The hamlet of Ouray is tucked in a beautiful box canyon in a region known as the “American Alps” for the forbidding, jagged peaks that dominate the landscape. One of Colorado’s prettiest 14,000-foot peaks, Mount Sneffels, towers high over Yankee Boy Basin, a historic mining district where high-clearance vehicles can penetrate far into the tundra. Climbing the 14,000 foot Mount Sneffels is a great experience for intermediate alpinists looking to push their skills to the next level.
In winter, Ouray is known as one of the best ice climbing destinations in the state. Thousands gather each year for the Ouray Ice Climbing Festival, the largest event of its kind in Colorado. With no ski area, the town is otherwise quiet during the long winter. The crowds return in summer for jeeping, hiking, and climbing when Ouray’s population swells to many times its normal size.
Visitors can enjoy the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, a family-friendly swimming pool with water slides. Jeep enthusiasts will find unrivaled roadside scenery on Ophir or Imogene Passes between Ouray and Telluride. But it is the hiking that makes the Ouray area a must-see. There are short trails that start in or near town, such as the Bear Creek National Recreation Trail, originally built by miners up an impossibly steep gorge. Another hike that offers big rewards without a multi-day effort is the Blue Lakes Trail in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness, which can be done as modest day hike. A campsite at the lower of the three Blue Lakes has been called one of the prettiest backcountry campsites in America.