Hiking the Baby Bathtubs: a Short Sweet Hike in Southwest Colorado
Ouray County boasts a variety of hiking trails easily accessible and ranging from a serene stroll along the river, to a harrowing climb over switchbacks and deer runs. The end result is however the same. You will be rewarded with spectacular views of the San Juan Mountains.
Just a short distance from Ouray is the Amphitheater Campground and a variety of trailheads. The Baby Bathtubs hike is a quick and easy hike perfect for families, acclimating to the altitude, or if you just don’t have a full day.
Easily accessible from town by following the Upper Cascade Falls trailhead at the end of 5th Avenue to the Portland Trailhead sign. Personally, I like to drive up to the second pull out on the Amphitheater Campground Road, and access the trail from this point.
The trail follows a branch of the Portland Creek, beginning a bit steeply, but quickly relaxing into a rolling trail with no intense climbs. After a short walk, the trail comes to a water crossing, which also will explain the name “Baby Bathtubs”. All along the creek crossing, the bedrock has been worn smooth, with little pools all along the creekbed.
This is a great spot to take a moment and marvel at the wonders of Nature. Once accross the creek bed, the trail climbs again, but just for a couple of minutes before descending into a shady tunnel through the trees to a juncture with several other trails, including the Ouray Perimeter Trail, and Portland trail. A pretty little bridge crosses Portland Creek here, and you can easily hop down off the path to soak your feet or just relax in the shade by the water.
At the bridge, there are trail markers for several hikes. Portland Trail is a beautiful hike also suited for anyone, with few switchbacks and no seriously steep parts. Upper Cascade is a little more intense, probably not for little ones, but the view at the top is well worth the work. At this point, you can follow another hike, or turn right, following the Portland trail for a short while before taking another right, and exiting onto the main Amphitheater Campground road just a short distance up from your car.
If you cross the bridge, the path follows on the opposite side of the creek. Quickly, as the shallow ledge becomes a deep canyon. The path will turn from the canyon, with a walk up to a horse path, then opening up to a dirt road which will lead you back down to the main Amphitheater Campground road, just a short walk from where you parked your car.
Don’t forget to pause as often as possible to check out the amazing views! As the path travels from heavy trees to open areas, glimpses of the town below are sure to amaze!
There is a hiking map for all the trails in Ouray County put out by the Ouray Trails Group. One can purchase them in town on arrival at many locations and they are also available in our lobby. The trail group also sells them and gladly mails them. Hiking in Ouray yields over 80 signed and maintained trails stretching hundreds of miles through National Forest and National Wilderness areas. They are a volunteer group and they do the heavy lifting so that all visitors and residents alike can continue to enjoy the beauty that Ouray has to offer. Three cheers for the Ouray Trail Group! and one million thank yous!
Getting There: The Baby Bathtubs Trailhead is located just inside of the Amphitheater Campground turnoff. From the Box Canyon Lodge, turn right onto Highway 550 heading South toward Silverton. At the end of the third switchback out of town, you will see the Amphitheater Campground sign on your left. Enter, and park at the third pull out before the bridge. Cross the bridge, and you will see the Baby Bathtubs Trailhead on your right.