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Ouray Colorado Vacation Guide and Trip Planning Information for SW Colorado

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Three Favorite Four Wheel Drive Trails Around Ouray

  
  
  

Ouray Colorado is the Jeeping Capitol Of The World!

waterfalls near ouray colo in julyBoasting access to over 500 miles of 4-wheel drive trails, Ouray County and the surrounding area has truly earned the title of Jeeping Capitol of the world. 

Off roading enthusiasts from all walks of life and all over the country come to this tiny little area in Southwest Colorado specifically for the adventure of the high country trails.

Whether you are an experienced off roader, or this is your first time to explore these high country trails, there is a jeep road just for you! Time and again visitors travel from Lake City to Ouray over Engineer Pass, or to Telluride and back via Ophir, Imogene or Black Bear Pass. High country lakes, seasonal waterfalls, wildlife of every shape and size. Wildflowers in the spring and summer, and colorful aspens in the fall. Every trip along one of these trails is a new experience, dotted with new and exciting stories with opportunities for spectacular photographs around literally every bend.

Every jeep tour and rental company is eager to help guests to find the perfect route most suited to their comfort levels and experience. The idea is for everyone to enjoy this amazing place we are fortunate enough to call home. Of course, one of the most important unspoken rules of off roading is to always stop and lend a helping hand to your fellow adventurers, and Colorado is nothing if not a friendly, helpful state!

With so many trails to choose from, there is no one in particular that is more spectacular than the other, however there are three ( ranging in levels of difficulty) which seem to draw the most interest:

Last Dollar Road (level 1 experience - easy)

october2This is indeed one of the most incredible drives in the fall. Travelling from just outside of Ridgway (10 miles from Ouray) to the outskirts of Telluride, the road travels through long tunnels of aspen trees, creating a surreal drive that virtually feels like a painting. The sunlight becomes a little less intense, and leaves of every color drift around your vehicle. Places to pull off abound, and the area is populated with photographers catching frame after frame.

To access, travel past Ridgway toward Telluride on Highway 62 to the top of Dallas Divide. Last Dollar Road is on the left, and marked. Six miles down the road, you will come to a fork giving the option of a shorter route which exits at the town of Sawpit on the right, or left to travel along Hastings Mesa to Highway 145 just past the Telluride airport. 

If you have a decent amount of clearance on your vehicle, take the left turn. This is a little more steep and curvy, but the views of the Sneffels Range are truly awesome!

 

Yankee Boy Basin (level 2 experience - moderate)

yankee boy basin columbinesYankee Boy Basin is known best for the vivid wildflowers in the late spring and early summer which blanket the fields with a rainbow of Mother Natures most incredible creations. With a twin waterfall flowing through the colorful vista, this is truly a magical place!

Adventurers drive along this well travelled road along the Uncompahgre Gorge, past abandoned as well as operating mines. Gazing at the cliffs across the way, it is hard to believe that once over a thousan people lived and worked here - summer, winter, spring and fall. If you look closely, you can still maybe find the ruins of an old bunk house on the side of the mountain, accessed by an ingenious lift system to get the miners from the top of the hill to the mine entrances below.

To access this trail, head south out of Ouray toward Silverton. At the first switchback, turn right onto Camp Bird Road. About ten miles up the road, take the right fork to Yankee Boy Basin. The last two miles of this track are quite steep and narrow, so a number of vehicles will park where the road is still a little more traversible and walk the rest of the way. Because it is a narrow two way road, in this instance, whoever has the most space is required to back up and make way for the other driver.

Corkscrew Gulch ( level 3 - moderate to difficult)

corkscrewQuite possiblly my personal favorite, Corkscrew Gulch is one of the most fun for people who want a little daring, but not so much they can't handle it. Starting about 10 miles from Ouray, take a left at the turn off for Brown Mountain, Corkscrew and Ironton Park. Stay to the right as you head up the hill, and the fun begins almost immediately!

Travelling up switchbacks not so tight to be scary, the view through the forested road above the Million Dollar Highway is amazing. It is also the best way to guage exactly how much you are climbing, as every glimpse of the highway becomes even more distant until reaching timberline, at which point it is difficult to decide where to look.

At the summit, it is as if you are standing at the top of the world. High above timberline, at 12,217 feet, the views are phenominal.

jeep exiting engineer passThe eastern descent offers access to either south to Silverton, or north over Hurricane Pass and California Gulch, connecting to the road to the ghost town Animas Forks. Be sure if you take this route to watch for the trailhead to Poughkeepsie Gulch, which is a level 5 trail, and prohibited by most rental companies.

Obviously, there are more than three trails to explore on your adventure in the high country. From Last Dollar to Black Bear, each offers a variety of visual candy and an entire world of adventure. Exploring the trails, I often wind up taking random side trails, and find the most amazing valleys and mountain lakes. Just be sure to remember that if the road looks doubtful, follow your instinct. If unsure, get out and walk a little way to see what is up ahead. Be aware of road condidtions. The weather can change drastically in a very short period of time. Don't be caught off guard. Never go cross country. Not only does this do irreperable damage to the  tundra, it is illegal. Be aware of your own level of comfort and experience, and above all, bring your camera and be prepared to stop. A lot.

If you prefer, a jeep tour is an awesome way to experience the high country. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the scenery as a seasoned driver shows you all of the sights you may have missed otherwise. Let the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help you to plan the perfect adventure for you!

 

Contact Us!Let the Box Canyon Help YouExperience the Jeep Capital of the World Today!

