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Ouray Colorado Vacation Guide and Trip Planning Information for SW Colorado

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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!

Original "True Grit" Filmed in Southwest Colorado In and Near Ouray

  
  
  

Last Dollar Road Provides a Stunning Backdrop for Photographers Year Round and Springtime is no Exception.  

The Original "True Grit" starring John Wayne was filmed on several locations in Ouray County including the town of Ridgway, in the Ouray County Courthouse, and up on Owl Creek Pass.  However, the Ross Ranch was actually just outside of Ouray County on Last Dollar Road.

In Ridgway head west on Colorado Highway 62 up and over the Dallas Divide and then turn left on Last Dollar Road (marked with a brown Forest Service Sign) about 2 miles west of the summit.  The initial stretches of road (4-5 miles) are easily accessible by a passenger car.

The Ross Ranch is private property, so, it is best to obey the signs, but, it is right alongside the road so pictures are easy.  This building has fallen into further disrepair but, from this angle, it is still recognizable.  The purple lupine flower in early June on Last Dollar Road.

ross ranch last dollar road

These buildings are right there too.

last dollar road ross ranch true grit

 

Just beyond the Ross Ranch, amazing scenic vistas of ranchland as far as the eye can see and the amazing yellow flowers are dandelions.  

wide open fields last dollar road

 

Part of Last Dollar Road is a wonderfully scenic drive with a  passenger car for the first few miles and easily past the Ross Ranch.  If you have a four wheel drive vehicle, you can continue to Telluride on this road, but, if you are in a passenger vehicle, there will be some spots that are not passable.  Last Dollar Road is a fairly easy road for a 4WD enthusiast, however, if the road is wet, it can be trechourous.  

last dollar scenic drive

If you are lucky, you may even enjoy some wildlife viewing as Elk and Deer are prevalent in the area.

two elk last dollar road

 

We offer more information on True Grit locations in Ouray Colorado, just let us know how to help you.  If you stay with us, we have created a self guided tour of many locations that we will share. 

There are several locations in and around Ouray County that are sure to spark recognition and a sense of the Old West. Not much has changed in these little towns since the days the movie was filed, and it is easy to slip into the past.

Let us arrange a special advwenture centered around exploring the silm site of this classic film! We will take care of all of the details, so all you need to do is show up ready to begin your adventure. Check in at the Box Canyon, then head out to pick up your rental jeep. Enjoy a nice long soak in our mineral hot spring tubs, then settle in for the night to enjoy your True Grit dvd. In the morning, head on out with the coordinates and information for a day exploring, then back to Ouray for dinner at the Outlaw Restaurant. Know as The Pick in 1969, this little saloon was a favorite of the entire cast. Pictures and memorabilia decorate every wall, and if you ask nicely and are very gentle, they may let you hold Juhn Waynes hat!

We can't wait to help you with a fantastic adventure!
See you soon!

 

Ouray Colorado: Current Status for 4WD and Jeep Trails - 10/15/2012

  
  
  

As the last leaves fall, Southwest Colorado prepares for Winter Activities.

fall snow ourayWe have seen a spectacular season of fall this year, with colors still hanging on for the time being, however the high country has seen some winter storms, and soon will welcome the first snow of the season. Granted, there is no way to truly know when that will happen, and until then, the jeep trails are still open, but it is important to remember the weather can change in a heartbeat.

There have been some temporary closures of the more extreme jeep trails, and the local tour companies are no longer taking groups up, but if you have your own vehicle, we have compiled a list of the jeep road status as provided by Ouray County, San Juan County and San Miguel County. Happy travels, and please be safe!

Alta Lakes - Open
Black Bear Pass - Open ***PLEASE NOTE THAT IT IS ONE-WAY FROM INGRAM FALLS INTO TELLURIDE.***
Blue Lakes Trailhead - Open
Brown Mountain - Open
Cinnamon Pass - Open
Clear Lake - Open
Corkscrew -Open
County Road 2 to Animas Forks - Open
County Road 9 - Open
Cow Creek - Open

