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Box Canyon Falls View

How do you spend a long summer weekend in Colorado? This guide will explain exactly that as you’ll discover the 7 best summer things to do in Ouray.

Bring along your hiking essentials for this beautiful mountain adventure because there are so many things to do in Ouray, Colorado!

Key Takeaways

  • Hot Springs: Ouray is known for its hot springs, and the perfect place to unwind is at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.
  • Perimeter Trail: This trail is walkable from anywhere in town and provides breathtaking views.
  • Box Canyon Falls Park: A unique park with hiking trails, an inner canyon waterfall, and overlooks of downtown Ouray.
  • Million Dollar Highway: World-famous scenic byway from Ouray to Durango, including panoramic lookout points such as “Switzerland of America Lookout Point” and “Bear Creek Falls Overlook.”
  • Downtown Ouray: A very walkable, cute downtown area with several shops, restaurants, and bars.
  • Summer Events: Ouray International Film Festival and Jeep Raffle contribute to the lively atmosphere, providing entertainment and a chance to connect with the local community.
man standing by a white Toyota Forerunner near the Switzerland of America sign in Ouray, Colorado

👉 Interested in other outdoor adventure destinations? Check out these posts: How to Plan a Day Trip to Olympic National Park and 13 Best Road Trip Destinations for Couples in 2024

What are the 7 Best Summer Things To Do in Ouray?

There is definiately more than just 7 things to do in Ouray but this guide includes some of the favorites, especially if you have only one or two days to spend in Ouray. This itineary is filled with outdoor adventure as well as squeezing in a bit of vacation relaxation too.

1. Ouray Hot Springs Resort

Ouray Hot Springs Resort in Ouray, Colorado

One of the best things to do in Ouray during the summer (or in any season) is to start the day by chilling out in the rejuvenating Ouray Hot Springs Resort Pools.

Or, round out your day after all the hiking adventures and soak your sore feet in the soothing waters. Stay until nightfall and experience stargazing from the comforts of the warm hot springs water.

Because Ouray Hot Springs is open all day, you don’t have to worry about missing an opportunity to check out this relaxing experience. Also, their hot springs are sulfur-free, meaning there’s no stinky smell or slimy build-up.

Travel Tip! Ouray Hot Springs is open until 9 pm. What’s even better is that you pay one entrance fee and can come and go ALL DAY!

Walkthrough and view from Ouray Hot Springs
  • Walkability: It’s located in downtown Ouray, so you can get to it easily. What’s unique is that it’s surrounded by mountain views, so you’ll feel totally encapsulated.
  • Check the Pool Temperatures: There are a variety of hot spring pools. Before taking a dip, check the temperatures of the various pools to find the one that suits your comfort level. It’s a blast jumping from pool to pool, starting out in the cold one and then making your way to the hotter ones.
  • Amenities: The resort also offers amenities such as an adult-only pool, lap pool, and water slides, providing a diverse range of water activities for everyone.
  • Bring Towels and Swim Gear: Pack towels, swimsuits, and any other necessary swim gear, as the resort does not provide these items for free.
  • Visit During Off-Peak Hours: To avoid crowds, visit during weekdays or off-peak hours in the early morning or late evening. However, the resort and pools are large enough to accommodate a pretty large crowd.
  • Stay Hydrated: Soaking in hot springs can dehydrate you, so be sure to drink enough water. You can also bring your own water bottle or purchase drinks at the resort.

2. Perimeter Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.4 miles (loop)
  • Duration: 3+ hours
  • Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 1,499 feet

The Perimeter Trail in Ouray, Colorado, is a hiking and mountain biking trail that surrounds the town, offering breathtaking views of downtown Ouray and the surrounding San Juan Mountains.

The best part? It’s a FREE activity! That alone makes it one of the best summer things to do in Ouray. At times, the trail can be rugged, rocky, slippery, or even icy in winter when it is covered with snow and ice.

There are several access points throughout town, so you can create your own adventure and only hike part of the trail if you’re running short on time or not up for a full-day hike.

Travel Tip! Make the Ouray Visitor Center your first stop. It’s like a little gateway to this beloved mountain town. The folks there are very friendly, and there’s even coffee and nice restrooms.

The Perimeter Trail starts across the street from the Visitor Center, and the Hot Springs resort is practically in the same parking lot so, you can experience the best summer things to do in Ouray, CO, all in one spot.

3. Box Canyon Falls Park

Check out the power of this beautiful waterfall!

