The Western Slope of Colorado is often lost to the bustle of activity and ease of access that the Front Range offers. This is the land where countless classic western movies were filmed for its stark beauty and historic feel. The jewel of the Western Slope are the San Juan's, and nestled in the heart of the San Juan mountain range is a little town called Ouray.
This little berg is nestled in a North-South valley that doesn’t see a lot of sun, but thinks of itself as the “Switzerland of America”. While founded on mining with an economy that was once based on a booming gold and silver industry, now this town survives off of tourism almost entirely, and there is a reason for that: if you like adventuring outdoors in the most remote and beautiful places the West has to offer; this is your Xanadu.
In the winter, Ouray is in full stride. Located a short drive from Telluride and what i think is the most diverse and well kept skiing and snowboarding slopes I have ever seen. The man made ice climbing waterfalls (the first in the world) at the edge of town are truly impressive and offer a lot of great climbing opportunities. And, after a long day in the cold you can relax in the municipal hot springs or in the Weisbaden Vapor Caves (although my wife described the rooms as “kitschy”, so you might want to investigate alternate lodging). If you are more adventurous, Orvis Hot Springs is well known for being a little more liberal in their community guidelines (read, booze and nudity are allowed).
A lot of folks think that Colorado is a Winter only destination, but the outdoor activities available in the summer will keep you wishing for a long Spring and a mild Fall. The Alpine Loop network of trails that is accessible from Ouray are breathtakingly gorgeous, and offer some fun overlanding opportunities if you are into four wheel drive adventures. The hiking will have you in touch with your inner Jeremiah Johnson. Last, but not least, if you like riding mountain bikes, you won’t ever want to leave the western slope, or at least not until you push it too far and actually try to Die Living on a big downhill.
If you’re in the mood for finely crafted local beer and a good meal, head to the Ouray Brewing Company. For years, the restaurant market was dominated by The Outlaw Restaurant (which still has a fine prime rib and steak offering), but the market has expanded to a more vibrant market at the brewery. If you don’t care about food, or service, get the best beer I’ve ever tasted served with a frown at Mr. Grumpy Pants Brewery. I kid you not, I asked for a sample from the owner/head brewer/bartender and he gave me a baby bottle and a grimace. It’s a riot there, and you are served from a hanging sliding seat so that the bartender doesn’t have to stand up or walk around behind the bar.
Ouray is the perfect incarnation of the Colorado you dream of, not the one the front range has tried to create. Don't miss out on the beautiful scenery, exciting adventures, and relaxing opportunities that are available in this old mining town. Winter or Summer, our is the kind of place where you can #DieLiving.