ouray 4wd late fallEngineer Pass -Open
Fall Creek Road to Woods Lake - Open
Gladstone - Open
Governors Basin - Open
Hastings Mesa (Hwy 62 to Hwy 145- Top of Dallas to Sawpit) - Open
Horsefly (From Montrose County to Montrose) - Open
Hurricane/California - Open
Imogene - Has been plowed and re-opened. ***please use extreme caution
Iron Springs (Hwy 145 through to Hwy 62)- Open
Last Dollar Road - Open
Little Cone Road (CR G49) - Open
Maggie/Minnie - Open
Miniehaha (CR 51) - Open
Old Lime Creek - Open
Ophir - Cloed on 9/25/2012, however, the trail has been re-opened. ***Please use extreme caution.
Owl Creek Pass - Maintained to Vista Point
Picayune - Open
Pittsburgh Mine Road - open
Placer - Open
Poughkeepsie - REQUIRES EXPERIENCE AND SPECIAL VEHICLE EQUIPMENT.
ouray 4wd late fall.2Red Mountain Town - Open
Shrine Road (CR 6) - Open
Skyline - Open
South Mineral Campground road - County road 7 - Open
Yankee Boy - Open
Stony Pass - Open

Each county and all of the jeep tour companies agree to use extreme caution in the high country this time of year. When in doubt, it is always best to turn around and try a lower altitude pass. As the weather changes from rain to snow, road conditions can become icy and slick very quickly. There are still several passes which are regularly used and provide some of the most photographed scenery in the country any time of year.

With the jeep trails beginning to close, this just means we have winter activities to look forward to! There are some amazing hiking trails, scenic drives that do not require 4WD, and ice climbing season is just around the corner! Late October and November are ideal times to visit and enjoy a quiet, relaxing escape as the hurried season comes to a close, and before the busy Holidays begin.

Needless to say, a long soak in the mineral hot springs is a rejuvenating experience in the peaceful atmosphere of the San Juan Mountains.

 

 

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Five Roads from Ouray to Telluride

  
  
  

With over 500 miles of accessible 4WD trails at our doorstep, is it any wonder Ouray is know as the Jeeping Capitol of the World?

highway62When driving to Telluride in the winter, or in a sedan, or if you're in a hurry, it is a circular route down Highway 550 to Ridgway, turn on to Highway 62, then a few miles further down the road, turn onto Highway 145 which takes you to a town very similar to Ouray, but a mountain range away. The entire drive is forty-seven miles and takes about an hour.

 

 

Of course, thats not the only way to Telluride, just the fastest. Imogene, Black Bear, Ophir and Last Dollar are some other options, but not for the faint of heart (except perhaps for Last Dollar).

black bear passBlack Bear Pass is the shortest in miles, but takes alot longer than the highway. A short twelve miles of sharp twists and narrow turns, this level five trail is not for the faint of heart. In fact, most rental companies strictly forbid the use of their vehicles on this one. Definately take a tour though!

imogene basin 080311 1Imogene is a level four jeep trail traversing 17 miles of spectacular scenery. This is propably the second most popular trail in the area, taking drivers over rough terrain to the summit of 13,100 feet. Both of these typically open around July Fourth so the early opening of these roads is exciting indeed! Perhaps I will let someone drive me over them this year!

ophir september 11 15Ophir Pass is considered one of the easier four wheel drive roads in the area. Summiting at a little over 11,000 feet, this level three trail travels past waterfalls, and a mountain lake as it eventually drops you into the small town of Ophir, a few miles away from Telluride. As you enter into the 'city limits' of Ophir, you are greeted with a welcome sign which proclaims the population down to house pets. Super cute!

last dollar roadAre you a John Wayne fan? Last Dollar Road takes travellers past the Ross Ranch, one of several film locations from True Grit in and around Ouray County. Accessed about 10 miles outside of Ridgway, at the top of Dallas Divide, this level one trail gives drivers a sense of the majesty of the back country without the extreme switchbacks and sheer drops of some of the more difficult roads.

 Do them all, perhaps not in one day, but each road is its own adventure and well worth the drive. After that, no worries! Take a drive to Silverton over Corkscrew or head on over to Lake City on Engineer, or explore some ghost towns in Red Mountain Town.