Upper Box Canon Falls

  • Trail Length: 0.3 mile (out & back)
  • Duration: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 177 feet

Lower Box Canon Falls

  • Trail Length: 0.3 mile (out & back)
  • Duration: 7 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 26 feet

The Box Canyon Falls Park’s main attraction is a powerful waterfall that drops from an elevation of 285 feet into a deep and narrow granite canyon.

This waterfall hike takes you right up on the falls from the overlook, where you can feel the power of the water forcing its way through the mountain. It’s so loud!

To access the waterfall and the inner canyon, you have to cross a suspension bridge that spans the gorge and allows for an up-close view of the falls.

The roaring waterfall, the suspension bridge, and the serene canyon setting make it a unique must-do attraction.

For more detailed information like hours of operation and entrance fees, check out the Box Canyon Falls Park & Nature Center.

4. The Million Dollar Highway

The Million Dollar Highway is a world-famous scenic byway located in southwestern Colorado, and it’s scary (in my opinion)!

The highway extends for about 25 miles from Silverton to Ouray and then continues south to Durango. The drive can feel pretty risky, but you’ll get some stunning mountain views along the way. It’s a great spot for people who like an adrenaline rush.

Travel Tip! If you’re afraid of heights, then this drive is not for you. Otherwise, have fun and stop along the way to take in the beautiful mountain views.

It made our list as one of the best “summer” things to do in Ouray because there’s no way we would drive this in winter. We drove the Million Dollar Highway for about a mile or two, then turned around at the first chance we saw.

We drove up to Pike’s Peak in February, and this highway scared us more than that, even though we drove the Million Dollar Highway on a beautiful summer morning with little traffic.

5. Switzerland of America Lookout Point

Switzerland of America- Ouray, CO

Don’t miss out on the “Switzerland of America” lookout point when visiting Ouray in the summer. The view is totally worth it!

It makes for an enjoyable stop because it’s accessible, and the drive to get there is not too scary. The lookout point sits on the edge of town yet feels miles away. The drive is about 1.5 miles and takes about 5 minutes.

Travel Tip! Go in the morning so there’s plenty of room to pull over and take in the sights.

There are amazing panoramic scenes of the rugged alpine landscapes resembling the Swiss Alps. You can see snow-capped peaks in winter, wildflowers in spring, and crystal-clear mountain streams that give this place its unique charm.

If you prefer a more rugged all-terrain experience, check out Switzerland of America Tours. They offer 4×4 Jeep adventures in the San Juan mountains and are located in the heart of Ouray.

6. Bear Creek Falls Overlook

To be clear, this is not the hike to Bear Creek Falls, nor is it located in Telluride. There’s a lot of confusing information on the internet, probably because “bear creek” is a common name. Although, it’s possible we just misunderstood the directions. Who knows.

It was quite a wild goose chase trying to find this lookout point. We kept reading about the Bear Creek Falls hike, so we thought we had to gear up for a big hike to see this waterfall.

We pulled over on the side of the road and crossed the highway. Then, we climbed up the steep, slippery side of the mountain until we finally figured out this was probably NOT the correct way to the falls.

Thankfully, we stopped soon enough and then drove a teensy bit further where we discovered a large parking lot and, the actual Bear Creek Falls overlook we had been searching for this whole time.

Apparently, the overlook is just 3 minutes up the road from the Switzerland of America lookout point.

7. Historic Downtown Ouray

Itineraries can get jam-packed with many things to do, but it’s important to remind yourself to pause, breathe, and relax. After all, it is a vacation!

Ouray is the perfect retreat from all the big city noise. Take a stroll through this charming historic downtown, where you’ll find art galleries, boutiques, bars, and restaurants.

Where To Eat and Drink In Ouray, Colorado

Travel Tip! If you’re visiting Ouray in winter, dont’ miss the annual Ouray Ice Festival. Plan an ice climbing adventure at the Ouray Ice Park.

Switzerland of America Lookout Point- Best Hikes in Ouray, Colorado

Where is Ouray, Colorado?

Nestled in the heart of Colorado’s rugged San Juan Mountains, Ouray is a hidden gem that truly comes alive in the summer.

It’s known as the “Switzerland of America” for its stunning alpine landscapes. In addition, this quaint mountain town offers a unique blend of outdoor adventures, natural wonders, and a rich history.

Several other charming towns surround Ouray including Ridgway to the north, Silverton to the east, and Telluride to the south.

Ouray, Colorado, is situated in the southwestern part of the state and has an elevation of approximately 7,800 feet (2,377 meters). Its mountainous terrain and natural beauty make for the perfect summer getaway.

