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Ouray Colorado Vacation Guide and Trip Planning Information for SW Colorado

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Ouray CO: 'Snow' Much Fun for Spring Break: March 2011 Events


bighorn male san juan mountainsOuray Colo packs a punch this spring break.  Wildlife viewing abounds and you can enjoy various winter activities while in Ouray or Ridgway; ice climbing is still safe and accessible at the Ouray Ice Park and ice climbing instruction is available through San Juan Mountain Guides.  You can also check out these things to do during your stay as March 2011 dishes up several fun events.  Contact us at our hotel in SW Colorado and we can be sure to have your tickets waiting for your arrival at our establishment in the San Juan Mountains.  We are delighted to help you arrange things to do in Ouray or Ridgway in advance.

March 4 & March 5, 2011, Mountain Film on Tour:  The dZi Foundation brings Telluride's international film festival to the Ouray Community Center on Friday March 4 and Saturday March 5, 7-10pm.  Films are hand selected from the finalists at Telluride Mountainfilm, with themes of adventure, mountaineering, remarkable personalities, and important environmental and social messages. Different Films each night.

  • Doors open: 6:30pm
  • Admission: $10/night
  • Beer provided by Colorado Boy, Ridgway's finest Pub & Brewery
  • Silent Auction: outdoor clothing and gear, textiles, jewelry and photos from India & Nepal
  • Location Details:  Ouray Community Center, 320 6th Avenue, Ouray CO
  • March 5, 2011, Live Music:  Big'Ns is back! Come listen to the hottest Irish Rock band from Pagosa Springs, starting at 9:30pm at O'Briens Pub.

    March 12, 2011, Wine and Whiskers:  Second Chance Humane Society is hosting the 4th Annual Wine and Whiskers Carnival. This Mardi-Gras themed fun(d)-raiser includes complimentary wine and beer (2 drinks per person), decadent chef samplers from local chefs throughout San Miguel and Ouray Counties, cash bar, a live and silent auction stocked with over 300 items and the sizzling and dazzling Fashion Cabaret! The evening concludes with dancing to the eclectic tunes of DJ Antone. Tickets are only $40.00 at the door or in advance at the Second Chance Thrift Shop. The fun begins at 6:00pm at the 4H Center in Ridgway.  Visit or call (970) 626-2273 for further details.

    March 13 - Daylight Savings Begins - Don't forget to set your clocks ahead 1 hour!

    March 17 - St. Patrick's Day: Ouray's own O'Briens Pub features Irish music all day long as well as Irish specialties of the house.  Anticipate an all out party well into the next day with live music. 

    March 19, 2011:  Come Join the St. Patrick's Day Weekend festivities in Ouray for an evening of Rocky Mountain Celtic Music & Ceilidh (Traditional Irish Dancing) Dancing at the Wright Opera House in Ouray.

    Good friends Kim McKee and Ken Willson return to Ouray County with new music but familiar instruments and talent. Kim is a world champion mountain dulcimer musician joined by her husband on the Celtic harp, hammer dulcimer, accordion, Irish bouzouki, bodhran and guitar! The evening will be finished off with a chance to participate in some ceilidh dancing (Irish round dancing). Great evening of Irish fun for the whole family!

    Tickets - $15 (pre sale or online at, $18 at door, $5 students (16 and under)

    Tickets available online or in person at Buckskin Booksellers in Ouray, Cimmaron Books in Ridgway, Mouse's Chocolates in Ouray, and The Coffee Trader in Montrose.  

    This show is appropriate family fun and suitable for all ages.

    Contact: Mariah DeGear:

    Don't forget about our Hot Spring Break Special if you want a sweet hotel discount too!

    Ouray County Snowshoe and Mining District Tour

    It's not too late to snag a spot in this weekend's Ouray County Winter Mine Tour. Just make your reservation by Friday, February 25 at 12 noon!

    We will meet at the Ouray Visitor Center at 10am on Saturday, February 26 and return at 2pm. We will carpool to the lower end of CR 31 where it connects to Hwy. 550. Your minimum donation of $25 includes a catered lunch plus a hot toddy/tea and coffee! Please bring cash or check payable to the OCHS at the day of the event.