Whats Happening in Ouray and Ridgway this August 2014

  
  
  

Southwest Colorado is Bursting with Excitement this August!

red mountainnSummer is here in the high country! Flowers are still blooming, and the grass is green and inviting. Hiking trails are abundant with life and energy as four wheel drive enthusiasts play in the Jeeping Capital of the World.

ouray main streetRestaurants and shops on Main Street offer a variety of interesting and original gift ideas and meals that are second to none. The museums are a perfect place to cool off and enjoy a moment travelling abck in time to a Ouray unlike the one before you, and yet similar enough to take your breath away.

wrightoperahouseLive music and plays at the Wright Opera House draw visitors to one of the most spectacular historic venues around, and the staff at the Box canyon Lodge & Hot Springs are here to make every moment exciting and memorable.

Thursday, April 17 through Saturday, November 15, 2014 - "How the Local Mountains Got their Names" exhibit at the Ouray Museum from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm

seaesonal waterfall red mountain pass.3Have you ever wondered how the peaks around Ouray got their Names? Our special exhibit answers these questions and more. See photos of the local peaks with detailed descriptions of where the names came from.

Saturday, May 17 through Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - Autumn in Ouray County- Special Photo Exhibit at the Ouray Museum from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm

box canyon rainbow2An exhibit of 16 Ouray County Photographers who attended the John Fielder Photo Workshop in September 2013. Each photographer will have one 10 x 15 photo exhibited.

Every Saturday and Sunday for the Month of July - Brand Exhibit - Learning About Branding from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Ouray County Ranch History Museum

Board member Tim Force has put together an amazing new museum exhibit, educating all on brands and branding in Ouray County and surrounding area. Highlights include some of the oldest brands of the county branded to fence rails surrounding the exhibit and informative posters.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - Evening of Hisory at the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm

viewBrad Wallis will speak on "The History of the Sherbino Famil and the Sherbino Thearter"

Wednseday, August 6, 2014 - "A Short History of Decay", Movie at the Wright Opera House from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

When Nathan Fisher, a thirty-something Brooklyn writer with a stalled career, is dumped by his ambitious girlfriend, he doesn't know where to turn. Suddenly, he gets a call telling him his father has been hospitalized and races down to Florida to help. His short visit turns into an extended stay, during which he discovers that his aging parents are in much better control of their lives than he is. He also meets a woman, the polar opposite of his ex, who may be exactly what he is looking for. Starring Bryan Greenberg, Linda Lavin, Harris Yulin, Kathleen Rose Perkinsm and Emmanuelle Chriqui.

Friday, August 8, 2014 - Ridgway MoonWalk from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm

jeepJoin the Ridgway Creative District, Weehawken Creative Arts, and Ridgway's galleries with special guests for the Ridgway MoonWalk with a Harvest theme. Celebrate local talent! A brochure with map of participating locations can be picked up at Resource Art, 540 Sherman St. Demonstrations and refreshments provided.

Saturday, August 9, 2014 - Ridgway Arts & Crafts Rendezvous from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Ridgway Town Park

bald eagle ouray county colorado2Weehawken Creative Arts is proud to sponsor this event for it's 30th year running. Featuring a variety of local artists from painters and jewelers to glass blowers and fiber artists, this festival brings together a variety of craftsmen from all over. Open to the publis all day on Saturday and Sunday, August 9-10, what a marvelous opportunity to do some early shopping for an original gift to anyone on your list!

Saturday, August 9, 2014 - Shawn Mullins at the Wright Opera House from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm

wrightlogo2;Since we last heard from Shawn Mullins on 2008’s Honeydew, the Atlanta-based singer/songwriter and band leader has undergone a series of trans-formative experiences, leading to a second coming for the veteran artist. Evidence of Mullins’ new found level of musical and lyrical ambition courses comes through with Light You Up (Vanguard Records, October 12). This captivating new song cycle will likely be viewed as a flat-out revelation even by Mullins’ most fervent fans.

Sunday, August 10, 2014 - Ridgway Arts & Crafts Rendezvous from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Ridgway Town Park

high country basinWeehawken Creative Arts is proud to sponsor this event for it's 30th year running. Featuring a variety of local artists from painters and jewelers to glass blowers and fiber artists, this festival brings together a variety of craftsmen from all over. Open to the publis all day on Saturday and Sunday, August 9-10, what a marvelous opportunity to do some early shopping for an original gift to anyone on your list!

Friday, August 15, 2014 - "Much Ado About Nothing - No Holds Bard" - Play at the Wright Opera House from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

top of corkscrewThe course of true love sure does not run smoothly in this romantic comedy. Beatrice and Benedicke, who hate each other, are tricked into love, while Hero and Claudio, who adore each other, are tricked out of love. Will Benedicke kill his best friend Claudio for the sake of his new love? Only the most ingenious of plot twists can save the day. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - Corkscrew Turntable Hike - from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm hikers meet at Ouray County Museum

abandoned mineCorkscrew Railroad Bed and Turntable Hike (guided, $10 cost) - Sponsored by the Ridgway Railroad Museum and OCHS. Call 970-325-4576 to preregister. Hikers will meet at the Ouray County Museum at 9:00 am and return to the museum between 2:00 and 3:00 pm. In case of inclement weather call Don Paulson at 325-0931 before 8 am to ascertain the hike status.

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - Guided Cemetery Walking Tour - At Cedar Hill Cemetery from 9:00 am to 11:00 am

alpine tundra overlooking million dollar highway red mtn (1)Guided Cemetery walking tour by a museum docent. Learn about the famous people buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery. Meet at Cedar Hill Cemetery at 9 am. Pre-register at 970-325-4576.

