Fun Things To Do in Ouray, Colorado in the Summer

My husband and I were married in Ouray, Colorado and it is one of our favorite places in the world. We especially love to visit Ouray in the summer.

Here is a list of great things to do in Ouray in the summer…and of course many of the things on this list can also be done in the winter!

Things To Do in Ouray, Colorado in the Summer!

Ouray is sometimes called the Switzerland of America. It is located in a canyon surrounded by the San Juan Mountains and is absolutely gorgeous.

It is a mecca for adventure lovers and thrill seekers as well as a place for people who want to experience the natural beauty and wildlife of the mountains.

The town is situated at 8,000 feet in the western part of Colorado.

It is far from the crowds of Denver and has a population of only 1,000 people yet is still a tourist destination because of all the natural beauty and because there are so many great things to do in Ouray, Colorado!

Although there are plenty of winter activities this post is going to focus on things to do in the in Ouray in the summer.


One of the best things to do in Ouray is go hiking! Here are some of the hiking trails in the area.

Box Canyon Falls Park

First of all you are going to want to visit Box Canyon Falls Park where there are three hikes.

You can see the sign for these falls high on a mountain above Ouray. A short drive will take you to the park. This is a developed attraction and you have to pay to see the falls. The cost to enter is $5 per adult.

There are three main trails in the park:

  • Falls Trail: This is a must see when you are in Ouray. This is an easy 500 foot walk into the canyon. You will be walking over a grate part of the time which allows you to see way down into the canyon, but the walkway is steady and there are rails so you will feel secure. At the end there is a tremendous waterfall spilling through a narrow opening in the canyon. In the spring when the snow begins to melt the water flow is so fierce that the entire canyon is full of mist. Look around and notice some of the mining equipment that was left behind when operations ceased. Also, this area has been designated an important bird area by the National Audobon Society because it is home to Black Swifts. They migrate through the canyon and are usually there from early June through September.
  • High Bridge Trail: A half mile loop that gains 200 feet in elevation. You will walk up a set of stairs to get here and it is totally worth the fairly easy climb for the views of the mountains, the waterfall from a different angle, and the city below.
  • Native Plant Loop: This is just a quick stroll through nature with plant markers for the local flora. This is only trail without steps. It will lead you back to the entrance and the parking area.

Bear Creek National Recreation Trail to Grizzly Bear Mine

You will see the signs for the Bear Creek Trailhead only a couple of miles south of Ouray along Highway 550 which is also called the Million Dollar Highway. The trail is an out and back and is considered to be moderate/strenuous.

Honestly when you have just arrived in Colorado from barely above sea level…everything feels strenuous!

The beginning is the hardest part with quite an incline and lots of switchbacks. You gain 1,000 feet in the first mile!

After that you go through a section of ledge paths. A rock wall will go up on one side of you and a steep drop off on the other. This might not be a trail for someone with a fear of heights! I would suggest using trekking poles for stability.

I believe that the trail actually continues but we always turn back at the remains of Grizzly Bear Mine which is where we turned around to return. This is about a 4.5 mile hike round trip.

Cascade Falls Park

This can’t really be called a hike. It is actually just a short walk from the parking lot to the falls, but it is definitely worth a stop when you are in Ouray.


Ouray Perimeter Trail

This is a unique trail that circles the town of Ouray.

You can start this loop at a variety of points but most people begin at the Ouray Visitors Center. There is parking for the trail head behind the center.

Locals recommend hiking this loop in a clockwise direction. It climbs sharply up at the beginning giving you nice views of the town.

Once again there are some steep drop-offs on this trail so if you don’t like heights be aware! Overall I would say this is easier than most trails in the area, but there are some steep areas and some loose gravel. You will pass both Cascade Falls and Box Canyon Falls as well as some bridges, a tunnel, and a creek.

One very popular feature of the Perimeter Trail is that it you are never more than 500 feet vertically or 1⁄2 mile horizontally from Ouray’s City limits. As a result, there are several locations along its route where one can leave the trail and return to town without having to hike its entire length.

Adventures in and Around Ouray, Colorado

So many of the fun things to do in Ouray, Colorado in the summer are adventurous activites!


Go Off-Road!

Ouray is known for its world renowned off road trails. OHV stand for off highway vehicle and an OHV Route is either a dirt road or trail that has been designated as legal and appropriate for off-highway use by motorized vehicles. 

We like to rent Polaris RZR’s (pronounced razor) from Colorado West Jeeps for a day up in the mountains on the Alpine Loop Trail.

These are also known as UTV or Utility Terrain Vehicle, but we heard most of the locals just calling them Razors!

