Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day Trip to Ouray, CO - 9/13/2015

At the Montrose Visitor Center, we learned about the nearby town (about 40 miles) of Ouray. The town is a designated National Historic District and is located in a canyon at the base of the San Juan Mountains at an elevation of 7,800'. It has the nickname of the "Switzerland of America."

There are various natural wonders to enjoy including hot springs, waterfalls, and surrounding mountains with many trails for hiking, mountain biking, or 4WD vehicles. Winter sports are also enjoyed here, including the annual Ice Climbing Festival (yes, they climb waterfalls!) Festivals are held many weekends year round. You can pick up additional information at the Ouray Visitor Center (although we got our info at the Montrose one). With a population of 1,000 and the end of mining opportunities in the area, tourism is now the primary business.

Arriving on Rte 550 South, the public Hot Springs Pool is on the right side of the road. We stopped for some photos, but did not take a dip (although it looked very pleasant!)

Many turtles and lots of fish can be seen in the naturally heated pond next to the pool for humans.

Our next stop was at Box Canyon Falls, a slot canyon with as 80' waterfall of rushing water of the Canyon Creek. There is an entrance fee ($4/adults, $3/seniors) that is paid at the small gift shop and nature center. 

There are two trails. The first is a short walk (500') along a steel walkway to the Box Canyon. You can hear the roaring sound of the falls as you approach.

Steps take you to the bottom of the canyon where these photos were taken. 

Black Swifts (a protected species) can be found here in their preferred habitat in canyon walls sheltered by overhanging rocks near waterfalls. This is their summer habitat before migration to Brazil for the winter. They return to this same location annually, often using the same nest. Most have already left, but there were a couple of nests that were still occupied.

We hiked up the High Bridge Trail here (a steep climb at this altitude of 8,000'). It took us to a suspension bridge over the falls (which are almost entirely hidden from view by the canyon walls). Here is Canyon Creek upstream from the falls. The town of Ouray can be seen from the bridge as well.

We met a lovely couple from Chicago (where our daughter lives). It's always fun to meet fellow hikers along the trail that are enjoying the scenery as much as we are. Of course, these two are much younger than us and had been doing some serious hiking at Black Canyon of the Gunnison the day before. Here are photos of them and one of us, too. 

We drove the short distance back to town and strolled along picturesque Main Street where there are shops, restaurants, hotels, and historical buildings.

We dined at Bien Tiempo featuring Mexican food. We both enjoyed the food and our margaritas. Sadie was happy to be allowed on the deck. 

Following lunch went to the Ourary County Museum that I cover in the next post. We very much enjoyed our visit to this lovely mountain town.

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