With access to over 500 miles of jeep trails, and at least as many designated hiking trails, not to mention a variety of outdoor sports and activities, Ouray does indeed deserve the designation of the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Colorado.
Sometimes, though, the destination is not the adventure. In our obsession to make it to the top, we often miss the wonders we actually came here to find. That’s the beauty of a vacation in Ouray though. Time seems to move differently here. A short little hike can take as long as you want it to, and believe me – there are times I have taken hours just to go a couple of miles. Too often, I get distracted by a little side path, and feel compelled to explore, eventually realizing I am not going to “finish” the hike I set out to do. I am never dissapointed however.
Recently while out for a quick hike, a little side trail took us to the most spectacular picnic spot! Along a little creek, the trees seem to have grown specifically to accomodate the tired traveller, and a waterfall played a lovely tune as water trickled over the mossy edge. Flat stones provided a wonderful spot to recline as we soaked our feet, enjoying the peace and beauty.
This “secret” spot was soon revealed to be no secret however, as a group of horseback riders wandered down the path and through our little spot of serenity. Of course, I immediately wanted to go horseback riding, certain that if this is near the end of a ride, they must have found a plethora of even more spectacular visual candy. I’ll be giving them a call shortly – Action Adventure Rides have been providing horseback riding adventures in the Ouray area for a few years now, and not only do they seem to find some awesome trails, their horses are beautiful, well cared for animals who seem to have the perfect disposition for someone who may not ride daily.
Obviously, if the goal is to summit a fourteener, the rules are a little more strict…nobody wants to be stuck at 14,000 feet after dark or in an afternoon storm without the proper gear. It is also important to have a hiking buddy, and let someone know the area you’re planning to explore – no sense in becoming a statistic. Checking weather and trail conditions is always a good idea, and I do not reccomend creating your own trail, it is more fun to follow that little path obviously not travelled as often, but still a path, than to get turned around in an unfamiliar place.
For more extreme explorers, I recommend talking to one of the several amazing tour companies in Ouray, such as San Juan Mountain Guides or Peak Mountain Guides, but again – for a simple day in Ouray, try that little side path – you never know what you might find!