Some call the mountain town of Ouray the Switzerland of America, as it’s situated in a river valley at nearly 8,000 feet, surrounded by the snow-capped San Juan Mountains. You almost expect to hear yodeling echo from these high hills.

Established in the late 1870s during gold and silver strikes, Ouray survived those boom-and-bust days because it's such a wonderful place to relax. Natural hot springs feed the Ouray Hot Springs, where both locals and visitors come to soak in the therapeutic waters. It's said that Chief Ouray, the Ute Indian after whom the town is named, visited the pool often and held ceremonies in the local vapor cave.

Several waterfalls make for spectacular photos, and a popular activity for visitors is to take a short hike down to Box Canyon Falls, where the water thunders 285 feet from top to basin into a narrow canyon. The town's canyons, in fact, provide the location for one of the most popular winter events: ice climbing. Each January, Ouray proudly hosts the Ouray Ice Festival at the Ouray Ice Park, which features the easy access climbers relish.

Surrounded by deciduous trees such as quaking aspen and evergreens scrub oaks, the town also becomes a spectacularly colored canvas each autumn, drawing visitors who want a closer look at the brilliant foliage. The scenery, the sky-scraping San Juan Mountain peaks and a network of old mining routes are reasons the town is popular with off-roaders, Jeep tours and other backcountry lovers. The San Juan Skyway Scenic & Historic Byway is another popular way to see the area.

A tour of the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine offers a look at what it was like to be a miner, as do displays at the local museum. One may also enjoy a historic tour either by carriage or walking with a ghostly tour guide.

Historic buildings, a wide range of affordable and comfortable lodgings (some with their own hot spring pools), unique artisan shops and galleries, and delicious, diverse restaurants (and the beloved Mouse's Chocolates) keep visitors coming back.

Read a Ouray, Silverton, Telluride & Pagosa Springs Itinerary.


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