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Ouray County Roads 2 & 4: Oft Overlooked 4WD & Scenic Drive Gems

  
  
  

Off the Beaten Path 4WD and Motorcycle Roads in Ouray County Colorado for Wildflower Viewing and Fall Foliage

 

scenic views from ouray county colorado

Ouray County Roads 2 and 4 are often overlooked by visitors who want to climb to dizzying heights in the San Juan mountains. Now don’t get me wrong, because I love doing the same thing. But close to home are two readily-accessible roads that offer access to Billy Creek State Wildlife Area, along with spectacular views and wildflowers. The roads, shown in the GPS track below, are easily reached from US Hwy 550, just north of the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Campground at Ridgway State Park. This post tells you how to find these great roads and gives you a sample of the views and wildflowers I captured on camera on a mid June afternoon.

ouray county road 4 cimarrons view

Let’s suppose you’re renting a Jeep, but that’s tomorrow. What to do today? If you have a conventional 2-wheel-drive sedan, you can easily travel up County Road 2 and also up to the top of the ridge on County Road 4B, enjoy the incredible views, then turn around and retrace your steps. The road is a bit rutted, but time will knock the ruts down even more. Now, let’s suppose that while you’re waiting for that Jeep you have your SUV or pickup truck. You can easily add County Road 4 to your itinerary and see even more. Pay attention to where there are some rocks embedded in the road surface and you’ll be fine—I don’t recommend it for low-clearance highway vehicles like our Prius. If you take your dual-sport or dirt motorcycle, note that there is some scree. Also note that parts of CR 4 border private property, so please obey the “no trespassing” signs and stay on the road. Also please note that vehicles going uphill have the right of way (but use common sense).

ouray county road 4 entrance from us550

ouray county road 2 entrance from us550

From Ouray, drive north to Ridgway. Keep on going, about nine miles. You’ll pass the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk campground—in another half mile you’ll find the turn onto County Road 4. If you’d prefer the tamer County Road 2, travel a couple miles further north on US Hwy 550 and you’ll see this sign on the east side of the road near a small collection of homes and the big metal maintenance building for Billy Creek.

Before looking at the wildflowers, let’s take a look at the GPS track below that highlights both roads. You may want to print this map and take it with you.

cr 2 4 gps track

Note there are primitive campsites near the intersection of CR 2 and CR 4A. Observe the signs. If you’re bringing ATVs along, this is where you’ll want to park and unload.

cr 2 view

Above:  The view from the parking area at the easternmost end of CR 2. In the fall this field is dotted with hay rolls and is gorgeous. It's quiet here and there's plenty of room to park, plus a trail to go further into Billy Creek on foot or horseback.

When I was up there yesterday evening, I found wildflowers everywhere, especially up toward the intersection of CR 4A and CR 4. I stopped to take a picture of one and ended up spending quite a bit of time capturing pictures of others.

cr 4 thistle w bug

wildflowers in ouray county

cr 4 yellow flowers

cr 2 blue bevey

 

cr 4 fairy trumpet

So, there you go! A low key, straightforward ride through some beautiful areas with gorgeous views. This is one of my favorite rides!

Below:  Pinion Pines Biome on County Road 4.

 ouray county road 4 pinion pines

About the Author:  Dave Casler is an avid motorcycle rider (both dirt and street) and lives in Ouray County.  He has the very best website documenting the roads of Ouray County for motor enthusiasts.  He also has information on routes in Montrose County as well as San Juan County (Silverton), Hinsdale (Lake City) and San Miguel County (Telluride).  All 4WD enthusiasts will appreciate his GPS maps and documentation of routes although he specializes in motorcycles.

Ouray Colorado: Current Status for 4WD and Jeep Roads

  
  
  

Current Status: October 18, 2011

Due to the recent snowfall in the upper country, all four wheel drive trails above 10,000 feet are snow packed and icy. Fall colors are still in bloom in much of the lower country although many of the aspen have begun to shed their leaves in preparation for winter. Trails like Last Dollar are especially beautiful this time of year, however please remember to use caution, as muddy trails can be quite hazardous.

For information on Fall Color, look at these other articles:

 

county road 7 ourayYankee Boy  - Open to the restrooms only

 

Gladstone - Open

 

Corkscrew -CLOSED

 

Last Dollar Road - Open Fall colors are still fantastic in this area!

