Ouray is one of the most enchanting towns in Colorado. I imagine that many travelers would agree wholeheartedly with me. Ouray is not big…it is not glitzy…it is really pure Colorado. Summertime is my favorite time to visit, but I would not wait until summer! You can walk all over the town and visit with the friendly shopkeepers. Ouray really takes my imagination back to an era from many years ago.
To get the full experience of Ouray, I suggest driving from Durango through Silverton. Durango was founded in 1880 by the Denver & Rio Grand Railroad. Located 71 miles south of Ouray, Durango has a Victorian downtown that has been admirably restored. In Durango, you can ride the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
A few years ago, we rode the train in December and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. You can ride the train one way to Silverton or take a round-trip back to Durango through the fall. During winter the train goes into the valley north of Durango. When we rode the train during winter, we stopped about halfway and had the chance to get off for some waiting hot chocolate. Fun!
When driving to Ouray from the south, Silverton is a small historic mining town that been described as “a gritty little mining town with Victorian pretensions”. The town was founded in 1875. After leaving Silverton, the best part of the drive is waiting for you and your camera.
The drive to Ouray is spectacular and exciting as you take on the road known as the Million Dollar Highway. The drive is only 24 miles long, but takes about 45 minutes. Dramatic curves edged with sweeping views of mountains are the norm. You can spot very old mining buildings and we were able to explore one of them. A very real history lesson engaged our children immediately.
Yankee Boy Basin Falls, Ouray
Soon afterwards, the town of Ouray could be spotted in the distance. Located in a valley, the pretty town has a collection of interesting inns and lodges as well as cabins available for rental through VRBO and HomeAway and other similar websites. Ouray offers delicious meals at numerous restaurants, shopping galore and the best cure for sore muscles after a mountain hike…a sulfur-free hot springs pool facility. There are actually five public and private hot springs located in Ouray.
Hot Springs Pool in Ouray.
During the day, opportunities for mountain activities are immense. Or perhaps you just want to sit on your porch with a good book and a view of the mountains. As much as we enjoy the views, we could not resist renting a jeep! There are countless jeep trails, but some passes are closed even in mid-summer because of late spring snow. There are numerous companies to rent affordable jeeps and there are also guided tours available. Ouray offers various levels of off-highway driving and…what I consider…the best close-up views of the San Juan Mountains. Ouray is known as the “jeeping capital of the world” and there is good reason for this distinction!
Jeep Trails in Ouray.
Other exciting activities choices include water rafting, mountain climbing, biking, fishing, exploring canyons, riding horses…and the list goes on and on! Ouray…an absolutely historic town filled with Victorian buildings, amazing views, and magnificent mountain views!