This means you can expect a cool and refreshing mountain climate, especially in the summer. But it’s also warm enough to get a nice tan at the Ouray Hot Springs Resort.

What’s great about the location of Ouray is that the elevation isn’t so high that you experience altitude sickness. At least we didn’t experience it here as much as we did in Breckenridge & Silverthorne.

Hanging out at Hot Springs in Ouray, CO
Catching a tan at the Ouray Hot Springs

What To Pack for a Trip To Ouray in the Summer?

Pack your must-have hiking gear and travel essentials when visiting Ouray this summer.

  1. Oxygen Canister: Ouray is situated at a high elevation, and carrying an oxygen canister can help alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness and ensure a comfortable stay.
  2. Hydration System: Staying hydrated is crucial at higher altitudes, helping to prevent dehydration and combat the effects of thinner air.
  3. Hiking Boots or Sandals: With numerous scenic trails around Ouray, sturdy hiking boots provide proper support and traction for exploring diverse terrains. Remember to pack a pair of your favorite hiking sandals for waterfall hikes.
  4. Packable Microfiber Towel: Compact and quick-drying, a microfiber towel is convenient for hikes, hot springs, or any water-based activities during your visit.
  5. Sunscreen: The high-altitude sun in Ouray can be intense, making sunscreen essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
  6. Packable Jacket: Even in summer, evenings can get cool in the mountains, so a light jacket will keep you comfortable during cooler temperatures.
  7. Daypack: A small daypack is handy for carrying essentials during hikes and day trips, ensuring you have everything you need while exploring.
  8. Camera/Smartphone: Ouray’s stunning landscapes and charming town are worth capturing, so having a camera or smartphone is essential for creating lasting memories.
  9. Reusable Water Bottle: Staying eco-friendly and hydrated, a reusable water bottle is a sustainable choice. This handy reusable water bottle from Takeya keeps your water ice cold while trekking up those rugged mountains.
  10. Trail Snacks: Whether hiking or just exploring, having portable, energy-boosting snacks ensures you stay fueled and ready for adventure throughout the day.
Our Pick
Boost-Oxygen

Boost Oxygen Canister

Huffing oxygen throughout the day and right before sleep helps to ease migraines and breathing difficulty. The canisters come in different sizes, so you can buy a large one to keep in the car or hotel and a travel size to keep in a backpack for hiking.

Our Pick
Wise-Owl-Compact-Towel

Wise Owl Microfiber Towel

Bring your own towel to the Ouray Hot Springs Resort because they charge $10 to purchase a towel. The sand shakes right off, and it dries out unbelievably quickly. It’s been so useful in various situations, like a plane blanket, a tablecloth while camping, a shower towel to cover up while sleeping in the airport, and to hide from sunburn.

Where to Stay in Ouray, Colorado?

We stayed at the absolute cutest cottage located directly on Main St. It was within walking distance to everything in town, including a beautiful park and Ouray Hot Springs.

Management was very communicative, and the instructions were thorough. It was spacious, very clean, and had all the comforts of home.

We couldn’t have asked for a better stay. We love the Cascade Cottage!

Airbnb home in Ouray, CO
We stayed at this awesome Airbnb Home in downtown Ouray, Colorado.

Day Trips from Ouray, Colorado

The day trips below include one-way drive time approximations. Remember that driving in the mountains often takes longer than what Google Maps says.

Ridgway State Park

Drive Time: Approximately 15 minutes

Explore the scenic beauty of Ridgway State Park, offering opportunities for hiking, boating, and enjoying the peaceful surroundings.

Telluride

Drive Time: Approximately 1 hour

Embark on a picturesque drive to the historic town of Telluride, known for its charming streets, vibrant festivals, and stunning mountain views.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Drive Time: Approximately 1.5 hours

Witness the breathtaking beauty of the deep and narrow Black Canyon, with opportunities for hiking, scenic viewpoints, and wildlife spotting.

Travel Tip! Don’t forget your National Park passport book to collect a stamp.

Silverton

Drive Time: Approximately 1.5 hours

Immerse yourself in the old-world charm of Silverton, surrounded by towering peaks, and consider taking the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Mesa Verde National Park

Drive Time: Approximately 2.5 hours

Discover the ancient cliff dwellings and archaeological wonders of Mesa Verde National Park, offering a fascinating glimpse into Native American history.

