Festivals, Hiking, Biking, Historic Mining Highlight ‘Switzerland of America’
Winter won’t last forever (really). Despite the low temps, short days and seemingly endless snow shoveling ahead for much of the country, it is never too early to start dreaming about your summer vacation plans. Here are five reasons to put Ouray, Colo., the top of your to-do list this summer.
#1 – The Road Less Traveled
One of the most enjoyable ways to explore the beauty that surrounds Ouray is to take a tour into the mountains – via jeep, ATV or off-highway motorcycle. Ouray is such a hotbed for this action that it’s been nicknamed “Jeep Capital of the World.” Bring your own, rent a vehicle in town or hire an experienced, knowledgeable guide to show you the sites along the old wagon roads prospectors and miners built in the 1800s and 1900s. Off-road staging areas are available at Eureka, Hensen Creek near Lake City, Canyon Creek, half a mile southwest of Lake San Cristobal and on Highway 550 south of Ouray at the Engineer Pass turnoff. ATV enthusiasts will not want to miss The Alpine Loop Back Country Byway system, a 60-mile road carved through the San Juans that connects the towns of Lake City, Ouray and Silverton.
#2 – Lore and Legend
Not all of the mines in the area are completely abandoned. You can see firsthand the underground world of the hard-rock gold miner on one of two authentic mine tours. Just north of Ouray is the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine Tour (www.bachelorsyracusemine.com). Here, you can enjoy a delicious miner’s breakfast, take a gold panning class and tour 1800 feet into Gold Hill on a tram. Near Silverton, visit The Old Hundred Mine (www.mintour.com), where you can climb aboard the mine tram for a tour inside and see mining equipment in action. Afterward, try your luck as you pan for gold, silver and semi-precious gemstones in the miners’ sluice box.
The Ouray County Museum, is housed in an old mining hospital. Featuring mining, ranching and railroading history, containing many artifacts dating back to Ouray’s earliest days. You also can browse through the research center, which contains books and other written artifacts and photos.
#3 – Single Tracks and Trails
Ouray also offers well-rounded, off-road experiences for mountain bikers in search of the perfect single track. Bikers of all levels can access numerous back roads and trails that wind above and around Ouray. Whether you are hammering on the single track of Portland Trail, grinding away on Imogene Pass, or taking your time on the easier River Road, there is something for everyone. Box Canyon Falls Park in the southwest corner of Ouray is a must-see. This natural wonder was formed when the rushing waters of Canyon Creek eroded a deep and narrow boxed canyon through fault-weakened limestone. The lower trail, an easy 500-feet hike via a walkway and suspension bridge, will lead you straight into the belly of the falls. Enjoy Mother Nature’s orchestra as thousands of gallons of water per minute roar through the canyon.
You can also take a short (but steep) hike to the bridge above the falls and look down on the fury of the water as it plummets into the canyon – and as an added treat, enjoy beautiful views of Ouray. The area, designated an important bird watching area by the National Audubon Society, is the preferred habitat for the state’s largest population of Black Swifts, a protected species.
For other hikes, visit http://boxcanyonouray.com/activities/summer-activities/hiking/ the Ouray Perimeter Trail guide and look to our blog for more information on hiking trails.
#4 – “Hot” Springs Eternal
The Ouray Hot Springs Pool is the second-largest natural hot springs in the world with nearly a million gallons of water, fed by two local springs. In addition to several soaking sections at a variety of temperatures, the pool has a lap swim section, diving area, large slide, shallow section for youngsters, and game area for water volleyball. Floats are available for rent at the pool. In addition our hotel has natural hot springs onsite. Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs four redwood tubs terraced on the mountainside offer panoramic views.
#5 – Festival Fun
Ouray’s locals know how to have a good time, and they enjoy sharing the spirit of celebration with visitors. Here is a sampling of the festival fun on tap this summer.
June 4, 11, 18, 25 – Mountain Air Music Series: Enjoy free music each Thursday night in June at the town park in Ouray. Bring your blankets and lawn chairs, your dinner, or purchase food and drink from one of the many vendors onsite.
July 4 – Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration – Main Street: This celebration includes parades, kids’ games, fire hose water fights, the Elks Club BBQ and spectacular fireworks display.
July 31 – Aug. 8 – 55th Annual Art Show – Community Center: A nationally juried exhibition, this art show is open to all artists in several mediums, including oil, watercolor and pastel.
Sept. 12 – 42nd Annual Imogene Pass Run – Main Street: A rugged 17-mile race from Ouray to
Telluride, via a 13,120-foot steep mountain pass, Imogene Pass Run is one of the top mountain races in the United States. (www.imogenerun.com or 970-728-0251)
Let the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help you to plan your ideal getaway in Ouray this Summer. Our knowledgeable front desk agents are waiting to help arrange everything from jeep tours to dinner reservations.