to California Pass and Hurricane Pass, which overlook a gorgeous turquoise lake, and if the conditions are right, complete the Alpine Loop by adding in Cinnamon Pass.
From Ouray, other popular and epic rides are Ophir Pass, Imogene Pass, and Black Bear Pass which is the most famous and the most intense due to the number of sheer drops, hairpin switchbacks, and loose shale base.
2 | Summit Mt Sneffels
Speaking of off roading, if you want a double-adventure combining off-roading with epic hiking, don’t miss Mount Sneffels. Considered an easy class 3 route, this hike is not for the feint of heart. Though only 6 miles roundtrip, the hike is very steep and strenuous. But when you see the views from the summit of Sneffels you’ll know why we consider this one of the best hikes in all of Colorado
Climbing Mount Sneffels is a popular hike that doesn’t require any special skills in the summer. But in October, experience with mountain and/or backcountry is recommended since it is likely you will encounter snow. At the same time, if you have those skills this is the best time to hike Sneffels because there’s no crowds and the snow capped mountains make the views even more beautiful.
If you don’t have backcountry skills, you can also check out San Juan Mountain Guides.
New blog coming soon with more info on how to hike Mount Sneffels.
3 | Soak in the Ouray Hot Springs
Aside from the legendary off roading, the hot springs are Ouray’s main attraction! The Ouray Hot Springs is located right in the middle of Ouray. They have pools of varying temperatures so you can find one that suits you. I personally love their hottest pool called The Overlook which is slightly elevated and provides amazing views of the mountainous horizon while relaxing in the 108 degree pool.
The only con is that in October, the hot spring has already shut down the waterslide climbing wall, and seasonal inflatable obstacle course which the younger kids were bummed about.
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.
4 | Grab Scrap Cookies at Mouse’s
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.” I didn’t believe her at the time but it’s true. The scrap cookies at Mouse’s are made of all the daily leftover chocolate, toffee, and candy scraps from baking and they’re totally delicious!
5 | Hike The Perimeter Trail
As the name says, the Ouray Perimeter Trail is a 5-mile trails that travels around the town of Ouray. This is a great activity to do in Ouray in October!
The Perimeter Trail stays high above town and travels alongs an upper rocky tier and there are various different access points throughout town that you bring you up to the trail. From the higher vantage point, the trail provides amazing views of Ouray above and panoramic views of the surroundings mountains.
Some trail highlights include Cascade Falls, Highpoint Lookout, Uncompahgre Bridge, thr Ouray Ice Park, and the Box Canon Bridge.
6 | See Ouray’s Fall Foilage From Above
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can get equally as stunning views of Ouray by stopping at the Switzerland of America Lookout which is 4 switchbacks up the road when you head south form Ouray. In mid-late October, you’ll see beautiful fall colors interwoven into the pretty historic buildings of Ouray.
7 | Tackle the Ouray Via Ferrata
If you love adventure, don’t miss the Ouray Via Ferrata when exploring in October. Located on the east side of the famous Ice Park gorge, the Ouray Via Ferrata features narrow rock ledge, ladders rungs that cross steep rock faces, and cable traverses that are entirely protected by safety cables.
Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or you’ve never rock climbed before, via ferrata are a safe and fun way to experience the thrill of rock climbing with an added adventure of ladders and cable crossings.
There are now two route options you can take: The Upstream Route and the Downstream Route. Downstream is the more standard route since it is slightly easier, but experienced climbers who want more challenge may want to consider the Upstream variation.
If you do the Upstream route, it’s easy to make a figure 8 loop and do the Downstream route also. It took us about 3-4 hours to complete both.
The Ouray Via Ferrata is free to the public but having the mandatory gear is required and there is ranger at the start who checks if you have:
- EN958 Certified Via Ferrata Energy Absorbing System (AKA Lanyard)
- EN12492 Certified Helmet – Mountaineering
- EN 12277 Certified Harness – Mountaineering
Related – How To Hike the Telluride Via Ferrata
8 | Drive the Million Dollar Highway
No trip to Ouray in October is complete without exploring the iconic Million Dollar Highway! While you could drive the entire Million Dollar Highway to Silverton, the initial 13 miles to the summit of Red Mountain Pass from Ouray are EASILY the most beautiful section of the entire scenic byway!
This section gets some of the most incredible fall colors in October and there are various places where you stop and explore old mining buildings and take photos.
Some highlights along this 13 mile drive are:
- Bear Creek Falls Overlook (3 miles from Ouray),
- Crystal Lake (6.5 miles from Ouray), Ironton Townsite (8.6 miles),
- Red Mountain Overlook & Yankee Girl Mine (11 miles),
- & The S-Loop switchback (12 miles).
To discover other great stops that lie beyond Red Mountain Pass, check out our Ultimate Guide to the Million Dollar Highway.
9 | Hike to Ice Lakes
Ice Lakes is one of the best hikes in the San Juans and it isn’t too strenuous. Getting to the Ice Lakes trailhead is about a 40 minute drive south from Ouray along the Million Dollar highway, and requires a 5 mile drive down a well maintained dirt road.
This hike brings you up to alpine meadows and beautiful alpine lakes that are vivid blue in color!
Tack this on to your day of driving the Million Dollar Highway for an unforgettable day of exploration.
Related blog: How to Hike Ice Lakes near Silverton
10 | Go Rock Climbing
Ouray is a world-class climbing destination due to it’s proximity to epic mountain climbing, the established ice climbing park, and dozens of sport and trad climbing crags within a 30-minute drive.
Many crags are even located right in the middle of town like Pool Wall or the Rotary Park Wall. How many places can you walk from your campground/accommodation right to the climbing area in less than 15 minutes?!
Ouray rock climbing really has something for everyone, which isn’t always the case among climbing towns. Beginner climbers and families will love the various easy climbs tin the Alcove of Pool Wall, experienced climbers can have their test at Technicolor Crag’s harder climbs, or go adventure climbing on multi-pitch routes like El Sueno or Astro Zombies!
If you don’t know how to rock climbing, hire a climbing guide from San Juan Mountain Guides.
11 | Grab a Drink at Ouray Brewery
Ouray Brewery is a favorite amongst visitors. This brewery has great brews on tap, good food, and awesome views. There are cool swing chairs you can sit in at the downstairs bar or on a beautiful sunny day, enjoy the upstairs rooftop patio where you can have mountain views while enjoying food & drinks.
Hope this blog helped you plan an amazing trip to Ouray in October! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments!
- How to Hike Ice Lakes near Silverton
- Ultimate Guide to the Million Dollar Highway
- 30 Epic Things to Do in Durango
- Things To Do in Steamboat Springs in Fall
- Colorado Road Trip Itinerary: Rocky Mountain N.P. to Mesa Verde N.P.
- 7 Things to do in Telluride in October
- 7 Epic Things To Do In Crested Butte
- 24 Things to do in Silverthorne (near Breckenridge)
- Best 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)
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