Colorado West Jeeps dropped our Razors off at Ironton where we parked our vehicle and headed up the trail into the mountains in our UTV.

If you are brave enough to drive up these steep and, not going to lie, scary trails, you will encounter stunning views of the San Juan mountains, deep blue high mountain lakes, and mountain passes that are well above 12,000 feet.


You will also see the skeletons of old mining towns and mills that once promised great hope and prosperity, as well as gorgeous valleys with flowing streams surrounded by wildflowers.

It is absolutely stunning!

Oh, there are also heart stopping drop offs and switchbacks. Y’all, I’m not gonna lie. I was scared at times. This particular adventure is probably not for a person who hates heights.

NOTE: If you do this be prepared for weather changes. It was very warm in Ouray, but quite cool up in the mountains at the higher elevations.

Guided Jeep Tours in Ouray

If you are not comfortable driving yourself up into the mountains there are also guided jeep tours.

These are both group and private tours where you will have a driver who is familiar with the mountain trails and how to navigate them.

Check out Alpine Scenic 4×4 Tours or there is also the Switzerland of America Private jeep safari.

Mountain Biking

If you are into mountain biking you will want to check out the RAT or the Ridgeway Area Trail system.

Since 2004, the Ridgway Area Trails (RAT) group has work in collaboration with the US Forest Service, BLM, Ridgway State Park, and public parks to develop a multi-use trail system.

Check out this website to learn more about the wide variety of trails, both easy and hard, and to download a map.


There are some amazing streams around Ouray with places to fly fish, spin cast, and even bait fish.

You can hire a guide with Rigs to help you learn to fly fish and take you to the best spots if this isn’t something you have tried before.

Some of the best fishing spots require a hike to get to and some places are catch and release only so be sure and check the local fishing shop to receive the most up to date information on conditions, locations, licenses and supplies.

White Water Rafting

Check out Mild to Wild rafting for some white river rafting opportunities near Ouray!

SUP – Stand Up Paddleboarding

We learned to love stand up paddle boarding when we were at the 30A beaches in the Florida Panhandle.

The best place to paddle board in Ouray is just outside of town at the Ridgeway State Park Reservoir. The reservoir is lovely and large enough to get away from the crowds. It is 5 miles long with 1,030 surface-acres of water.

This is a beautiful place with clear water and great mountain views. If you are feeling really brave you could strap a paddle board to a jeep and go up to Lake Como just past Hurricane Pass way up in the mountains to do some stand up paddleboarding high in the mountains.


Interested in a crazy adventure? Give canyoning a try. Canyoning, also known as canyoneering, involves This involved rappelling or navigating into a canyon, alongside a waterfall or fast moving stream!

Sound like fun? Check out Canyoning Colorado to start your adventure!

You might be interested in learning about great places to stay in Ouray! And I know that it was a little indulgent but I also have written about our elopement in the mountains around Ouray.

Scenic Drives Around Ouray

The Million Dollar Highway

This may be the most famous highway in the US and it is one of the best things to do around Ouray, Colorado in the summer.

The Million Dollar Highway is a canyon clinging stretch of road that is the scariest drive I’ve ever been on.


We don’t have mountains like this in Arkansas and we tend to believe in guardrails. There is not a guardrail to be found on this highway which, honestly, seems a little reckless, although I will admit it makes for gorgeous views.

Somehow driving this road felt more frightening to me than the switchbacks and drop offs in the UTV the previous day!

There are a couple of stories about how the Million Dollar Highway was named.

It was either because it cost so much to build or due to the amount of gold ore that remained in the roadway’s fill.

This stretch of Highway is about 25 miles long, but the twelve miles (19 km) south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass is the most terrifying.

Besides the aforementioned lack of guardrails it is characterized by steep cliffs, sheer dropoffs, narrow traffic lanes, and a number of hairpin “S” curves.

If you are super scared of heights but still want to experience the highway you might want to drive the Million Dollar Highway from the old mining town of Silverton back to Ouray so that you will be on the inside of the road more of the time.

Tip: This road can be especially treacherous during rain so you might want to check the weather before you go especially if you aren’t used to driving on roads like these.

The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway

The Million Dollar Highway is just one part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.

The entire Scenic Byway is 236 miles and passes through the old mining towns of Ouray, Telluride, Cortez, Durango, and Silverton.

You will drive through gorgeous scenery and be in the shadow of some of Colorado’s impressive 14,000 foot peaks.

Things To Do In Town

There is plenty to do right in the town of Ouray. The waterfalls I mentioned above as well as the Perimeter Trail are basically right in the town. Here are some additional fun things to do in Ouray, Colorado in the summer!