 

Old Lime Creek - Open

 

Imogene - CLOSED

 

Governors Basin - CLOSED

 

Clear Lake  - CLOSED

 

 

owl creek pass autumnAlta Lakes  - Open

 

Hurricane/California  - CLOSED

 

Maggie/Minnie - CLOSED

 

Stony Pass - CLOSED

 

Black Bear Pass - CLOSED

 

Engineer Pass  -CLOSED

 

Picayune - CLOSED

 

Placer - CLOSED

 

Ophir - CLOSED

 

Skyline - CLOSED

 
dallas divide 3Although most passes are now closed, there is much to see from the lower altitude trails. As always, use caution on all trails this time of year, and dont forget your camera!

Best Off the Beaten Path Picnic Spots in Ouray County - Part 2

  
  
  

Thanks to visiting the Ouray area as frequently as possible on my Colorado vacations, I’ve stumbled upon my fair share of perfect picnic spots. Some are easy to reach; some not so much. I’d like to focus on the hidden, not-so-easy-to-find picnic spots of Ouray County. Some of these beautiful hideaways may take an hour or more to reach, but that’s the beauty of being in Ouray… you’re not in any hurry, are you?

 

east dallas creek blue lakesEast Dallas Creek
Head toward Ridgway and then travel west toward Telluride on Highway 62. Look for County Road 7 as it exits the highway on your left. There should also be a sign that says East Dallas Creek. Follow the signs for CR7 and stay to the right when the road forks. The road begins winding up and you’ll enjoy in-your-face views of Mount Sneffels. Continue past the National Forest boundary sign and you’ll see signs for Blue Lakes Trailhead. Once you get near the top, you’ll notice a lesser road that turns to the right and heads away from the mountain range. Turn on this road and follow it into a huge clearing along a rustic fence. It turns into a two-track lane and dead ends in a field. Pop out of your car, and unload, because this is your destination. The mountains are close -- really close. And they create the perfect backdrop for a picnic. A trailhead is behind you…just walk through the opening in the fence and take a short hike to a stream. There’s even a porta-potty in a grove of aspen trees if you drink too much soda with your picnic. The views are sweeping and your picnic is pretty private; most cars continue traveling down the road to the Blue Lakes Trailhead.

yankee boy twin fallsYankee Boy Basin
Four-wheel drive is not needed to reach the picnic spot, but recommended (because everything is more fun in a Jeep). The turnoff for Camp Bird Road is just outside of Ouray. Get on the Million Dollar Highway like you’re headed for Silverton and then turn immediately right, at the Box Canyon Falls. Follow Camp Bird Road as is takes you past Drinking Cup, under the famous Hanging Rock and leads you higher into the Basin. Once you pass the crumbled remains of the Camp Bird Mine on your left, you are getting close to the Twin Falls. These are the waterfalls featured on the old Coors beer cans. You can’t miss them; they will be on your left. If you are picnicking in July, you are in for a treat: the Colorado wildflowers that blanket the Basin will stun you into silence. Bluebells, Columbines, Asters, Indian Paint Brushes and approximately 875 other varieties will encourage you to spend the afternoon getting in touch with your inner photographer. Plop down with your lunch in a clearing and bask in the sounds of the waterfalls and the splashes of color. Mount Sneffels and a cirque of mountains surround you. If you have four-wheel drive, continue up Camp Bird Road to explore the rest of the amazing Yankee Boy Basin.

Part 1: Best Off the Beaten Path Picnic Spots in Ouray County identifies three other great choices for a summertime picnic adventure in the San Juan Mountains.

About the author:  Marion Zachary is a website designer, photographer, videographer and four-wheel drive enthusiast who attempts to spend every spare moment in the San Juan Mountains. Her website featuring her Colorado adventures with her Australian Shepherd, Rio, is filled with incredible information on jeeping roads and 4WD trails near Ouray.