Durango

Drive Time: Approximately 2 hours

Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Durango, known for its historic downtown, outdoor activities, and the scenic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Grand Mesa Scenic Byway

Drive Time: Approximately 3 hours

Experience the beauty of Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-topped mountain, with opportunities for fishing, hiking, and taking in stunning views.

Canyonlands National Park (via Montrose)

Drive Time: Approximately 3.5 hours

Explore the mesmerizing landscapes of Canyonlands National Park, featuring deep canyons, towering mesas, and unique rock formations.

Arches National Park (via Montrose)

Drive Time: Approximately 4 hours

Venture to Arches National Park to witness over 2,000 natural stone arches and a surreal desert landscape.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Drive Time: Approximately 4 hours

Experience towering sand dunes contrasting against mountainous backdrops at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Hot Springs, Ouray, CO

How To Get To Ouray

Whether you’re arriving by air, car, or other means, here’s a guide on getting to Ouray, ensuring you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty and adventure this mountainous haven offers.

  • By Car: Ouray is conveniently accessible by car, situated along the scenic U.S. Highway 550, also known as the Million Dollar Highway. If driving from Denver, take I-70 West and then head south on U.S. 550 from Montrose.
  • By Air: The nearest major airport is Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ), which is approximately 50 miles from Ouray. Visitors can rent a car at the airport for a scenic drive to Ouray or arrange for shuttle services available at the airport.
  • Public Transportation: While public transportation options are limited, shuttle services and private car services operate between major airports and Ouray. Check for seasonal options, as services may vary depending on the time of year.
  • Nearby Towns: Ouray is surrounded by charming towns like Ridgway and Silverton. Consider exploring the area by driving through these neighboring gems.
  • Travel Tips: Be prepared for mountainous terrain and changing weather conditions, especially if driving. Consider acclimating to high altitudes to prevent altitude sickness. Check road conditions and closures, particularly during winter months.
best summer things to do in Ouray

How Do You Say “Ouray”?

To be honest, we had never even heard of Ouray, CO, so we definitely didn’t know how to pronounce it. We didn’t know where it was located either.

Travel Tip! It’s enunciated, “Y-OO-r-ai.” Like, “Hooray, we’re going to Ouray!”.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Ouray, Colorado in the Summer

Summer in Ouray is a blast! The town becomes a hub of activity for outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike, bike, and explore the great outdoors.

But if you’re up for a real adventure, check out the off-road 4×4 trails that lead you to stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Jeep tours are a popular way to experience the rugged terrain, but you can also bring your own vehicle if you’re feeling brave.

And when you’re ready to take a break from the action, stroll down Main Street to check out the town’s charming Victorian-era buildings. It’s like stepping back in time!

Whatever you’re into, Ouray has something to offer everyone. I hope this guide helps you make the most of your visit to this amazing town!

Box Canyon Falls- Ouray, CO
Box Canyon Falls- Ouray, CO

Travel Resources

✈️ Get the best flight deals with CheapOAir and escape to your dream vacation!

🛌 Book accommodations with Booking.com and rest easy when everything is done in advance.

🚗 Rent a car with Discover Cars so you don’t miss out on those unique roadside stops.

🥾 Confirm activities & tours in advance with Viator so you don’t miss out on conquering those epic bucket list adventures!

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Ouray a great summer destination?

Ouray, often called the “Switzerland of America,” boasts stunning mountain landscapes, charming architecture, and a variety of outdoor activities, making it an ideal summer getaway.

Are there family-friendly activities in Ouray for the summer?

Absolutely! Families can enjoy activities such as hiking the Perimeter Trail, visiting Box Canyon Falls, or taking a stroll through the charming downtown area.

Are there any events or festivals in Ouray during the summer months?

Yes, Ouray hosts various events, including the Ouray County Arts Association Art Walk, the Ouray Mountain Air Music Series, and the famous Ouray Jeep Raffle. Check the local events calendar for updated information.

Are there options for indoor activities in Ouray?

While Ouray is known for its outdoor adventures, you can explore the historic Ouray Alchemist Museum, indulge in local cuisine at charming cafes, or visit art galleries showcasing the town’s vibrant culture.

What are some tips for planning a trip to Ouray in the summer?

Be sure to check weather conditions, pack layers for temperature fluctuations, make reservations for popular activities in advance, and take advantage of the town’s free public transportation to explore easily.

How do I get to Ouray, CO?

Ouray is easily accessible by car, located along the scenic US-550, also known as the Million Dollar Highway. The nearest major airport is Montrose Regional Airport, which is approximately an hour’s drive away.

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