Enjoy Ouray!

Just walk up and down the streets of the town popping into eclectic shops and delicious restaurants as you go! It is a quaint, friendly, and lovely small town with a lot of Old West history as well as new west energy!

Visit the Hot Springs Park and Pools

A soak in hot mineral waters is a perfect way to unwind after a day of adventuring in Ouray! A visit to the Ouray Hot Springs Pool is a must when you are in Ouray.

The pool is very developed and well maintained for guests. There are five separate geo-thermally heated pools and of course, the entire facility is surrounded by towering mountain peaks.

It is also a great place to bring a family as there are waterslides and activities for the kids.

If you are a newlywed or a couple without children there are also adults only soaking sections. There is a nice division between the playing and working out and soaking areas.

The various pools also range in temperature so you can choose how hot you want your soak to be.

The pools are popular with both locals and visitors. One of the best things about these hot springs is that they are free from the sulfur smell that so often accompanies natural hot springs.


Take the Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour

During the late 19th century, the Bachelor Syracuse Mine was one of the most prolific producers of gold in the area.

Today you can visit and experience a real mine and even pan for gold. I think that this would be such a fun things to do with kids! T

he Bachelor Syracuse Mine is just outside of Ouray and they also have a cafe that serves breakfast so ask about that when you schedule your tour.

Check out the Historic Western Hotel

Even if you aren’t staying here you might want to stop in and check out this authentic hotel that was built in the 1890’s and served as a hotel and saloon for visitors to the western Rocky Mountains.

This was a hangout for prospectors and adventurers as well as where the stagecoach used to stop.

The three-story white building features twelve classic rooms and two suites with rustic decor, original molding, carved ceilings, leaded windows with stained glass, and other historical features.

Stop in to the Ouray County Museum

At the Ouray County Museum is housed in a building that was built in 1886 and was originally the St. Joseph’s Miners’ Hospital.

You can learn all about the history of Ouray here through exhibits about life on the local ranches, mining, and the railroads. There are also artifacts from original settlers and Native American tribes who once lived in the area.

This is a small museum but well worth a stop.

The Smithsonian Institution calls it one of the best little museums in the West and Arthur Frommer’s Idiots Guide to the Rockies says: “If you visit one county museum in Colorado make it the Ouray Museum.”

Ouray Alchemist Museum

Such an interesting place!

After checking out the shop in the front of the Ouray Alchemist Museum you can take a guided tour back in time to experience pharmacy in the Wild West. 

This is a fun collection of items that are almost all locally sourced. Over 40 years of collecting has produced this outstanding re-creation of a frontier pharmacy, including the oldest prescription in Colorado.

Mouse’s Chocolate and Coffee

If you notice a line of happy people along Main street in Ouray you are probably at Mouse’s!

Beautiful and delectable chocolate truffles, icecream, coffee drinks, cookies and pastries. Everything is home made and delicious.

Try the scrap cookies, made with scraps from all the candies! Their chai’s, including chai ice cream are also delightful.

More Things To Do Around Ouray, Colorado

There are so many things to do just outside or not too far from Ouray!

Go To Yankee Boy Basin

You have got to go to Yankee Boy Basin while you are in Ouray! I particularly love it because it is where we had out elopement.

The drive to Yankee Boy Basin is another off road trail so you will need a jeep or some type of all-terrain vehicle.

Yankee Boy Basin is very popular with photographers in the summer not only because of the gorgeous scenery and the wildflowers. Flowers were abundant while we were there in July.

The road is just over 18 miles and is rated as moderate.

ouray colorado mountain elopemenPin

Visit the Animas Forks Ghost Town

There are many deserted old mining towns in the mountains around Ouray. Animas Forks is one of the best!

We visited via the back trails on our UTVs but you can get there by a county road in a jeep. We even saw a few regular passenger cars coming down this road!

Established in 1875 at 11,180 feet elevation, residents once boasted that Animas Forks was the largest city in the world…at this altitude. It was fun to see the houses and imagine what it must have been like to live here.


Visit The Old Mining Town of Silverton

Silverton is a great small town to visit because it has maintained so much of it’s historical old West feeling.

Wander the streets and pop into the various stores. We had a coffee at Coffee Bear. Then we ate lunch at Handlebar’s Food and Saloon. I highly recommend both of these places!

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy Ouray, Colorado! Of course, it holds fond memories for us because we were married there…but in addition to that there are just so many fun things to do in Ouray, Colorado in the summer.

I’m already looking forward to going back next year!

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Riding UTVs in the mountains of Colorado is exhilarating...and a little scary! There are so many fun and exciting things to do in Ouray, Colorado!Pin

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