Ouray, Colorado touts itself as the Switzerland of America. I for one have never been to Switzerland, but if it looks anything like this than I am there!
While in town we are staying at the 4J+1+1 RV Park. It’s a nice enough park and we were lucky to get a site right on the banks of the Uncompahgre River. As is typical of most RV parks, the sites are a tad on the narrow side. Since we’re wedged between two 45′ motorhomes we feel a wee bit boxed in. The river view is very nice though, and the sound of the water whooshing past our bedroom windows is divine.
The best thing about staying here is that we’re within walking distance of downtown. Ouray is a town full of history and charm. Once a booming gold and silver mining town, the main industry now is tourism-and they definitely know how to woo the visitors. All of Ouray’s main street is registered as a national historic district. The main thoroughfare is lined with gorgeously restored Victorian buildings that house local shops, restaurants and galleries.
The downfall to staying this close to town is that we have an overwhelming urge to patronize the local businesses. Normally we don’t eat out very often, but this week has been a huge exception. Our first day in town we ended up at the Ouray Brewery. The roof-top seating enticed us, and before we knew what was happening we were perched high above the town, drinking beer, eating burgers and enjoying the view.
Next we made a stop at the Ourayle House Brewery, otherwise known as Mr. Grumpy Pants Brewing co. This place was recommended to us by a blog reader, and who are we to ignore recommendations? A very good recommendation I might add. From the moment we stepped in the door we were hooked. The atmosphere, the funny handmade signs, the plethora of games littering the bar top, the not so grumpy owner, and of course…the beer, all made for a perfect evening adventure. Thanks blog reader Jodie!
We also enjoyed some delicious sandwiches from the Timberline Deli, a meal at the Bueno Tiempo Mexican restaurant that was muy bueno, and a few sweet treats from Mouse’s Chocolates.
After all that eating and drinking we really needed to get a move on! Lucky for us Ouray has no shortage of awesome hiking trails. We didn’t have to go far for our first hike. The five mile Perimeter Trail starts at the visitor center, climbs up into the cliffs and circles the town from above.
It was a great trail with varied terrain and near constant views of the town below and surrounding mountains.
Before heading back down to town level we had to cross Box Canyon on a bridge high above the river. The view of the town from the bridge was pretty impressive.
After crossing the bridge we made our way through a small tunnel and down a steep set of stairs. Phineas can be a bit skittish in these bridge, tunnel, stair situations, but Tim held his leash tight and moved him quickly through all the obstacles. Before the old guy even knew what had happened he was down at the bottom. Good dog.
Our second hike took us up to new heights. This was our first official hike that climbed above the 10,000 foot mark. We did start at 8,600′, but it still counts as a milestone for us. The Bear Creek Trail begins a few miles south of town on Rt. 550. The first section consists of a series of steep switchbacks that climb 1,000 feet up into the mountains. With every turn the view got better and better.
As we rounded the final switchback and began our journey back into the gorge, Red Mountain came into view. This is the same Red Mountain that we passed when we drove into town on the Million Dollar Highway.
The hike east into the gorge followed a rather precarious route along the edge of a steep cliff. I didn’t get any pictures of the most dramatic sections because Tim kept telling me to put the camera away and pay attention to where I was walking. Good advice I suppose.
As we made our way father back into the gorge Bear Creek appeared wayyy down below.
The hike ended for us at the remains of the Grizzly Bear Mine. The trail continued quite a ways father, but it was getting late in the day so we decided this was a good place to turn around. I’d like to think that we experienced the best part of the trail, but this is Colorado, so who knows what we might have found around the next corner.
Finally, we couldn’t leave town without experiencing one of the numerous four-wheel drive roads that dot the surrounding hills. We chose to travel up to Yankee Boy Basin. This high altitude meadow is known for its year-round beauty, especially in the summer when blooming wildflowers fill the basin. This time of year we didn’t find many flowers in bloom, but we did find plenty of snow.
Our GPS told us we had reached 12,600 feet and the weather agreed. A biting wind nipped through our lower elevation outerwear, the clouds continuously threatened to block out the warmth-giving sun, and as we rushed back to the safety of the truck snow flurries began to swirl around us. Despite the cold, it was breathtakingly beautiful.
That’s it for our Ouray adventures this year. All week we’ve been having an ongoing conversation about when we will return to Colorado. This summer we’re moving through the state rather quickly and only have time to stay at each place for one week. The reason for this quick pace is some firm plans for the month of August that involve a trip to South Dakota to finalize our new residency, a two week stay with our much missed friends Leigh and Brian, and a fantastic Airstream caravan up to Banff Canada. As we plan out the next two months it has become obvious that we don’t have nearly enough time to see all that Colorado has to offer. What all this means is that we’re already thinking about spending next summer in Colorado as well. So lovely little Ouray, it looks like this is not goodbye, but rather, see you next year!