Top 9 spots to visit around Ouray, Colorado

Travel

Summarized in 42 Photos

There are a lot of amazing places to explore in Colorado that picking one place to focus on can be incredibly challenging. This is so much so that the first time we visited Colorado, we spent three weeks bouncing all over the Rockies. Check out that series of 3 blogs to see if there is another area that catches your interest. Otherwise, the decision I was left with from that trip was that I wanted to have a trip dedicated to just one area: Ouray.

Ouray is the perfect mountain town. It is very tightly surrounded by mountains on all sides. It has fantastic shops and a good variety of restaurants - check out our 9 favorite restaurants. It has an absolutely fantastic hot spring. Lastly, there is more hiking than you can possibly explore in just one trip. That being said, I wanted to present the photographer's perspective on what the top 9 spots were from my trip.

Below is a short summary of my experiences from each of the nine, followed by a gallery of my favorite 42 images from this trip. I hope you enjoy my story and images and will consider giving Ouray a visit!

Feel free to enjoy the photos first and then come back up here to read about areas you are interested in learning more about. I also apologize for the seemingly "spammy" links scattered through this blog, but I assure you they are 100% informational. They are either links to other blogs by us with more details, or links to Google Maps listings / websites for you to know exactly where these locations are.

1. Downtown Ouray

1. Downtown Ouray

Of course, the downtown itself has plenty for you to do, as mentioned before. There are plenty of shops and restaurants. Don't forget to spend a day or two or twelve enjoying the amazing hot springs. There is nothing like soaking in hot mineral water with a view of the mountains surrounding you after a long day of hiking. Take a 360 View to further convince you.

2. Box Canyon Park

2. Box Canyon Park

There is a lot to unpack here. There is the Box Canyon Falls Park itself, an official and affordably-charged park that covers a small area of the Box Canyon and leads to a beautiful waterfall at the bottom of the canyon. I highly recommend doing this. There are also views of the "Box Canon" sign above the park, as well as the box canyon river that goes into the town and can be enjoyed from many angles. Our hotel had a patio that directly touched this beautiful river. This is also where we found the secret "Hippie Hot Spring" featured as the main image in this blog. While I haven't revealed the location of this majestic spot, you can take a 360 Tour right next to it!

I also took the unique journey, after discussion with the proper authorities, to the top of the mountain and stood right behind the Box Canon sign. It was a great journey and all from walking right from my hotel! There was also a very nice campfire setup I found just a bit further down. Photos of both are below, of course. Here is a 360 Tour of that simple campsite.

3. Cascade Falls Park

3. Cascade Falls Park

Similar to Box Canyon Falls Park, taking a visit to Cascade Falls Park is a no brainer. The trailhead is right at the edge of town and is just a short 3/4 mile hike to get to this waterfall. It is so tall that you can actually see it from most places in Ouray! It is also along the Perimeter Trail (#5 below).

4. Ice Park Trail along the Uncompahgre River

4. Ice Park Trail along the Uncompahgre River

This scenic trail takes you around the gorge that features the amazing Ouray Via Ferrata. I had never heard of a Via Ferrata until stumbling upon it, but it looks very intense! It is basically a style of climbing where you are secured to a cable system. So while it is rock climbing, it can certainly be much safer than free climbing and so it makes climbing much more accessible to the masses. However, don't take that to think this is easy. You are basically climbing through vertical walls of rock with just small foot-sized metal loops to walk on. The path takes you horizontal and vertical and across bridges of just a single rope in some places. However, I have heard great things about this particular Via Ferrata, which boasts that you have a cable system 100% of the entire time. Not all Via Ferrata's have such a level of cabling. I was tempted to brave this adventure, but honestly lacked the time by the time I discovered it.

I digress, back to the trail! This trail is about 2 miles and is a full loop. At the middle you are down on the water and have a nice walking bridge over the Uncompahgre River. It was a peaceful hike and also a great place to go in the winter, hence "Ice Park"! This trail is also right across the road from the Perimeter Trail.

5. Ouray Parimeter Trail

5. Ouray Parimeter Trail

This trail is quite a feat. It is a trail that goes completely around the entire town of Ouray, up in the mountains. Here is a 360 View of my favorite spot, right between the Ice Park Trail and Box Canyon Falls Park. The entire loop is a surprisingly short 6 miles. I did not take the entire adventure but instead went along several segments on my journey to other areas (like the Ice Park and Box Canyon sign). It also takes you to many of the places above: Cascade Falls, Box Canyon Falls Park, and Ice Park Trail.

