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Ouray Colorado Vacation Guide and Trip Planning Information for SW Colorado

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Five Reasons to Make Ouray, Colo., Your Summer Vacation Destination


Festivals, Hiking, Biking, Historic Mining Highlight ‘Switzerland of America’

box canyon lodge hot (1)Winter won’t last forever (really). Despite the low temps, short days and seemingly endless snow shoveling ahead for much of the country, it is never too early to start dreaming about your summer vacation plans. Here are five reasons to put Ouray, Colo., the top of your to-do list this summer.

#1 - The Road Less Traveled

jeep.ouray.2One of the most enjoyable ways to explore the beauty that surrounds Ouray is to take a tour into the mountains – via jeep, ATV or off-highway motorcycle. Ouray is such a hotbed for this action that it’s been nicknamed “Jeep Capital of the World.” Bring your own, rent a vehicle in town or hire an experienced, knowledgeable guide to show you the sites along the old wagon roads prospectors and miners built in the 1800s and 1900s. Off-road staging areas are available at Eureka, Hensen Creek near Lake City, Canyon Creek, half a mile southwest of Lake San Cristobal and on Highway 550 south of Ouray at the Engineer Pass turnoff. ATV enthusiasts will not want to miss The Alpine Loop Back Country Byway system, a 60-mile road carved through the San Juans that connects the towns of Lake City, Ouray and Silverton.

#2 - Lore and Legend

bachelermineNot all of the mines in the area are completely abandoned. You can see firsthand the underground world of the hard-rock gold miner on one of two authentic mine tours. Just north of Ouray is the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine Tour ( Here, you can enjoy a delicious miner’s breakfast, take a gold panning class and tour 1800 feet into Gold Hill on a tram. Near Silverton, visit The Old Hundred Mine (, where you can climb aboard the mine tram for a tour inside and see mining equipment in action. Afterward, try your luck as you pan for gold, silver and semi-precious gemstones in the miners’ sluice box.

minetourThe Ouray County Museum, is housed in an old mining hospital. Featuring mining, ranching and railroading history, containing many artifacts dating back to Ouray’s earliest days. You also can browse through the research center, which contains books and other written artifacts and photos.

#3 - Single Tracks and Trails

4wheelingOuray also offers well-rounded, off-road experiences for mountain bikers in search of the perfect single track. Bikers of all levels can access numerous back roads and trails that wind above and around Ouray. Whether you are hammering on the single track of Portland Trail, grinding away on Imogene Pass, or taking your time on the easier River Road, there is something for everyone. Box Canyon Falls Park in the southwest corner of Ouray is a must-see. This natural wonder was formed when the rushing waters of Canyon Creek eroded a deep and narrow boxed canyon through fault-weakened limestone. The lower trail, an easy 500-feet hike via a walkway and suspension bridge, will lead you straight into the belly of the falls. Enjoy Mother Nature’s orchestra as thousands of gallons of water per minute roar through the canyon.

hikingYou can also take a short (but steep) hike to the bridge above the falls and look down on the fury of the water as it plummets into the canyon – and as an added treat, enjoy beautiful views of Ouray. The area, designated an important bird watching area by the National Audubon Society, is the preferred habitat for the state’s largest population of Black Swifts, a protected species.

For other hikes, visit the Ouray Perimeter Trail guide and look to our blog for more information on hiking trails.

#4 - “Hot” Springs Eternal

ouray hot springsThe Ouray Hot Springs Pool is the second-largest natural hot springs in the world with nearly a million gallons of water, fed by two local springs. In addition to several soaking sections at a variety of temperatures, the pool has a lap swim section, diving area, large slide, shallow section for youngsters, and game area for water volleyball. Floats are available for rent at the pool. In addition our hotel has natural hot springs onsite. Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs four redwood tubs terraced on the mountainside offer panoramic views.

#5 – Festival Fun

ouray colorado   fun in the parkOuray’s locals know how to have a good time, and they enjoy sharing the spirit of celebration with visitors. Here is a sampling of the festival fun on tap this summer.