    MINES TO BE VISITED: Guston, Robinson, Genesse-Vanderbilt, Yankee Girl, and discussion of the Mtn King, Barstow, and the Idarado. The tour will be by skis or snowshoes on the lower end of CR 31


    Your expert guides will be:

    Don Paulson, curator of the Ouray Museum: He will address the cultural and historical aspects of each site.

    Rachel Boothby of the Uncompaghre Watershed Project (UWP). She will speak about reclamation needs and options.

    CONTACT: More info/questions: Don Paulson, 325-0931;

    RSVP: Rachel Boothby,


    One of the more dramatic instances of point and counterpoint in Ouray County is the need to preserve the long silent historical mining structures of an era gone by and the modern-day need to remediate some of these mining sites to improve the health of our watershed. Many tourists come to Ouray County to explore mine sites and sift through the waste dumps for a shiny mineral or two. However, these structures are disappearing due to collectors’ uninformed intentions, simple neglect and the passage of time, and the fact there isn’t enough money to preserve them. Similarly, it has been documented that some of these same mine sites continue to have a negative impact on our watershed through their acidic mine drainage effluent containing harmful contaminants.

    This is a fundraiser for the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership (UWP) and the Ouray County Historical Society (OCHS) – to draw attention to the need for both historical preservation and remediation of mine sites. 

    Proceeds are divided evenly between the two groups.

    Craft Breweries of Ouray County Colorado


    Ouray County Colorado is the home to three craft breweries.  They are all unique and are no more than 10 minutes from one another.  The breweries are as follows:

    ourayle house breweryOurayle House:  This eclectic place is a one man, one dog operation whereby the server is also the brewer, the dishwasher, and the administrative helper.  Jim Hutchison, aka "Hutch" is the super creative force behind Ouray's first brewery.  He created a swing so he slides back and forth serving beer to his guests.  He also has a rope line above the bar stools with bells on it.  Like a bus, when you need a beer, summon him by ringing the bells!  He typically carries 4-6 beers on tap, all hand crafted by him.  He doesn't have a website himself, but there is a nice article describing the Ourayle House online at the Examiner.  He also doesn't serve any food, but, it is BYOF so you can bring your own food or call one of the many restaurants in towns for takeout.  Hutch provides a couple of grills outside and Ducket's Market has a butcher (closed Sundays) so you can find a great steak there.

    ouray breweryOuray Brewery:  The Ouray Brewery is the newest addition to the Ouray County beer scene.  It has the only rooftop seating in Ouray and is prominently located at 6th Ave and Main Street.  This brewery features an interesting menu -- a combination of bar food and gluton and vegetarian options as well as a few specialties of the chef.  They carry 3-5 different brews at any one time and serve tasting flights.  They typically carry at least one additional craft beer that is a guest beer.  They also feature a full bar for those who have friends and family without beer.  Kids are welcome.

    Colorado Boy: Colorado Boy Brewing is located in Ridgway, a mere 10 minutes north on US 550.  The owner is the most experienced brewer and his little establishment packs a serious beer drinking crowd.  They just began serving hand made pizzas to accompany their beer and those are a huge hit.  He also teaches classes on how to open your own small brewery and run it with precision.  He has much experience in this field in that he has started at least 3 other breweries before he began Colorado Boy, his most notable was Palisade Brewing.

    Southwest Colorado has many towns and most of them have a small brewery, winery, or distillery or a combination of all three.  Check out the Southwest Colorado Brewery Tour for information.  This map was last updated in 2009, before Ouray Brewery was put into operation.