6. Yankee Boy Basin

6. Yankee Boy Basin

This is where we shift to going a bit outward from Ouray, but don't worry - not far! Yankee Boy Basin became a much bigger part of my trip than I expected and so I would rank it #1 of places that were a pleasant surprise. First of all - please be safe. This road gets progressively more "out there" and dangerous the further you go. The last 1 mile was so dangerous of a road that I parked and walked that last mile. Shortly into that walk, I saw a jeep flipped over and crushed far into the canyon. The road gets very narrow and full of large potholes. A four wheeler is essential or mountain bike. The road I was on went MUCH further than I explored, but on foot it was not possible for me to get much further than I did. My goal had been to check out the Lower, Middle, and Upper Blue Lakes by Mt Sneffels. I had noted to check out the Twin Falls Sneffel Creek "along the way". That ended up being as far as I got to be safe.

However, the road from Ouray to the Twin Falls Sneffel Creek is absolutely stunning. It is similar to the Million Dollar Highway (#7 below), but with gravel roads that are very narrow. You are in a tighter valley and there are many great spots to stop and enjoy the view. The photos below include quite a few from this area, as there was a lot of area to cover. You will see the four waterfalls, the dangerous road, and the Atlas Mill.

The destination, Twin Falls Sneffel Creek, turned out to be a series of four different waterfalls all within a half mile or less of each other. It was a rewarding view for the dangerous journey to get there. Here is a 360 View of the third waterfall, my favorite of the four.

7. Million Dollar Highway

7. Million Dollar Highway

My photos below do 0% justice of this amazing highway, due to the fact that during my first trip here I did spend quite a bit of time photographing this amazing highway and so I didn't spend as much time photographing it during this trip. It starts directly south of Ouray and the best views are those first 3 or 4 miles. That sounds short, but it will take you a good 20 or 30 minutes to go safely through this windy and narrow road, which in places has no railing and if you are a passenger you will literally not even see the road out of your window, just empty air to a long drop. I am not exaggerating. It is very well paved and a full road wide, but some parts have not a spare inch between the white line and a straight cliff drop. It is one of the most stunning highways in Colorado.

It also leads you to the next two destinations, how convenient!

8. The Mining Town of Silverton

8. The Mining Town of Silverton

This iconic town is tucked in a valley that branches off into three valleys, giving it an amazing view of all three valleys and pushed right against a large mountain. This quaint town only has 2 or 3 paved roads and maybe 1 traffic light. They have fully embraced having a "Western Town" and it is fantastic. There are plenty of great shops and restaurants, as well as trains that pull directly and fully into the town twice a day, before then leaving with passengers to Durango.

It is a beautiful town to photograph and you could honestly consider staying here for a few days of your trip as well! One of the best spots to photograph the town is up the hills (very easy access) to the Christ of the Mines Shrine. It overlooks the entire town and is where some of the photos below were taken from.

9. South Mineral Campground

9. South Mineral Campground

Visiting Ouray to enjoy the hot springs was my #2 reason for coming back to Ouray for this dedicated trip. Reason #1, by a large margin, was South Mineral Campground. If I were to tell the entire story of visiting this location, then the length of this blog would double. Instead, it deserves its own blog post, it really does. I have decided it deserves the title of "Colorado's Best Kept Secret", due to how there is no signage that will lead  you to these amazing waterfalls (take a 360 Tour of my favorite spot). You will likely see few to no people during your hike. However, my journey to revisit this time was fraught with problems. From wildfires to road closures, you can enjoy that story and video/photos from this location now:/p>

Exploring Colorado's Best Kept Secret


So there it is, my nine top places to visit around Ouray, Colorado! Now, your favorite part (or at least mine): Photos! Below are my favorite 42 images, as well as an aerial video compilation to showcase many of these areas.

Comment below which of the nine places you would most want to see!

Hippie Hot Spring

Hippie Hot Spring

A secret spot within walking distance of Ouray, we took the "fun" route of walking through and along the Box Canyon river to find this unexpected hot spring. I later noticed there appears to be a walking path up the hill to get here more quickly.
Atlas Mills

Atlas Mills

Beautiful view that only a drone can capture, as this is an area you cannot walk through. Enjoy a decent view of this mill from the road as well! Located in Yankee Boy Basin.
Box Canyon

Box Canyon

Our hotel is the building in the background, that is how close these amazing views and rivers are to teh city.
Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Ice Park Uncompahgre River

You will not see this while on your hike, as the trail that leads to this dam is private. A drone, on the other hand...
Box Canyon Park

Box Canyon Park

The deep canyon of Box Canyon, which can be viewed from the walking bridge.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

Two of four amazing waterfalls in Yankee Boy Basin.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

A peaceful view of one of the dangerous dirt roads winding through the valley.
Box Canyon Sign

Box Canyon Sign

The "Box Canon" sign is iconic in Ouray, which lights up at night and can be seen from nearly everywhere in town. You can get a good and close view of this sign from the Box Canyon Park trail that connects to the Parimeter trail.
Box Canyon Park