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - "Much Ado About Nothing - No Holds Bard" - Play at the Wright Opera House from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

The course of true love sure does not run smoothly in this romantic comedy. Beatrice and Benedicke, who hate each other, are tricked into love, while Hero and Claudio, who adore each other, are tricked out of love. Will Benedicke kill his best friend Claudio for the sake of his new love? Only the most ingenious of plot twists can save the day. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - San Juan Chamber Music Fest - Classical Cafe at the Ouray County 4-H Event Center from 7:30 pm to end

last dollar scenic drive.3The annual MusicFest features a small group of musicians of international renown, under the artistic direction of pianist Max Levinson, producing a number of concerts and events throughout Ouray County. The San Juan Chamber MusicFest kicks off with this delightful informal concert at the Ouray County 4-H Event Center. Gather around cafe tables with your friends, sip wine and enjoy appetizers while listening to “Music from Around the World,” including Beethoven’s “Eyeglasses” Duo and Mozart G minor Piano Quartet, Chopin’s famous “Military” Polonaise and a solo guitar piece from Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos.

Friday, August 22, 2014 - San Juan Chamber Music Fest - Concert at the Wright Opera House from 7:30 pm to end

foals.3The annual MusicFest features a small group of musicians of international renown, under the artistic direction of pianist Max Levinson, producing a number of concerts and events throughout Ouray County. Join the San Juan Chamber MusicFest musicians for a concert at the newly renovated Wright Opera House. The program is titled “Slavic Soul: Music from Eastern Europe.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014 - Guided Walk of Ouray's Historic District - from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm starting from Ouray County Museum 

Guided walk of Ouray's historic Main Street led by a museum docent. Meet at the Museum at 3 pm. $10 per person. Pre-register at 970-325-4576

Saturday, August 23, 2014 - San Juan Chamber Music Fest - Family Concert at the Wright Opera House from 7:30 pm to end

scenicdriveThe annual MusicFest features a small group of musicians of international renown, under the artistic direction of pianist Max Levinson, producing a number of concerts and events throughout Ouray County. Join the San Juan Chamber MusicFest musicians for a concert at the newly renovated Wright Opera House. Wolfgang Amadeus Schmutzinberry returns to delight children young and old at this delightful informal afternoon concert at the Wright Opera House. Entry is by donation.

Tuesday August 26 through Saturday, October 11, 2014 - Annual OCHS Quilt Show at the Ouray County Museum daily 10:00 am to 4:30 pm

silverjack owlcreek.2Ouray County Historical Society sponsors this event with a presentation of quilts all dated prior to 1960. Each of these works of art are stories in and of themselves, on loan from local families. A fascinating journey into the history of Ouray County.

Saturday, August 30, 2014 - Axel Project Bicycle Classic from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm

A breathtaking 48 or 80 mile charity ride over Dallas Divide into Placerville or Telluride and back. One of the most spectacular journeys you can take on a bike with up to 5,000 ft. of total climbing, thin air, and epic beauty. All proceeds benefit the Axel Project and their mission to introduce bicycles and a healthy lifestyle to kids and families.

Saturday, August 30, 2014 - Peter Bradley Adams at the Wright Opera House from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm

ouray ridgway flowersPeter Bradley Adams was formerly one half of the duo, Eastmountainsouth, signed by Robbie Robertson (of The Band) to DreamWorks Records in 2002. Since then, Peter has released four solo records as well as an EP with his side project, "Down Like Silver".

Often on the weekends, spur of the moment music is playing at one of the restaurants or bars in town in addtion to the events set out above. There is always something to do in Ouray, and the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs look forward to making your visit memorable.

 

Ouray, southwest colorado

Wildflower Season in The San Juan Mountains

  
  
  

The High Country of Southwest Colorado is in Bloom!

alpine tundra overlooking million dollar highway red mtn (1)When people talk of the majesty of the Uncompahgres, images of a blanket of color draped across fields of green often fill our minds.
Not to say the idea of the snow capped mountain peaks of winter, or the fantastic reds and yellows of Fall aren't equally breathtaking, there is something idyllic about a cool meadow filled with a rainbow of color.
high country wildflowers.2The first glimpse of a field high above timberline, covered in flowers, with a panoramic view of the world can be mind altering. Perhaps it is the thinner air, but that wouldn't translate so clearly into photographs.
Mid July through August, the flowers begin to peak in meadows and valleys in the high country, so now is the time to jump in your four wheel drive, and visit! 

Thanks to the input from our guests, the National Forest Service and county websites, the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs has an up to date listing of where the best flowers can be found:

National Forest Service Information:


black bear pass wildflowers (1)A few of our popular viewing areas and hiking trails-