Getting Ready for Summer Jeeping and Four-wheeled Driving in Ouray

  
  
  

clearing jeep roadsOuray enjoys a bountiful snowfall in most years and the high alpine terrain around Ouray Colorado gets even more.  To ensure a longer lasting and great 4WD season, Ouray and the surrounding counties call on their road and bridge department personnel to clear the roads.  In early May (weather depending of course), Ouray County starts the plowing efforts.  Typically, Camp Bird Road (Ouray County 361) gets the first days of plowing.  The bulldozer driver and a volunteer head up the way, slowly moving snow from the road to the side.  This road is plowed past Twin Falls and up to the location of the bathrooms.  The remainder of the basin remains unplowed for the time being. 

clearing jeep roads cork screwThen, the crew moves to the roads of Red Mountain and then onto Corkscrew Pass. Meanwhile, San Juan County (Silverton) and San Miguel County (Telluride) crews are also working on their roads.  Each county plugs away on their territory and the glorious sun does its work too (and hopefully, temperatures cooperate) and melts much of the snow away.  By the time the counties hit the high alpine passes in mid to late June, the job is still daunting, but the task is just about complete.  Road crews meet at the top and then residents and visitors alike can enjoy the spectacular San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado.  

imogene pass snowfieldThe process of clearing snow on the large north facing snowfield in Imogene Basin and then up on the pass is very dangerous.  Since the road is not visible, the dozer driver must be meticulous and accurate with ample experience to know where to plow next.  As you see from the photograph, the road is not very obvious so experience in the terrain is a must.  Imogene Pass is typically the last area cleared and the goal is that it is complete by July 4th weekend but never guaranteed.  With its high elevation, warm days are not the norm.  Enjoyable temperatures remain in the fifties and sixties at the pass itself, even on the hottest days in Ouray.  

If you are thinking of a scenic jeep tour in the Ouray area or you would like to rent your own jeep and drive the 4WD roads, the season typically begins in mid-May and lasts until the roads close again in the fall, typically by the end of October.

At our Ouray hotel, we are delighted to make reservations for your scenic tour.  Typically, one day notice is all that is required to get you on a tour, but, if you have a particular desire, it is best to let us reserve your trip with more advance notice.  The Box Canyon Lodge also offers a Stay and Play package that includes a jeep tour for two.  Our natural, odor free Colorado hot springs feel very good after a long day in the high country!

Latest Status:  As of May 22, 2011, Ouray Road and Bridge are still working in Yankee Boy Basin.  Follow us on Facebook and we will keep people updated.

Best Off the Beaten Path Picnic Spots in Ouray County - Part 1

  
  
  

I can’t think of a more beautiful area to stop and smell the wildflowers than Ouray County. At every turn you stumble across quite possibly the most picturesque spot you’ve ever seen in your life. Then, a little farther down the road, you again stumble across quite possibly the most picturesque spot you’ve ever seen in your life. Generally there’s a postcard-worthy stream nearby. And wildflowers. A big blue sky over red canyon walls. And it just goes on and on.

For a great adventure, try to picnic in one of the following gorgeous meadows at the base of incredible mountains.

Box Factory Park
sneffels wildernessHead toward Ridgway and then travel west toward Telluride on Highway 62. Look for County Road 9 as it exits the highway on your left. There is also be a sign that says West Dallas Creek. When you start out on CR9, you will go through the private property of designer Ralph Lauren’s Ranch. The Double RL Ranch is approximately 22,000 acres of perfect views. This dirt road winds up and splits at a fork and you’ll want to stay to the right as it turns into CR9A. You’ll drive along a mesa above Stough Draw, pass through old-growth aspen groves, and enjoy gambel oak as you get closer and closer to Mount Sneffels.  The road gets narrower toward the end, crosses some small streams, and can get marshy after a rain, but the payoff is worth it. You’ll know the picnic spot when you see it…the road ends in a magnificent field called Box Factory Park with one of the most amazing views of Mount Sneffels I’ve ever seen. The mountain is perfectly framed by a grove of aspen that you will enjoy walking through. Peaceful, off the grid, and a beautiful spot to enjoy your lunch.

