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One of the most popular things to do in Ouray is to go to the Switzerland of America Look Out Point Sign looted on the Million Dollar Highway - no hiking necessary! The sign is located on the third switchback south of the town and features a stunning view of the valley looking north, which is the view you see in most Ouray advertising.
Address: 52 Co Rd 361, Ouray, CO 81427
Historic Ouray looks just like it did back in the old Wild West Days. The town is lively (and dusty from the unpaved side streets) and full of a variety of places to eat, drink and shop. Some shop hours are misleading as if it's slow, shops close early especially during COVID because of a lack of labor forces.
If searching for a beer, especially one with a view, visit Ouray Brewing and enjoy a Colorado-made brew from the rooftop deck. Another popular spot for beer and a hearty meal is the Red Mountain Brewing Company - expect long lines!
For a little small town coffee, ice cream or sweet treat, visit Mouse's Chocolates + Coffee. It's hot in Ouray summers so a nice post-hike ice cream keeps hikers cool. I suggest the vanilla bean and the huckleberry ice cream together in a cup or cone. Mouse's Chocolates is a small family business chocolatier that uses Belgian chocolates for all of their handmade treats. They also roast coffee, the antique way!
If searching for a good read about Colorado history, find one of many small-published books at the Ouray Bookshop. They also sell locally handmade greeting cards and the Sand Bottles made by long-time resident, Robert Stoufer, aka “The Sandman.” I had the pleasure of meeting Robert who also works at the bookstore and noted that his sand bottles depict popular Colorado / Southwest wildlife/sceneries using sand that he's collected across 15 different states. Robert learned the craft from his father and has been making sand bottles in Ouray since 1977.
Ouray's Perimeter Trail is one of the more popular outdoor activities in town. The trail goes around the entire town, but luckily you don't have to walk the entire route to enjoy some of the best highlights.
The Perimeter Trail is six miles in length and totals 1,600 feet of elevation and normally takes around 4 to 5 hours to hike. The good news is that you're never too far away from town so you can enter and exit the trail at anytime. Hikers are never more than 500 feet vertically or one-half of a mile horizontally from the city's limits.
If walking the entire route, I suggest starting in the morning and beginning at Cascade Falls or the Visitors Center so you can avoid the direct sunlight during the morning hours. Highlights include the Cascade Falls, views of the Amphitheater, Box Canon Falls, and unlimited views of the city from all north, south, east and west angles.
If you don't want to hike the entire trail, be sure to visit the Box Canon Park and Falls and Cascade Falls.
The park is accessible from 8th Avenue, which deadends at the Falls, just several blocks away from Main Street. From the parking lot, it is a short 1/4 mile walk to the Cascade Falls. You can continue on the Perimeter Trail from here.
Box Canon Park and Falls
Another must-visit site in Box Canon Falls. There is a small entry fee to enter the park, but it is well worth it. Box Canon is known as Ouray's own, "Wonder of the World." Box Canon is the culmination of Canyon Creek narrowing, which dumps water over the falls, some saying it pours over thousands of gallons of water per minute. The 285-foot waterfall dumps water into the canyon at rapid speed that visitors can view from the observation deck. Another observation deck is above the falls that also leads through a short mining tunnel.
After a long day of hiking, be sure to soak sore muscles in the historic hot springs. This is a family-friendly destination, and is modernly designed to cater towards kids, families and lap swimmers. Don't let the modern design distract you from the power of the hot springs. These geothermal pools have been used for hundreds of years dating back to the Ute Native American Tribe. Open year round, the hot springs contain a variety of minerals such as: iron, manganese, zinc, fluoride, and potassium. The water is odorless and temperature range from 75 to 104 degrees in their pools.