June 4, 11, 18, 25 – Mountain Air Music Series: Enjoy free music each Thursday night in June at the town park in Ouray. Bring your blankets and lawn chairs, your dinner, or purchase food and drink from one of the many vendors onsite.

fourth of julyJuly 4 – Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration – Main Street: This celebration includes parades, kids’ games, fire hose water fights, the Elks Club BBQ and spectacular fireworks display.

July 31 – Aug. 8 – 55th Annual Art Show – Community Center: A nationally juried exhibition, this art show is open to all artists in several mediums, including oil, watercolor and pastel.

2009 Mt. Sneffels Half Marathon photos 9 600 450 80Sept. 12 – 42nd Annual Imogene Pass Run – Main Street: A rugged 17-mile race from Ouray to

Telluride, via a 13,120-foot steep mountain pass, Imogene Pass Run is one of the top mountain races in the United States. ( or 970-728-0251)

Let the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help you to plan your ideal getaway in Ouray this Summer. Our knowledgable front desk agents are witing to help arrange everything from jeep tours to dinner reservations.


Ouray, southwest colorado



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!

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!

Four Wheel Drive Updates for 2013 in Ouray County


Jeep Trails are opening up in the high country. Head on up to Ouray today!

Summer wildflowers in Imogene BasinOuray Coun ty has had a beautiful Spring! With the snow almost gone, it is time to head out to the high country and enjoy the amazing scenery of the San Juan Mountain range. Wildflowers are blooming everywhere. It's just a question of where you want to go to see the full effect of blankets of color over green grass.

Photographers fantasize about days as full of images as one might see in less than a morning here. With over 500 miles of trails to choose from right outside of town, it is no wonder Ouray, Colorado is nick-named The Jeeping Capital of the World!

Even driving the highway is a pleasure this time of year. Everywhere you look, the new calves and foals are roaming pastureland. Just earlier this week, a guest reported sighting a baby bear as she drove into town!

waterfalls near ouray colo in july1With the re-opening of three mines on Camp Bird Mine Road, the track is already open to the bathrooms at Yankee Boy! Take advantage of the mild weather and quiet time of year to explore the Uncompahgres!

Four Wheel Drive Road Status as of June 13, 2013:

Alta Lakes - Open
Black Bear Pass - Closed
Blue Lakes Trailhead - Open 
Brown Mountain - Open
Cinnamon Pass - Open to Lake City 
Clear Lake - Open
Corkscrew -Open 
County Road 2 to Animas Forks - Open
County Road 9 - Open
Cow Creek - Open

Engineer Pass -Open

Fall Creek Road (to Woods Lake) - Open

Governors Basin - Open

Hastings Mesa - Open

Horsefly - Open

Happy marmot around OurayHurricane/California - Open 

Imogene - Open to Richmond basin and Silver Basin on Ouray side - Open to the Summit only on San Miguel side.
Iron Springs (Hwy 145 through to Hwy 62)- Open
Last Dollar Road - Open 
Little Cone Road (CR G49) - Open
Maggie/Minnie - Open as far as the Kitty Mack Cut-off
Miniehaha (CR 51) - Open
Old Lime Creek - Open
Owl Creek Pass - Open
Picayune - Open
Pittsburgh Mine Road - Closed
Placer - Open
Poughkeepsie - Closed
Wildflowers around OurayRed Mountain Town - Open
Shrine Road (CR 6) - Open
Skyline - Open
South Mineral Campground road - County road 7 - Open with hosts on site
Yankee Boy - Open 
Stony Pass - Open to Pole Creek *Please use extreme caution crossing Pole Creek in the Spring!

Please remember as always: road conditions in the high country can change in minutes. Please use extreme caution during the early spring month. If in doubt, turn around and take a different trail. Even the low altitude Soaking in the hot tubs at the Box Canyon Lodgefour wheel drive trails can be treacherous as winter melt off erodes paths and causes rock slides. Every trip is an adventure, and once you have spent the day exploring the San Juans, there is no better way to relax than a long soak in our soothing mineral hot spring tubs!

Let the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help plan your next trip in the high country! We can arrange jeep tours or jeep rentals with the company of your choice. For tours, the driver will come pick you up from our lobby and bring you right back to us at the end of an eventful day.

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
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
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.




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