Colorado is famous for its 52 fourteen thousand feet mountain peaks but one of its hidden treasures is situated in a river valley at 7,700 ft. in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Here lies the spectacular mountain town of Ouray in Southwest Colorado. This small intimate community is nestled in some of the most rugged and towering peaks of the Rockies and is set at the narrow head of a valley and surrounded on three sides with 14,000 feet snowcapped peaks – Ouray has been eloquently nicknamed the “Switzerland of America.”
Ouray officially began in 1876 with the eager stroke of the mining prospector’s pick; however, the future brought with it those simply inspired by its beauty. Because of Ouray’s majestic peaks, cascading waterfalls, natural hot springs, the famous Million Dollar Highway and its reputation for being the Jeep Capital of the World, modern visitors flock to Ouray as much for its beauty as the miners of the past did for the riches they hoped to find.
The present year-round population of approximately 800 swells considerably in the summer months as thousands of travelers visit this unique valley but the town can not grow much and is only six blocks long and six blocks wide. It is not uncommon to find a wandering bear or a family of deer crossing Main Street. Ouray is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Whether you set out to conquer the mountains with rope and carbineer, on foot, bike, or four-wheel drive—there’s a route for everyone. There are panoramic vistas, mountain basins with waterfalls and wildflowers gracing each turn. Autumn is truly an outstanding time of year, with aspen stands and mixed conifer forests exhibiting glorious displays of golden colors and an inspiring winter wonderland waiting to be discovered should one visit then. At night when the lights meet the formations of ice and snow they join in a shimmering dance of magical light. There are few inhabited places where one can look up to view millions of stars and see the Milky Way so pronounced. It’s no wonder that this area has been described as the “Gem of the Rockies.” Remarkably, about two-thirds of Ouray houses original Victorian structures, both private and commercial, and have been lovingly restored in order to preserve their turn-of-the-century charm.
Ouray is the perfect retreat for rest and relaxation. Throw away your cares to experience the area’s outdoor opportunities or stop in one of the many reputable art galleries, shops and restaurants that line Main Street. After only a day you’ll find you, too, are a local and will realize this is one place you’ve visited that you won’t want to leave. Only a nine hour drive from El Paso, this is a vacation you will want to remember for the rest of your life. Take a step back in time to enjoy the Victorian architecture, friendly mountain people and a peaceful atmosphere that runs on its own time. Reward yourself – escape to the dramatic and breathtaking beauty of Ouray and transform yourself in this year-round recreational playground.