Box Canyon Park

Aerial view of the walking bridge that goes over this amazing canyon. You get a fantastic view of the entire town of Ouray from here as well.
Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway

This photo hardly does the Million Dollar Highway justice. It is just one of my favorite shots from this trip, but this highway is one of the most intense and beautiful drives you can do in Colorado, BY FAR. I highly recommend it.
Mountain Creek

Mountain Creek

This is a creek found along the Million Dollar Highway.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin has endless views and is also much more dangerous than the Million Dollar Highway. Narrow dirt roads, zero rails, cliff edges on even more narrow roads. Be safe and enjoy nature from the road!
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

You can see what I mean here about the narrow and dangerous dirt road, but that view!
Ouray Downtown

Ouray Downtown

The Beaumont Hotel is very photographable.
Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Ice Park Uncompahgre River

The Ice Park trail leads to an amazing view from a walking bridge of this gorge.
Silverton

Silverton

Silverton is just a short 45 minute drive south from Ouray, which goes through the amazing Million Dollar Highway. Plenty of shopping and restaurants, as well as the amazing trains!
Atlas Mills

Atlas Mills

A closer view of this mill from a drone. Located in Yankee Boy Basin.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

The third of four amazing falls that are back-to-back.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

Twin Falls - the fourth waterfall you can get to and one of my main destinations for coming out here.
Box Canyon

Box Canyon

This was taken as we walked through the river to ultimately stumble upon the Hippie Hot Spring.
Cascade Falls Park

Cascade Falls Park

You will not see this view at the base of the Cascade Falls Park. However, a drone does a good job of flying up into this canyon. You can see several large waterfalls in the far back, which from what I can tell have no safe walking route to get to.
Box Canyon Sign

Box Canyon Sign

After some research and discussion with the team behind installing this sign, I was successful at finding a route to get behind this sign and take this image looking out at Ouray.
Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Aerial view of the walking bridge at the end of this trail.
Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Near the start of this trail you can see down this canyon to a larger waterfall. There is no safe or clear way to get up close to that waterfall, but this image will have to do.
Box Canyon Park

Box Canyon Park

Just around the corner from the waterfall is this serene scene at the bottom of the Box Canyon. You can easily access this when going into the park and following the path to the waterfall.
Ouray Downtown

Ouray Downtown

One of my favorite random shots of a shop in downtown.
Silverton

Silverton

Silverton has an amazing view of several mountain valleys, being in the center of where 3 valleys meet. The trains depart from here and head off into the distance towards Durango.
Wild Deer

Wild Deer

A lucky shot from the side of the road just outside of Ouray. That one in the front made a great model!
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

The beautiful mountain ranges you can enjoy in Yankee Boy Basin.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

An aerial view of this dangerous road near the bottom of the valley.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

This was one of the most narrow and dangerous part of the road, with the overhanging road and steep cliffs right next to you.
Cascade Falls Park

Cascade Falls Park

Just a short 3/4 mile hike from the trailhead, which is literally directly in the town of Ouray, this waterfall is a must see if you are in town. It also connects nicely to the Parimeter Trail.
Box Canyon Park

Box Canyon Park

An interesting waterfall coming out of a cave at the bottom of Box Canyon. This is the main attraction of the Box Canyon Park.
Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Ice Park Uncompahgre River

A view of the canyon. If you look closely, you can see the rock climbers braving the Via Ferrata here.
Ouray Parimeter Trail

Ouray Parimeter Trail

One of my favorite paths in the Parimeter Trail, between the Ice Park and Box Canyon Park. It was relatively narrow next to the cliffs with a great view of Ouray, while also feeling isolated.
Box Canyon

Box Canyon

The narrow and yellow box canyon river.
Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Ice Park Uncompahgre River

Close-up of climbers on the Via Ferreta. I was not that brave, but it does look like a very good challenge!
Silverton

Silverton

A simple Hotel sign in downtown Silverton.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

Right next to the first of four waterfalls are these old collapsed structures.
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

This is the first of the four waterfalls that are all about 1/2 mile apart.
Box Canyon Sign

Box Canyon Sign

At the top of the mountain with the Box Canyon sign had this very simple campfire directly on the cliffs overlooking Ouray and the bridge of Box Canyon Park. Quite a view to camp from!
Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

We end here at one of the more colorful landscapes you can find in Yankee Boy Basin.

 


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About the Author

Nicholas Klein

Founder and visual artist, specializing in all aspects of a businesses presence from imagery and video to graphics and web. A graduate of IPFW with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, Concentration Photography as well as an Associates Degree in Business. His personal photography works are focused on landscape, travel, and aerial photography.

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