Ouray Overlook, sometimes called the Switzerland of America Lookout Point, is a spectacular viewpoint above the historic mining town of Ouray in southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. The overlook, on U.S. 550’s third switchback south of town, is surrounded by soaring mountains. Ouray, named for a Ute chief, is a great place to roam around with brick buildings from the 1890s, restored Victorian houses, restaurants, and shops. The town, nestled in a valley below the overlook, is also a recreational paradise, with three waterfalls, numerous geothermal hot springs, cliffs for rock climbing, the famed Ouray Ice Park for ice climbing, excellent hiking trails, and miles of spectacular four-wheel-drive roads. The overlook, lying on the highway curve, has plenty of parking and a couple informative signs above Ouray history.
- Reach Ouray Overlook by driving south from Montrose on U.S. Highway 550 or north from Durango on U.S. Highway 550. Ouray Overlook is on the south side of town on U.S. 550. From the south edge of Ouray, drive 1.1 miles up the highway to the overlook on the right.
- After hiking or ice climbing, take a relaxing soak in one of Ouray’s sulfur-free hot springs. Ouray Hot Springs on the north side of town has a huge pool and bathhouse. Other hot springs are natural pools at Orvis Hot Springs and Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa with vapor caves and rooms to let. If you stay at Twin Peaks Lodge or Box Canyon Lodge you can soak in their private hot springs.
- Ouray Ice Park is one of the best and most accessible ice climbing areas in Colorado. The free ice park features over 200 ice and mixed climbs in 14 different areas in a mile-long stretch of narrow Uncompahgre Gorge that’s a ten-minute walk from town. It’s perfect for climbers from novice to expert and is a great place to learn how to climb ice. Every January is the famed Ouray Ice Festival, with clinics, climbing, and lessons. Call 970-325-4288 for ice park info.
- Ouray is called the Jeep Capital of America, with a legacy of old mining roads that explore the mountains above town. Some of the best four-wheel adventures are on the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway over Cinnamon and Engineer passes; Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass; Corkscrew Road; and Poughkeepsie Gulch. Rent a vehicle in town and start driving.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green