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Adventure Through the Seasons in the San Juan Mountains

Seasons in the San Juan can be quite dramatic and offer plenty of adventure if you know where to look.  Each season is special and brings new opportunities, epic landscapes and time for reflection.  Enjoy this adventure gallery of living and playing in our big terrain, our home, the San Juan in all four seasons. All photos and captions by: Markus Van Meter (@markusvanmeterphoto; IG).

Bee’s Knees

Bee Mathis is an epic climber and just happens to have a prosthetic from the knee down but that doesn’t stop her scaling big walls in the Ouray Ice Park. It’s hard sometimes to grasp the scale of our walls in the gorge until you’re at the bottom of a route looking up. Our Ice Park attracts climbers from all of the world to test their skills on epic routes like Duncan’s Delight.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Bullion King Lake

The San Juan is littered with high alpine lakes and make for amazing summer exploring and even fishing. Getting to them is no easy task even tho’ old mining roads offer limited access to high clearance 4x4s. Count on a hike to reach the best of the lakes and Bullion King is a favorite.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Camp bird Valley

If you have ever spent time in Ouray you know how dramatic the relief is in the Sneffels Range of the San Juan. This image was captured on the way up to Bridge Of Heaven on the Horse Thief Trail revealing the drama of Mother Nature shining light on an Aspen stand in the Camp Bird Valley. It’s times like this you feel rewarded for making the effort to go high as She reveals her secrets.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Columbine Lake

Another of the high alpine lakes in the San Juan except it has that beautiful cobalt blue color from alpine talc that reflects the sun. It’s a less traveled trail but one of the best hikes you can take in the area.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter
Dragon's Breath Markus Van Meter

Dragon’s Breath

Summer monsoons are always a welcome site as the clouds dance with the mountains to reveal not only unique lighting but also familiar shapes. This image, captured from Governor’s Basin shows how the summer rains create lush mountain fauna and interesting cloud formations.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter


The annual pond skim at Telluride Ski Resort is sure to entertain as it draws some of the most unique costumes you’ll see short of Halloween. Some of the best looks are simply the stripped down essence of the locals that call “The Most Colorado Place On Earth” home. To me, this guy is the quintessential “Bro” and the epitome of our mountain spirit.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

High Camp Over Ouray

One of the best things about living in Ouray is you don’t have to go far to “get away”. Such was the case when I hiked to the top of Gold Hill to step back from winter and gain a bit of perspective on where I live. Another example of how Mother Nature can reward you for making the effort. We call skies like this “Sangre Di Cristo” or the “Blood Of Christ” when our clouds catch on fire. You can’t help but think this is what John Denver sang about in “Rocky Mountain High.”
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Lake Como

Nestled in between Hurricane and California Pass this lake is the beginnings of the Uncompahgre River that runs thru Ouray. It’s hard to imagine how deep this lake is or how cold unless you’ve been up close and dipped your toes. In many ways it represents the life blood for the entire valley as it flows to the North out of the San Juan down valley.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Mount Abrams

This iconic peak towers above Ouray and is an easy landmark to pick out as you leave Montrose and head into the San Juan. Covered in snow is when it looks best resembling an ice cream cone that’s melting. Mt. Abrams is Ouray.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

On Lead

There’s something about watching a lead climber that’s mesmerizing as they methodically set a route and protection on a wall and no better place to watch than the Ouray Ice Park. I watched this climber from the bottom of the gorge as he made his way up the 80 foot wall like a craftsman working and perfecting his trade.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Ouray from Twin Peaks

Formed from a glacial cirque as it retreated down valley under it’s own weight Ouray sits in a bowl. This image was captured from Twin Peaks and illustrates the reason why Ouray is called the Switzerland of America. The summer months allow for easy access (relatively) to the higher elevations revealing amazing sweeping landscapes and perspectives.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Pots of Gold

The Last Dollar Road in fall is one of the best places to see fall colors in the San Juan. Huge stands of Aspen color the landscape and remind us of the ever changing seasons. This is one of my favorite clusters and just happened to catch an approaching storm from the west while sun was still shining on the trees. One thing every photographer needs to shoot here is patience.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Revvy Ripper

Skiing in these mountains can be so rewarding as the terrain is steep and if the snow is deep it’s all smiles. Telluride offers some of the best skiing in the San Juan with Revelation Bowl high above town. One of my favorite spots to catch the action is on the Bear Creek overlook at the bottom of the bowl.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Road Less Traveled

With literally miles and miles of mining roads to explore it’s no wonder summer brings out the Jeeps. Sometimes the road less traveled is the best road and more than a metaphor for life.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Sky Walking

Hiking the summer months is the method of choice for mountain travel and it’s easy to spend all day just on one trail. With huge elevation changes, endless trails and vistas it’s no wonder we spend so much time connecting with Mother Nature. Getting above tree line is when it truly gets amazing.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

SUP Santa

When you just can’t get enough of your paddle board because our summer months are so much shorter than winter you just have to get creative to get your fix. And why not? There are tons of ways to slide on the snow here and if you dress up to look like Santa in December then bonus to you and your dogs. San Juan SUP gets out to play on Red Mountain Pass.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

Tangled Up in Blue

A classic route in the lead climbing only section of the Ouray Ice Park, Tangled Up In Blue never disappoints for either the climber or the observer. The ice in the park gets so thick that only the blue wave of light can penetrate offering a blue hue to the gorge.
Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter

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