  • Hope Lake - 6 miles out and back, south of  Telluride
  • US Basin - east side of  Red Mountain Pass near Ouray
  • Lizard Head - Wilson Meadows - 5 miles out and back, trailhead at Lizard Head Pass parking lot, south of Telluride
  • Bilk Creek Upper Falls - 7 miles out and back,  trailhead is off Sunshine Mesa Road, near Telluride.
  • Bear Creek Falls - 4.5 miles out and back , south on Pine Street in Telluride
  • Lower Blue Lake - 6.6 miles out and back, trailhead at the end of Dallas Creek Road (CR 7/FR 851 ) west of Ridgway on CO 62. 
  • Wetterhorn Basin Trail from West Fork Cimarron River - 6.2 miles out and back, US 550 near Ridgway- take Owl Creek Pass Road,  turn right (south) on West Fork Cimarron Rd (FR 860)   
  • Copper Creek - trailhead north of Crested Butte and Gothic off (FR 317)
  • Rustlers Gulch - trailhead north of Crested Butte and Gothic off (FR 317) 
  • Oh-Be Joyful Trail (#836) - off  FR 754 from CR 734, north of Crested Butte  
flowersHere are a few of our more popular 4 wheel drive routes:
  • Yankee Boy Basin
  • Ophir Pass
  • Imogene
  • Black Bear Pass
  • Cinnamon Pass
  • American Basin
A more personal point of view is provided to us by the marvelous folks at the Silverton Chamber:
silverjack owlcreekJuly 11th, 2014: In and Around Prospect GulchBelow Timberline
  • Arnica: Broad leaf and Heart Leaf are peaking
  • Avens: Very Prevalent & Pretty!
  • Columbine: Past Prime
  • Jacob’s Ladder: Very Prevalent
  • Paintbrush: Barely Started
Above Timberline
  • high country wildflowers.2Bluebells: Just Starting to Peak
  • Larkspur: Just Starting to Peak
  • Lovage: Peaking
  • Old Main of the Mountain: Peaking
  • Sky Pilot: Beautiful and Blooming
  • Yarrow: Peaking
According to guests, the flowers up at Yankee Boy are not quite at peak, so perhaps in the next week or two, they will be at full peak.
Summer is in full swing in the rest of the world, but when you travel to 7800 feet and above, it is a cool breath of fresh air. Once the sun begins to set, and stars dot the clear skies, nothing quite compares to a long soak in the soothing waters of our four natural hot spring tbs at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs, truly an oasis from the rest of the world!
Join Us at The Box Canyon LodgeA Rainbow of ExcitementAnd Color Await!

Ghost Towns of the San Juans - Animas Forks

  
  
  

Over 500 Miles of Four Wheel Drive Trails Provide a Glimpse into the History of Southwest Colorado Mining History.

animasforks2It is hard to believe as we put our jeep into four low and ascend the side of a mountain, high above timberline that once hardy men and women made this journey in the dead of winter an foot and with mule carts heavily laden with gold, silver, and other precious metals.

riversnowDriving along the narrow trails and gazing to the side of a 200 foot drop, a jeep tour driver will share stories of how these tough men and women would have to choose between the team of animals or the wagon they were pulling. Sadly, the gold won out much more often than the hardworking donkeys.

animasforkssign.2At an elevation of over 11,000 feet, the tiny town of Animas Forks began with just one small cabin in 1873, and within three years, boasted over 450 residents. With a post office, jail, general store hotel, and of course, a saloon, the town prospered for a few years during the mining boom. In 1997 and 1998, a grant to San Juan County served to preserve and stabilize the last few buildings of the once bountiful town. Now part of the Alpine Loop scenic byway, Animas Forks is a small window into life in the San Juans in the early 1900's.

view from gustavsonhouseParking at the base of the remaining buildings, one is somewhat haunted by the overwhelming beauty of the area. Only the foundation remains of what was once a boarding house that served as a resting place to over 150 miners. Gazing out of what must have been a basement window, the spectacular views almost make up for the harsh life they must have had.

The Gustavson House was once lauded for its indoor toilet (a glorified outhouse connected by a hallway). The family lived here year round, unlike many of their neighbors who left to winter in Silverton at the first signs of snow.

duncanhousebaywindowThe Duncan House was built in 1879, and is often mistakenly referred to as the Walsh House, although Tom Walsh never lived there. Its beautiful bay windows look across to the river and the Columbus Mine which sits the the fork of the Animas River.

With work always in progress to maintain the stability of these buildings, one can wander through these old homes and marvel at the tiny rooms, narrow staircases, the incredible views and the "modern conveniences". Glass still covers the windows, and it is easy to be taken away to a different time, as you imagine the hustle and bustle of the streets below less than a hundred years ago.

animasbunkhouse4Animas Forks can be reached either by traveling the Alpine Loop, accessing the town either by Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass or California Pass. If you are not looking to spend the day on the jeep trails, you can get there by taking County Road 2 out of Silverton. The first half of the drive is along a well maintained dirt road, eventually becoming a bit more rough. Although I did see some two wheel drive vehicles on the trail, something with a little more clearance might feel more comfortable, and allow for more exploring on the numerous little side trails.

Let the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help you to map out your next adventure in the high country! A perfect base camp for all of your four wheel drive fantasies, our knowledgeable staff will male sure you get everything and more from your visit, not to mention the inviting natural hot spring tubs just outside your door to soak away the dust of the road.

 

Contact Us!Let the Box Canyon Help YouExperience the Jeep Capital of the World Today!

Four Wheel Drive Road Conditions Ouray - June 2014

  
  
  

Adventure Awaits in the High Country all around Ouray!

high country wildlife2June almost over, and July is waiting for us in the distance. Soon, all of the passes will be open for the adventurer to explore and experience The days are long and liesurely. Snow melt in the high country creates roaring rivers and seasonal waterfalls at every turn. One needs just to look up to be overwheled by the beauty and majesty of the Uncompahgres.

Wildlife looks on as if we are the ones on display, and wildflowers dot the countryside in a rainbow of colors. Travelling the four wheel drive trasls this time of year is both challenging and immensely thrilling. It is like travelling back in time. Every twist and turn is filled with wonder at the springtime beauty of a world awakening from a long winter nap. Adrenaline pumps through your veins as you wonder whether the mountain will permit passage. 

above timberlineThe weather can change in a heart beat. One minute, cruising with the top down and wondering if you put enough sunblock on, and the next pulling on sweaters and raincoats as mother nature teases with rain or snow.

Passes are opening in record time, and by the end of the month will be so well travelled, it will seem like old hat.

