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         Hooray for Ouragy!
         Ouray, CO (July 2009)
Overall Rating: A
Town of Ouray
    Ouray is a gorgeous Colorado town tucked into a steep box canyon ringed by 10,000 foot peaks.  It is one of my Aunt and Uncle's favorite places and we joined them there for my Aunt's 60th birthday.  I was able to enjoy some great family time and also get away for some mountain solitude.

The first day in town was spent in the heated town pool.  The water is fed by natural hot springs and the town has tiered it into different temperatures and depths.  It is most impressive to swim in an Olympic sized pool in the dead of winter like I did on my first trip.  But we had great fun even in the cool summer.  Sean thought that the pool was the best part of our Southwest trip.  It is impressive, nearly an acre of water.  We especially enjoyed the 'cool' 80 degree deep end where we could jump and dive.  

The highlight of my trip was pealing off from the rest of the group to climb a mountain.  I was determine to reach the snow which still clung to the highest peaks.  Of course, like all good adventures this one began with some really bad advice.  The tourist office insisted I could get my toy SUV (Hyundai Santa Fe) up Black Bear Pass.  However a quarter mile up the narrow dirt road I came to a high knob of rock which the SUV could not clear.  This left me the tricky business of trying to turn around over a 600 foot cliff..  I was pretty sure there was a clause in the rental agreement about not dropping the car over a cliff.  So I executed a twenty point turn, while leaning out the driver's window to make sure the front wheels did not slip over the soft edge.

Luckily, I'd spotted County Road 14 across the valley which looked much more hospitable.  It ended up taking me straight to the top of a pass near McMilan Mountain.  A high alpine meadow carpeted with wild flowers spread across a broad basin with Red Mountain at the opposite end.  My only company was a osprey playing on the wind currents.  Before heading home, I packed the cooler with snow as a treat for the kids.


-  Brian

Emi in the Mountains

 
Gotta Go!
1) County Rd 14
2) Public Pool


Skip It.
1) Perimeter Trail

Red Mountain

Mountain Flowers

Family Grades
Toni (Mom) - A -  "If I lived there, I'd swim in the springs everyday.  To swim, have the view and each those chips.  The fish and chips at O'Brien's Pub."

Sean (10 yrs) - A - "I liked the waterfall that you saw when you looked over at the mountains.  The hot spring was awesome!"

Kyle (9 yrs) - A - "I liked the slimy moss at the bottom of the pool.  I also liked how the pool was warm."

Emi (5 yrs) - A+ - "I liked how I got to meet my cousin-sister Reina."

Details
Ouray, Country Rd 14, Public Pool, Perimeter Trail
Ouray
Why Go
1)  A beautiful alpine town tucked into the Rockies.
2)  Lots of outdoor activities, shops and restaurants.
3)  In the winter, the town freezes the canyon walls and it becomes some of the best ice climbing in the U.S..  So I'm told, since I don't ice climb.
4)  It is also only 10 miles from Telluride as the crow flies, but an hour long drive.  So it is possible to use Ouray as a base camp for some skiiing.

Getting There
Ouray is not located near anything which is one of its best selling points.  In fact, it was a two day trip to get from Ouray back to Charlotte, NC.  The nearest airport is a commuter airport in Montrose 40 miles away.  The nearest large international airport is in Denver which is a six hour drive.  By car, you'll most likely come in from I-70 which is 100 miles to the north, down state highways 50 and 550.  Map    Info on Wikipedia
Advice
1)  Make reservations in advance.  While Ouray has plenty of hotel rooms for its size, it is quite popular. Town Website
2)  It is tough to get to, so if you go, plan on relaxing and spending a couple of days here.
3)  There are plenty of good restaurants, but we thought the fish and chips at O'Brien's Pub were particularly good.
4)  The Box Canyon Park is supposed to have impressive water falls, but we didn't make it.  There is an admission fee.



County Road 14
Why Go
A well maintained dirt road, passable by any sturdy car, which will take you to the top of the mountains for breathtaking views and alpine meadows filled with flowers.
Getting There
You pick up the start of the road near the top of Red Mountain Pass on the Million Dollar Highway (Hwy 550) between Ouray and Silverton.  It is on the east side of the highway.  Apparently the road loops around and rejoins 550 further south, but I didn't travel its whole length so can't attest to the quality of the road south of its peak.  Map  
Advice
1)  Take it slow and only take a car with reasonable clearance, no Porsches.
2)  When I went, I only had a  few hours before sunset.  If I go back, I'll pack a lunch and make a day of it.  If I had it to do over again, I'd park at the top of the pass and then hike north along the ridge of the basin to Red Mountain and back.  There isn't a trail, so you'll be bushwacking it over alpine meadow.
3)  If you're a serious hiker you could hike up any of the rougher dirt roads in the area.
4)  If you're looking to get into the mountains the easy way, there are several guided four wheel drive tours into the mountains.  Check at the tourist center in Ouray.

Public Pool
Why Go
1)  This was the highlight of the stay for the kids.  It is nearly an acre of warm spring water.  There is the 80 degree pool for cooling off during the heat of the day, and the hot pool for soaking in the evening after a long day of hiking.
Getting There
The public pool is right at the north entrance of the town in the public park.  You can't miss it as you drive into town on Hwy 550.
Advice
1)  Go ahead and get passes for every day you're in Ouray.  You'll be coming back.
2)  There are condos for rent, right next to the pool and park, a great option if you have kids.  Check with the rental agencies in town.

Perimeter Trail
Why Skip It
1)  This trail is ten times better than anything in Charlotte, NC.  However, if you are going to work up a sweat I suggest you head up into the mountains (see County Road 14 above).  You get some good views of the town, but they pale to what you'll see at higher elevations.

Getting There
We started our hike by climbing up steep 8th Avenue to the waterfall, and picked up the trail there.
Advice
1)  Take some water, it can be quite steep in parts, though overall it is a moderate hike.


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