Affectionately known as the “Switzerland of America,” the charming town of Ouray is surrounded by immaculate and unforgettable mountain splendor. Situated beneath vast peaks and dense evergreen forests, Ouray is located near some of the most exciting and scenic hikes in Colorado.
Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains in all directions, Ouray is a prime destination for a myriad of hikes. This list of recommended local hiking trails will help you choose which ones to explore if you’re not sure where to get started:
Box Canyon Falls Park
Featuring three short and easy hikes located close to Ouray, this park offers stellar panoramic canyon views, an 85-foot waterfall, a trail that passes through a man-made cave, and a serene pool of water surrounded by 100-foot rock walls. Box Canyon Falls also offers picnic areas and educational exhibits on the area’s environmental and historical legacy. Though the park charges an entrance fee, hiking here is considered a can’t-miss local activity if you’re visiting Ouray.
The trail to the summit of this gorgeous 14,158-foot peak is seven miles long, which is considerably shorter than comparable 14er hikes. However, hiking here is said to be difficult and even dangerous at times due to falling rocks and dramatically steep inclines. Helmets are highly recommended for this hike, which is best-suited for those with proven experience and navigation skills.
Making it to the top of this peak will reward you with some truly unforgettable views of the surrounding peaks towering over the Uncompahgre National Forest. Getting to the trailhead takes a 40-minute drive from Ouray.
Top of the Pines
Located 30 minutes north of Ouray, this outdoor recreation area features multiple hikes ranging from easy to moderately difficult. Each offers excellent views of the Sneffels Range and perfect conditions for viewing wildlife. In the spring in summer, these trails are open for hiking, and in the winter they’re used for skate and classic flat-track skiing. Entrance fees are required for hiking and skiing here.
Lower, Middle, and Upper Blue Lakes
A difficult but highly rewarding hike, this trail spans nearly nine miles and explores some truly stunning alpine terrain: crystal clear blue lakes, jagged rocky peaks, and serene windswept landscapes that rise far above the timberline. This trail features a rapid elevation incline in a relatively short amount of time. It’s a good trail for hikers looking to develop their experience, but is recommended only for those who are prepared.
Blaine Basin Trail
This trail begins at the same trailhead as the Lower, Middle, and Upper Blue Lakes Trail but is easier and typically less crowded. You’ll be treated breathtaking views here as well as a stellar display of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Six miles long, the Blaine Basin Trail is said to get steep and slippery towards the end, so take note that it’s not easy going the whole way.
You might think this trail is going to be packed once you start, but reviews say the crowds you’ll encounter are typically headed to the Blue Lakes and that a gorgeous trail that’s sparsely used lies just ahead.
Baby Bathtubs Trail
Easy, hugely scenic, weirdly named, and located just outside of town, the Baby Bathtubs Trail is short hike with water features like small pools and waterfalls that will keep you entertained for hours in the summer and early fall. Portland Creek and the surrounding rocks are the main attractions here, and families in swimsuits are common here on warm days. It’s a spot obviously not recommended for thrill-seeking hikers, but it’s great option if you’re looking for fun without straying far from Ouray.
Weehawken Pack Trail
Located just ten minutes south of town, this strenuous hike clocks in at six and a half miles and features lush forested terrain that opens up to vast views of steep mountain rock walls that are capped with snow for much of the year. In the fall, the gold flourishes of aspens are excellent here.
Ouray Premier Trail
The Ouray Perimeter Trail delivers gorgeous high-elevation views of the town of its namesake and the surrounding peaks. As opposed to most hikes in the area, this one is a loop that offers different terrain and sights throughout its entirety. Like you might guess, a hike this close to town is quite popular, but it’s not a trek inexperienced hikers will find easy. If you hike here during the late fall and winter, you’ll need spikes or snowshoes.
Those are some of the most exciting hikes in Ouray County, Colorado. Have a wonderful time trekking in the San Juans!