Four Wheel Drive Road Conditions as of June 27, 2014:

four wheel drive trail

Alpine Loop - Open  Animas Forks - Open    Alta Lakes - Open

Black Bear Pass - Closed
Blue Lakes Trailhead - Open
Brown Mountain - Open
Cinnamon Pass - Clear to Lake City
Clear Lake - Open
Corkscrew - Open
County Road 2 to Animas Forks - Open
room with a viewCounty Road 9 - Open
Cow Creek - Open
Engineer Pass - Open **Please Note! The Trail is Extremely Rough.
Fall Creek Road (to Woods Lake) - Closed
Governors Basin - One mile of Governors Basin is clear
Hastings Mesa - Open
top of corkscrewHorsefly - Closed                                                  
 Howardsville/Cunningham Gulch to Highland Mary Trail - open              jeep trailHurricane/California - Closed                                  Imogene - Closed - started clearing 6/9 to Richmond Basin and Silver Basin                                      Iron Springs (Hwy 145 through to Hwy 62)- Closed

Last Dollar Road - Open - High clearance vehicles only; expect mud snow and ice
Little Cone Road (CR G49) - Closed
Maggie/Minnie - Closed
Miniehaha (CR 51) - Closed
high country basinOld Lime Creek - Closed
Ophir - Open
Owl Creek Pass - Maintained to Vista Point - Open to West fork Intersection. Gunnison County will open their section by mid June **Please note! There is still deep snow.
Picayune -Open
Pittsburgh Mine Road - Closed
Placer - Open
old ore carsPoughkeepsie - Closed
Red Mountain Town - Open
Shrine Road (CR 6) - Closed
Skyline - Closed
South Mineral Campground road -Open to Bandora Lane

County road 7 - Open
Stony Pass - Open over the top to Pole Creek. ***Please note: Travel through Pole Creek is not reccomended 
Yankee Boy - Open

corkscrewWhether this is your first time, or you have been driving these roads for years, comsider taking a tour! The experienced drivers with all of our tour companies take the work out of experiencing the high country! Even if you brought your own vehicle, taking a half day tour is a wonderful way to get a feel for the road conditions and difficulty levels you are comfortable driving yourself. Not to mention the fact that when someone else is driving, you get to focus on the scenery, and getting the perfect shot with your camera!

black bearIf you are renting a jeep, or bringing your wn four wheel drive vehicle, please always remember to be safe! Check road conditions prior to setting out, and know the limits of your vehicle, as well as your own comfort levels. Let the satff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help you to map out the perfect itinerary. They have the most up to date information at their fingertips, and are eager to help you plan an adventure that you will enjoy. Remember to let the staff know when you return, and update us on how the roads are!

where weve been or where were goingDon't forget that every one of these roads is taking you over 9,000 feet. Weather conditions in the high country can change in moments! You are also a lot closer to the sun up there, so please remember sunscreen. Even if it doesn't seem hot or even sunny, take my advice on this one! Sun burns hurt, and make the rest of your dream vacation uncomfortable. Bring layers. In just a few feet, the weather can change from warm and sunny to a wintry snow storm, on into hail, followed by freezing rain, then back to seventy degrees again. If you come to a spot of trail that you are unsure of, scout ahead on foot before attempting. There is no shame in turning around and finding a trail you feel safer on.

mountain lakeRespect your fellow adventurers! Remember, ettiquette on four wheel drive trails allows right of way to up hill drivers, however, often due to the width of the roads, it is appropriate to trade off depending on who has more room. Don't try to pull offf without a comfortable space for your vehicle, and please remember the tundra is extremely fragile, so stay on the designated trails.

Above all, HAVE FUN!!!!!

The majesty of the high country is unbelievable. Bring your cameras, and be sure there is plenty of memory. Every turn holds new wonders to behold, and opportunities to capture just a taste of the San Juans!

 

Contact Us!Let the Box Canyon Help YouExperience the Jeep Capital of the World Today!

Ouray County Four Wheel Drive Road Conditions - May 2014

  
  
  

Summer Adventures in Southwest Colorado are Just Beginning!

jeepMay is entering into the final days, heralding a summer filled with the excitement of back country explorations. 

We had a decent winter this year - enough snow to keep us safe from draught, but not so much that it will be mid-July before it is safe to venture out at all.

Granted, there aren't a ton of four wheel drive roads open yet, But a quick drive to the twin falls in Yankee Boy Basin, or a leisurely drive along Owl Creek sure do sound like fun!

Four Wheel Drive Road Status as of May 30, 2014:

cm2Animas Forks - Open

Alta Lakes - Open
Black Bear Pass - Closed
Blue Lakes Trailhead - Open 
Brown Mountain - Closed
Cinnamon Pass - Clear to the top from the Silverton side
Clear Lake - Open
chimneyrockCorkscrew - Clear to the top from the Silverton side
County Road 2 to Animas Forks - Open
County Road 9 - Open
ironton ghost townCow Creek - Open

