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The Switzerland of America: Ouray, Colorado


Nestled in the San Juan Mountains, Ouray is a small Colorado town of outstanding beauty. It is surrounded on every side by tall peaks that cast overwhelming shadows in the evenings and make for early sunsets. Though the population is small, the town is a definite stop for anyone passing through or simply looking for adventure.

Ouray is centralized for outdoor adventures in any season. There are many 4WD trails throughout the area–Jeep rentals are available on every block. You’ll definitely want to jeep up to Yankee Boy Basin if you have the opportunity!

There are several hiking trails accessible from town–the Ouray Perimeter Trail (4.2 miles roundtrip) is one of these. The trailhead is at the Ouray Visitor’s Center and takes you to Cascade Falls, Box Canyon, and the Ice Park by following the surrounding cliffs of Ouray.  You can access the trail at various points from within town.

Numerous campsites are scattered throughout the surrounding range. A mere forty-five minute drive west of Ouray will bring you to the base of Mt. Sneffels (14, 157′), which is one of the most popular climbs in the San Juan Mountains.

A distinctive trait of Ouray is its hospitality. Restaurants, seemingly always packed, and lodging are in abundance. I highly recommend Ouray Brewing Company–I have stopped there many times over the years, and their food is always delicious. They have a wonderful variety of beer brewed in-house. Everytime we stop in Ouray, we make a point to eat at the Brewery. Lodging can be a little pricey in the busy season, but for the expense, the local hotels and B&Bs are very accommodating.

America's Switzerland Ouray
America’s Switzerland Ouray

Recently, Ouray completed the restoration of the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, which was established in 1927 and is sulfur-free. If you’d like a more private soaking experience, Box Canyon Lodge and Twin Peaks both have hot springs available to guests.

Thinking about skiing in the San Juans?  Ouray is just an hour’s drive from Telluride and Silverton.  Silverton is known for its epic steeps and extremes, while Telluride has terrain for just about everyone.

I highly recommend you add America’s Switzerland to your Colorado must-visit list!

Diana Reiter

A Colorado native, Diana is based on the Western Slope. Much of her free time is spent outdoors exploring the unique landscapes of Colorado or enjoying good food and drink with friends. She is an avid photographer and has been writing for ten years.

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