Deb’s Meadow
Head toward Ridgway on Highway 550 and after you go through town, be on the lookout for CR10 and the sign for Owl Creek Pass, which will turn off the highway on your right. Follow the signs and be sure you take the right fork in the road on CR8 – right will take you up Owl Creek Pass and left will take you back out to the highway.

debs meadow owl creek passCourthouse Mountain and Chimney Peak will dominate the view in your windshield, as will all of the Cimarron Mountain Range. When Chimney Rock fills up your view and you feel close enough to touch it, you’re almost at the summit. Deb’s Meadow is just below the summit, so if you reach the top of the pass, you’ve gone too far. You can’t miss it though…it’s the only open field you’ll pass on the entire journey. The meadow is on the left and there’s a circle “drive” you can take to park. This is your picnicking destination for the day, complete with a gurgling brook -- Cow Creek.  Aspens line the corn lily-covered field and the view of Chimney Rock is astounding.  Walk to the middle of the field – watch your step, it can be marshy in spots - and roll out your blanket. And if this spot looks familiar, you may recognize it from the famous shootout scene at the end of “True Grit,” where John Wayne charged across on his horse, guns in both hands, reins in his teeth. It’s a picturesque little spot and you’ll enjoy imagining the Duke was there in 1968 filming the only movie that won him the Academy Award.

Ironton
ironton million dollar highwayIf you enjoy history and want to eat your lunch in a real ghost town, travel out of Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway toward Silverton and spend the afternoon in Ironton. Ironton is located in a huge valley called Ironton Park, and was a natural shipping point for the mines in the Red Mountain Mining District, just up the highway. Established in 1883, it thrived for many years before fading away, like most mining towns do. The former townsite is very easy to find. On the north side of Red Mountain Pass, just after you descend the switchbacks, you will find a large clearing to your left. The town was located just to the east of U.S. Highway 550, with the old main street running parallel to the present road. There are a few houses still standing, some with aspen trees growing out of their living rooms. Follow the dirt road that runs parallel to the highway (you’ll only be 200 yards or so away from the Million Dollar Highway) and you’ll continue to find more homesteads and structures. A picnic table is among them. Enjoy your lunch and walk around the ruins set against a beautiful mountain backdrop. A creek runs behind the homes.  As you explore, imagine life in the 1800s and the families that once called these crumbling remains “home.” Be sure to listen to the wind. It has stories to tell.

Part 2: Best Off the Beaten Path Picnic Spots in Ouray County identifies two other great choices for a summertime picnic adventure in the San Juan Mountains

About the author:  Marion Zachary is a website designer, photographer, videographer and four-wheel drive enthusiast who attempts to spend every spare moment in the San Juan Mountains. Her website featuring her Colorado adventures with her Australian Shepherd, Rio, is filled with incredible information on jeeping roads and 4WD trails near Ouray.

3 Reasons to Take a Scenic Jeep Tour in Ouray Colorado

  
  
  

scenic jeep tour near Ouray ColoradoSummertime in Ouray, Colorado, is a fantastic time to get into the high Rocky Mountains.  One of the best ways to enjoy the flora and the fauna when in Southwest Colorado is to take a jeep tour.  There are three jeep tour companies in Ouray that can take you into the backcountry, across many historic roads and past many ghost towns.  Three reasons to take a jeep tour are:

  1. The guides are professional drivers.  They drive these roads all summer long and are able to manage all the turns and bumps with the precision of a surgeon.  They memorize the contours of the road and make the ride as gentle as possible.  You don't need to concern yourself with the route or the read a map.  They know where they want to take you and you are in safe hands.
  2. The drivers of the commercial jeep tours know the flora and fauna of the area.  They know the names of the animals and are really good at spotting the various creatures that live in the alpine zone.  They also know the names of the wild flowers and know great places to stop and take photographs too.  ironton ghost town
  3. The drivers are very knowlegable of the history and geography of the area.  They enhance your journey with stories and anecdotes of the mining days in the late 1800s.  They are able to bring some of the mining structures to life by explaining the purpose of the building or elaborating on the ruins.  Of course, there are other ways to learn about the San Juan Mountain mining history too.

A ride with a commercial jeep tour is a must and your stay will be enriched.  We will gladly book a tour for your stay in Ouray, Colorado with one of the commercial jeep tour companies.  We offer a jeep tour package during the summertime. 

All companies will pick you up at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs and drop you off there too.  Tours are typically a 1/2 day but you can also go out for an extended tour.  Reservations can typically made the day before you want to go on the tour without any problems if you do not have a large group.  If you are very particular which tour you take, advance notice is the best option.  When you book with us, we can also get your tour set up for you at that time too.

The rides can be rough so a soak in our natural hot springs will be a welcome end to a glorious day!

 

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mountain flowers