Engineer Pass - Clear to the top on the Silverton side

Fall Creek Road (to Woods Lake) - Closed

Governors Basin - Closed

Hastings Mesa - Open

Horsefly - Closed

Hurricane/California - Closed

Imogene - Closed
Iron Springs (Hwy 145 through to Hwy 62)- Closed
Last Dollar Road - Open - High clearance vehicles only; expect mud snow and ice
Little Cone Road (CR G49) - Closed
Maggie/Minnie - Closed
Miniehaha (CR 51) - Closed
Old Lime Creek - Closed
Ophir - Clear to the top of the pass on the Silverton side. Should be open on Ophir side by mid-June
jeep.ouray.2Owl Creek Pass - Maintained to Vista Point - Currently Open 5.4 Miles from Vista Point
Picayune -Closed
Pittsburgh Mine Road - Closed
Placer - Closed
Poughkeepsie - Closed
Red Mountain Town - Open
Shrine Road (CR 6) - Closed
Skyline - Closed
South Mineral Campground road - County road 7 - Open 
Yankee Boy - Open 
Stony Pass - Closed

snowyroadsPlease remember as always: road conditions in the high country can change in minutes. Please use extreme caution during the early spring months. If in doubt, turn around and take a different trail. Even the low altitude trails can be very hazardous, and early Spring there is not as much traffic. This is definitely awesome in many ways, but also adds to the fact that breakdowns will result in a much longer walk. It is also very important to let someone know where you plan on going, as with hiking. Just let your front desk agent know you plan on exploring the back roads, and an approximate time to expect to see you back. 

box canyon lodge hot (1)Let the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help you to have a safe and exciting adventure in the San Juan Mountains! We look forward to keeping you up to date on road conditions and the best possible trip ideas.

See you Soon!

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Historical Ouray County

  
  
  

From Mining to Ranching to Soaking in Natural Hot Springs; The Beauty of Ouray County is Everlasting!


cascade falls ouray1The Ute Indians arrived in what is today known as Ouray County about 1300 AD to find a land formed some 35 million years ago by firs and ice. Immense volcanic eruptions resulted in deep, lava formed craters. The most recent Ice Age scoured the mountain valleys, carving great amphiteatres, cliffs and peaks. the Utes valued the Uncompahgres based on abundant wildlife, plentiful streams, and of course the natural hot springs. For ages, the Ute tribe lived in harmony with the land.

million dollar highway.2It is widely believed that the first white men to visit the valley were "Gus" Begole and John Eckles in 1875 in search of gold and silver. Soon the men found the area was rich in possibilities, and soon claims were being made all through the area. 

The following spring, the rush was on. The town was surveyed, streets laid out, and most of the timber in the Ouray area was cut down for cabins. In the fall of 1876, the town was incorporated and given the name of Ouray in honor of the great Ute chief famed for his efforts to maintain peace between the two cultures.

fall.colorsMines were also taking root higher in the mountains in Imogene and Yankee Boy. Pack trains carried supplies and ore between local mines and Ouray, now over 400 strong, boasting a school, four stores, two hotel, a saw mill, an ore sampling works, post office and an assortment of saloons and gambling houses.

In 1883, entrepreneur and engineering genius Otto Mears carved a toll road between Ouray and the towns of Silverton and Ironton to the south. This road is now known as US Highway 550, or more lovingly dubbed the Million Dollar Highway.

trainIn 1887, the area experienced another boom when the Denver Rio Grande Railroad established a depot in town, which allowed the profitable mining of low grade ores. With rich discoveries made northeast of town in the Gold Hill area, and the mining industry booming, the population of Ouray exploded to over 2000 residents by the year 1890. The following year, the town of Ridgway was developed as a travel hub for the railway.

The town suffered a scare in 1893, when the value of silver plummeted, but three years later was again riding high when Tom Walsh struck it rich at the Camp Bird Mine, southwest of town. Between 1896 and 1910, the mine produced over $26 million.

downloadAt the turn of the century, Ouray entered a boom or bust cycle as mining became less productive and tourism became more of a focal point. The Ouray Hot Springs Pool was built, and the city purchased Box Canyon Park.

Ridgway prospered as a railroad transportation center until the Rio Grande Rail Southern Rail halted service in 1951. Today, Ridgway is a successful ranching community, gifted with moderate climate and fertile land. The town continues to serve as an important junction, leading to some of the finest skiing in Colorado, and energy rich mineral deposits in the west.

ouray courthouseThe city of Ouray has been designated as a National Historic District. Beautifully preserved and restored Victorian architecture serves to recall the century old mining traditions and ingenuity of the early settlers. Even the city pool is on the National Historical Register.

The Ouray County Historical Society Museum is housed in what was once the hospital, and offers a sampling of the rich and varied past of the area.

jeep torThere are over 10,000 abandoned mine shafts, tunnels or cuts within a ten mile radius of Ouray, for hikers to seek and discover, as well as access to over 500 miles of four wheel drive trails, most leading to ghost towns and abandoned mines high in the mountains. It is always fascinating to experience in a four wheel drive vehicle trails that were once traveled by hearty men and women on horseback or on foot, often in the winter through feet of snow. Yikes!

The Bachelor Syracuse Mine, just a few miles north of the city now offers tours, taking people over 2,000 feet into the ground to experience a tiny taste of mining at the turn of the century.

Rich in history and overflowing with natural beauty, Ouray County offers a variety of adventures. Whether fascinated by the old town feel, or eager to soak in the natural mineral hot springs, there is something for everyone here.

See you soon!

 

Ouray, southwest colorado

Seven reasons to visit Ouray

  
  
  

Nestled in the San Juan Mountains, Ouray County is a natural treasure.

minerOnce central to a booming mining industry, Ouray County now relies mainly on tourism, recreation, ranching, construction and still some mining. Its two towns, Ouray and Ridgway, remain true to the best of the Western Colorado tradition - a relaxed, meaningful quality of life that many only dream about.

Ouray County is noted for some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Often refferred to as "Switzerland of America" and the "Gem of the Rockies", Ouray County offers amateur and proffessional photographers the magnificence of the San juan Mountains, waterfalls and sparkling riversd, alpine wildflowers and endlessly changing seasonal colors.

