Nestled between Montrose and Ouray, Ridgway is a Colorado classic – equal parts beautiful mountain town and classic old West. For the vast majority of the tens of thousands of skiers who land at Montrose Regional Airport, Ridgway is simply a stop on the way to Telluride. But this special town is worth exploring. We’ve put together two days worth of things to do, outdoor activities, and sightseeing for an awesome weekend spent in Ridgway, Colorado.
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Day 1 – Movies and Music
Thanks to the stunning backdrop of the San Juan Mountains, Ridgway has hosted numerous film crews over the years. Something of a mecca for lovers of Western movies thanks to its supporting roles in several classics of the genre, Ridgway offers visitors a chance to walk in the footsteps of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. When it comes to Westerns, there really is one name that stands above everyone else: John Wayne.
John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper were all in town as director Henry Hathaway turned Ridgway into Fort Smith, Arkansas for “True Grit”. The gruesome hanging scene from the film is the town’s now lovely Hartwell Park, and the ranch where John Wayne jumps his horse over the fence at the end of the movie is about 10 miles west of Ridgway on Last Dollar Road. A True Grit walking tour ($10) departs the Ridgway Visitor Center at 11 a.m. every Friday between May and October.
After a morning of movie touring, there is only one place to eat lunch in Ridgway – the True Grit Café. Offering “cowboy cuisine,” the True Grit even played a small role in the movie itself. The chicken-fried steak is, they say, the best this side of the Rockies, but their burgers are pretty darn good too. The place is packed with True Grit and John Wayne memorabilia, and is a real experience.
Something else to reflect on while you eat your burger is that when it comes to music, little Ridgway has a big claim – it is the home of the Grammy Awards, literally. The actual awards – as seen being cradled by the likes of Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen – are handmade in Ridgway by local resident John Billings.
To continue the outdoorsy and movie theme of day one, head to Dennis Weaver Memorial Park. Less than two miles away, the park was named for Emmy Award-winning actor Dennis Weaver. Perhaps best known for roles on TV shows “Gunsmoke” and “McCloud,” Weaver was also known as an environmentalist and a long-time resident of Ridgway. His “Earthship” home was built with three-foot walls made of compacted earth and recycled tires and cans, and is something of a local landmark. Take a mountain bike and spend a few hours on the simple but fun trails in the park.
After a relatively big lunch, some lighter fare is probably all you will need for dinner. Taco Del Gnar has your tacos needs covered. The street food-inspired concept coupled with an independent record store atmosphere has brought a different dimension to Ridgway.
Day 2 – Messing Around in Boats
A real gem of the area, Ridgway State Park is a bustling playground in the summer months with residents coming from near and far to sail, hike, bike, camp, and generally enjoy the great outdoors.
Year-round camping is available in the park ( Elk Ridge Campground offers great views over the reservoir) with most open during the high season (mid-May to mid-September), but visitors should really consider staying in a yurt. There are three yurts at the Dutch Charlie area of the park, and they are available year-round by reservation or on a first-come, first-served basis.You can even take your pets!
Ridgway is the fourth host town for the 32nd installment of Ride the Rockies, the seven-day, 450-mile endurance ride across Colorado, June 10-17, 2017. Click here to explore Montrose, the fifth Ride the Rockies host town!