Nestled in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado is none other than Ouray, Colorado – the tiny mountain town often referred to as the “Switzerland of America.”
Ouray is home to everything that makes Colorado so amazing. From thrilling adventures to scenic mountain vistas to natural mineral hot springs, Ouray is a sanctuary for both the outdoor lover and the relaxation enthusiast.
Here are the top five things to do when you visit this beautiful mountain oasis:
What To Do In Ouray, Colorado
Ouray, Colorado is home to some of the best backcountry trails in the U.S. for Jeeps, 4×4 vehicles, dirt bikes, and ATVs. (Fun fact: five of the off-road trails in Ouray have been awarded the Jeep’s Badge of Honor!)
My family and I rented a 4-person ATV from Colorado West Jeep Rentals & Tours on our first day in Ouray, and it was easily one of the most fun activities I did in all of Colorado. We drove the Imogene Pass trail that led us through the San Juan Mountains up to 13,000 feet. Needless to say, the views were absolutely magnificent.
On our way back down, we took a little detour to explore Camp Bird Mine, an abandoned gold mining town between Ouray and Telluride. It was such a unique place to see up close!
2. Via Ferrata in Ouray, Colorado
Calling all my adventures lovers! This spectacularly daring activity is for you.
The Via Ferrata (Italian for “iron path”) is an extreme climbing route along giant slabs of rock. Using ropes, harnesses, and a dash of courage, the climber attaches themself to the steel cables anchored to the rock and travels along the route. It took me and my parents about two hours to complete!
This was such a fun experience that anyone (besides those with a fear of heights) can do! Our guide has taken families with young children, seasoned climbers from the West, and even a 90-year-old man on this awesome adventure.
I definitely recommend getting a guide for your first time, but I definitely feel comfortable doing it on my own after the first trip. We rented our gear from San Juan Mountain Guides. Ryan was our guide and he was great!
Note: If you go to Ouray in the wintertime, try out ice climbing in the Ouray Ice Park! It’s extremely popular during the colder months and seems like a super unique adventure.
3. Hot Springs
Perhaps the most popular attraction in Ouray, Colorado is its hot springs.
Orvis Hot Springs is definitely the best place if you want a true hot spring experience. It’s a beautiful oasis with multiple baths of different sizes and temperatures. The facility is clothing-optional, so no technology of any kind is allowed outside. Make sure to bring a book or magazine to keep you entertained.
There is a locker room with showers, and you can even stay the night at Orvis either inside the facility itself or outside in a tent. A woman I met at Orvis told me that she loves booking a room in the middle of the week so she can get the springs all to herself at night or in the early morning when it’s closed to the public. Just imagine soaking in a warm mineral bath, gazing at the stars with no one else around. Sounds pretty dreamy to me.
Note: If you’re uncomfortable with the lack of clothing (people take the “clothing optional” rule very seriously) or have children, then check out Ouray Hot Springs. It’s more of a pool than an authentic hot spring, but it’s still the real thing!
4. Drive the San Juan Skyway
I’ve driven hundreds of miles through Colorado, and the San Juan Skyway was easily one of the most spectacular drives I did. I only drove part of the skyway from Ouray to Silverton, often referred to as the “Million Dollar Highway”, but there is so much more to see if you want to do the entire thing!
It’s a 235-mile loop through the San Juan Mountains, leading you through gorgeous scenery, abandoned mining towns, and eventually ending up in Silverton and Durango.
While this route is incredibly stunning, it’s also quite nerve-wracking. Most of the drive doesn’t have guardrails and the drops next to you are straight off a cliff. Make sure you go slow on the sharp twists and turns!
5. Go to a Brewery
We enjoyed the Ouray Brewery so much that we ate here twice in two days! There’s a festive rooftop area with gorgeous views of the town and surrounding mountains, and the downstairs also has a ton of character. The bar is decked out with lights and unique decor, and it even has swings instead of barstools!
In terms of the food, the burgers were delicious and they had a pretty good vegetarian selection (important for me!) The draft beers are locally-crafted, and we enjoyed everything we ordered.
We also went to the Gold Belt Bar and Grill after an exhausting day of off-roading, and it definitely hit the spot. We got two pizzas – one vegetarian and one white – and they were out of this world. Overall, it had a great atmosphere and an outdoor patio. We even saw a couple of deer run by while we were eating!