In addition, Ouray County offers a number of delightful visitor attractions:

1.) Railroad

trainRailroad buffs will enjoy a walk or ride along the old Denver and Rio Grande train bed, which runs paralell to the Uncompahgre River north of Ouray. Avid rock hounds can easily find specimens of pyrite, crystal and even silver and gold for those willing to try their hand at panning. the Bachelor Syracuse mine offers panning lessons and offers the equipment needed at their gift shop.

2.) Bird Watching

black swiftBird watchers will delight in the unique varieties of birds in Ouray County. Species ranging from tiny hummingbirds to golden and bald eagles may be viewed from the town or in the mountains and meadows of the surrounding area. The Box Canyon Waterfall Park is one of just a few known nesting sites for the rare Black Swift, and the entire area has been listed by the National Audobon Society as a rare bird sanctuary.

3.) Hiking

hiking2Hikers and backpackers will find terrain and trails in the county perfect for beginners and experienced hikers alike. From an easy stroll to the base of Cascade Falls, or Portland Trail, a good first time intro to area hiking, to the challenge of the Horsethief-Bear Creek Loop Trail, Ouray County has something for all interests and abilities.

4.) Four-Wheeling

jeep torOften refferred to as the "Jeeping Capitol of the World", four-wheeling is an unqualified means of experiencing the magnificence of Ouray County. Bring along a four-wheel drive vehicle or trail bike, rent a jeep locally or enjoy the convenience of a jeep tour, with knowledgeable, experienced drivers. With access to over 500 miles of trails to explore, a four wheel drive adventure is an item easily marked off of your bucket list! 

5.) Rock Climbing and Ice Climbing

iceclimberMountain climbing in the summer, and ice climbing in the winter are popular activities in Ouray County. Some of the most popular "fourteeners" are located in the area as well as other challenging peaks to conquer. Canyoneering is a sport quickly gaining popularity in Ouray County as well, combining hiking, climbing and rpelling through spectacular waterfalls. Adventure is easy to find here in Ouray County!

6.) Wildlife Viewing

Early Morning Guests at the tubsOuray County Sparkles during its long season of winter sunshine and moderate temperaturres. Ouray winters offer a quiet serene contrast to Colorado's more bustling ski areas. Deer, Elk and bighorn sheep are often seen grazing in the City Park during the winter months. One doesn't even have to travel that far from the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs, as a variety of wildlife enjoy the warmth of the hot springs, and can often be spotted just a few feet away while guests enjoy a warm soothing soak.

7.) Winter Exploring

snowshoeing2The ultimate in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can be enjoyed against a backdrop of 14,000 foot peaks, wooded trails and alpine meadows. For those less athletically inclined, a snowmobile tour can be an exciting winter adventure which can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Regardless of the season, Ouray County offers a range of activities and interesting adventures centered around the majesty of the San Juan Mountains. The county's 540 miles encompass the rich, fertile ranchlands of the Uncompahgre river valley, the gentle rolling expanse of Dallas Divide, the majestic Sneffels Range, the scenic solitude of Owl Creek, Cow Creek and the Courthouse Range, and the spectacular Million Dollar Highway.

Let the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help to create the mountain adventure of a lifetime for you! From arranging dinner reservations and jeep tours, to mapping out the ideal trails to explore, or just providing a quiet oasis frigors of the outside world, Ouray and the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs are the perfect escape. 

 

Ouray, southwest colorado

Ghost Towns of the San Juan Mountains - Ironton

  
  
  

Not so Long Ago, Ouray was Just One Of Many Towns in Southwest Colorado.

ironton3Founded in 1883 and quickly becoming one of the largest towns in the area with over 1800 residents at its peak, Ironton, Colorado, originally know as Copper Glenn, was a thriving mountain town until the late 1950's. At the end of the mining craze in Southwest Colorado, it, along with so many towns, was eventually abandoned by its residents. 

ironton.10A few years ago, while out four wheeling with my family, my step father, born and raised in Ouray, began telling us about his days as a miner in Ouray County. One of my favorite stories was how he and his friends would sneak out and head up to Ironton for the night when they were kids. Apparently, it was quite the place to hang out, always full of miners and good times. Of course, I did wonder if he was referring to Red Mountain Town, which was reputed to have more bars than houses, but he was a pretty mild man, so Ironton probably seemed quite dangerous when he was 15.

ironton5The saloons are no longer standing, but one bar can be found in the Saloon at the Historic Western Hotel on 7th Street in Ouray. If you get the chance to, go enjoy a beer and the owners will share with you some interesting facts. Such as the fact that when the bar was dismantled, the pieces were numbered, but somehow, they still wound up putting it back together wrong. Not that it matters. It is a beautiful piece!

ironton.7Ironton was still considered a town up until the 1960's. In fact, there is an episode of the series "I've Got A Secret", dated December 18, 1961, that is quite amusing, and features the last resident of the town, Milton Larson. He and his brother stayed in Ironton working their mines until they passed away. Although the clip shows a picture of Miltons house in Ironton, it is difficult to picture where it is when in what is left of the town today. Not only that, but from what I have read and heard, as the mining industry began to decline, people just abandoned their homes and those left were known to move into an empty house if it were in better condition than their own. What an interesting time they must have had! Imagine choosing from a variety of homes every day.

Unlike Ouray and Silverton, Ironton suffered several fires through the years, destroying much of the original architecture. It is fascinating to look at old photos on the Historical Society website.

ironton.9Easily accessible from highway 550, Ironton can be visited any time of year. During the winter months, the Ouray Nordic Council grooms cross country ski trails all around the ghost town. There is little to compare to skiing around the remaining buildings in the surreal quiet of a winter day in the Uncompahgres. It is tempting to step inside and explore these silent witnesses to a time long passed regardless of the season. Be warned though, it can be pretty dark, and these houses are literally falling down. Enter at your own risk!

guideJeep tour guides will tell a variety of stories about some of the homes and characters of Ironton and the surrounding mines. One story that stands out is about a man so in love with his wife, he spent 8 years building her dream house in town, complete with a heart shaped deck. Less than a year after she joined him, she became ill and passed away during the long cold winter. The story goes that instead of putting her in the cellar until the spring thaw, she was wrapped in a blanket and set in her rocking chair on the porch she loved, gazing at the spectacular view until Spring.

ironton.12As with any old ghost town, stories about the people who once walked the streets are prolific. Of course, standing between two of the buildings still standing so pristine, one can create their own image of what it must have been like. One of my favorite things is to have conversations with the people that were actually there. Remember, Ironton is a fairly young ghost town, so many of our residents remember a different time. The Ouray County Museum is a great place to visit to view pictures of Ironton and many other towns that once were thriving communities, and they also offer a number of "Evenings in History" with speakers sharing a piece of American history from not so long ago.

Getting There:  The town of Ironton is located just off of Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton. From the Box Canyon Lodge, turn right onto Highway 550 heading South toward Silverton. Just past Crystal Lake on the right, about nine (9) miles, there is a pull out on the left. Signs indicate the turnoff for Corkscrew Pass, Brown Mountain, and Ironton Park. This is an easier turn off to spot, and the town can be reached from this turn off, however, perhaps a quarter mile further south is a short dirt road leading to the town site, County Road 20D. The road is quite grooved, but you can get to the parking area without a four wheel drive.

 Happy Exploring!

 

 

 

 

Jeep Tours In The San Juan Mountains For a Day of Adventure

  
  
  

Take a Journey into History, While Experiencing the Majesty of Southwest Colorado on a Jeep Tour!

jeep toursHave you ever wondered what all of the fuss is about when people talk about four wheeling in the San Juans? Whether it is your first visit, or your hundredth, regardless of your off road experience, taking a ride with one of the knowledgeable guides in Ouray is well worth it.

From the moment we boarded the twelve passenger tour jeep, everyone knew this was going to be a day of fun. Greg, owner of San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours picked us up promptly at 8:30, and immediately set a mood of adventure with his friendly, professional manner.

heading out jeep tour ourayWe jumped on Highway 550, and began  our tour with a quick stop at the Bear Creek pull off. This section of the Million Dollar Highway was just recently expanded and offers a spectacular view of the Uncompahgre Gorge. A plaque honoring Otto Mears stands testament to the fact that this section of road was built and maintained by hardworking people. Photos of the highway and toll booth when it was fist built, remind us of how times have changed.

ironton explorersAnother quick stop to walk around in the town of Ironton was a fascinating journey into the history of the Uncompahgres. It is hard to believe that once there were over a thousand residents where now there are only a few buildings still standing. You cannot help but marvel at how quickly Mother Nature takes back an entire town.

Just past the Summit of Red Mountain Pass, the real adventure began, as we turned off onto a county road, which would lead us to the Highway to Heaven. San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours is the only tour company with permission to drive this road, so there were no other vehicles as we unlocked the gate and began the ride.

highway to heaven jeep tourWildflowers dot the countryside as the road climbs in altitude, past abandoned mines and falling down houses on the deceptively smooth road. Perhaps ten minutes after the gate, the real ride began. Greg stopped and told us some history of the area, then gestured beyond to the beginning of the Highway to Heaven. The grade was daunting, and the tour truck immediately geared into four low as we began the ascent. Looking to the side, there is very little shoulder, and the countryside opens in a breathtaking panorama. Sitting in the far back seat, it was fun to look forward and see nothing but sky past the heads of my co travelers.

top of the worldAs we reached the top of the road, clouds obscured our view for a moment, and we all got out of the vehicle to stand at the edge, where no one questioned whether we truly had risen as far as the name of the tour proclaimed. A light breeze pushed aside the clouds, and we found ourselves gazing down at the Million Dollar Highway from what seemed like a thousand miles above.

Some of us tried to get our picture taken with a finger in the lake below, but our aim was a little off.

million dollar highwayThe ride back down was amusing. some folks with weak stomachs opted to walk as opposed to riding back down the steepest part of the road. Greg just chuckled when asked if his feelings were hurt. The drivers on these tours have traveled these roads so often, it is old hat to them. We caught up with them quickly enough, and the ride down the hill was not nearly as frightening as everyone thought it would be. 

silvertonShortly after, we found ourselves in the tiny town of Silverton. A quick stop at the courthouse to use the restrooms, then we headed to Handlebars for lunch. This little restaurant is a popular spot for lunch, between the atmosphere, friendly service and great food its no wonder!

Heading home, we took Corkscrew Pass. This four wheel drive road is full of twists and turns, but not overly treacherous. It takes you up above timberline again, and we all got out to look across the way at the mountaintop we had just been to.

top of corkscrewOnce back at the hotel, everyone was truly satisfied, and perhaps a little tired. There is nothing like spending an entire day travelling the back roads around Ouray. It always seems as if there is something more magnificent to see beyond every switchback, and it is hard to leave, but once the day was over, everyone was glad to relax and download all the pictures, or soak in the mineral hot spring tubs.

bcltubsLet us help you decide on the perfect jeep tour for your visit! At the Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs, our team makes it a point to know what will best suit your party. Whether you are looking for bumpy roads and heart pounding adventure, or a scenic ride to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, we can help create the perfect adventure for you.

See you Soon!

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