    Box Canyon Lodge Supports Jeff Lowe's Film Project: "Metanoia"


    Jeff Lowe is a mountaineering pioneer.  He was also very instrumental in starting the Ouray Ice Festival that occurs in our little berg every January at the worlds first manmade ice park, the Ouray Ice Park.  We proudly pledge our support for his current project:  "Metanoia".  This project will be a movie about a nearly impossible solo climb that Jeff did over twenty years ago on the face of the Eiger.  Since he made that climb, no one else has been able to accomplish that feat.  With the Eiger as a backdrop, this film will chronicle Jeff's life and his accomplishments and be narrated by Jon Krakauer as well as track a young swiss climber that will make an attempt to conquer that route.  Check out the project details by watching the movie trailer:

    If you are interested in joining the cause or would like more information on the project, check out the project details page on

    What we also love about this project is that the profits will be shared with important organizations including Paradox Sports, an incredible organization whose mission is to bring the wonderful world of the outdoors to active, disabled people. 

    Basecamp Ouray: 5 Ways to Experience San Juan Mountain Mining History


    Ouray Colorado is in the heart of hard rock mining in the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado.  Numerous silver and later gold mines surfaced in the latter part of the 1800s several years after the Civil War ended; the town of Ouray incorporated in 1876.  At Ouray's peak population, there were 2500 people living in the city limits and there were thousands of others living in the nearby towns (like Ironton or Sneffels) that are now long gone.  Five things to do in Ouray to learn about and experience the life of the hard rock miners of the late 1800s are:

    1. Visit the Mining Overlook
    2. Take a Scenic Jeep Tour
    3. Tour the Ouray Museum
    4. Enroll in the Extended Studies Program at WSC
    5. Attend the Mining Artifact Show In Ouray

    Yankee Girl MineAlong the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway near the summit of Red Mountain Pass, pull off the road at the Mining Overlook.  From this vantage you can see portions of the Red Mountain Mining District including the Yankee Girl Headframe (pictured left - photo by Don Paulson).  Several interpretive displays explain the layout of the mining district and the ways of the hard rock miners.  Further, you learn about the efforts to preserve the history of this region.  The Red Mountain Mining District was the focus of the Red Mountain Project.  This task force worked to preserve vast tracts of land while stabilizing some of the historic structures in the San Juan Mountains.  There was also a great deal of effort focused on reclaimation.  It was a well coordinated effort that has worked to maintain much of the history the region.

    jeep tour 2You can enjoy scenic jeep tours throughout the mining district and learn about some of the histories of the mines in the area.  The tour into Yankee Boy Basin is one of the most popular and during the tour, you can see incredible wildflowers (if you come late June through August) as well as relics of many forgotton mines and mills.  Skilled storytellers recount the life and times of a typical miner as well as explaining the ruins.  The scenery is breathtaking as well as you can ascend the mountains to well over 11,000 feet on a typical tour.

    jeep tourThe tours of Red Mountain III or the tour over Cork Screw (one of the access points to the Alpine Loop) will take you to some of the finest vistas in the area and show you other mining areas.  Most of the roads traveled are historic in that the miners created them over 100 years ago.  Crossing mountain passes unleashes incredible views of the eastern drainages and gives you an unmatched glimpse into the beautiful San Juans.

    MuseumWhile in Ouray, tour the Ouray Museum which has been named "one of the best small museums in the west" by the Smithsonain Institution.  It is housed in the old miner's hospital and there are three floors in its collection.  There is also an extensive research library frequented by those on a quest for family histories as well as professional geneologists.  The museum is open from April - November and the historical society runs an extensive calendar of events during the summertime including the very popular "Evenings in History" lectures.  

    Every year, Western State College offers an extended studies program into the region that covers the early history of mining as well as the geology that made the region so prosperous.  You also get to enjoy the current day comforts of beautiful Southwest Colorado for several days, traveling the historic Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad, travel along parts of the Million Dollar Highway, as well as visit the historic towns of Lake City, Telluride, Ouray, Silverton, and Durango.

    The Mining Artifact Show comes to Ouray on June 11, 2011.  All dealers and collectors of mining artifacts are welcome and it takes place at the Ouray Community Center.  The Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs is offering a group rate for show vendors and collectors.  Please mention the show to obtain your special rate.

    You can also tour the Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour!

    Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs’ four natural hot springs hot tubs are the perfect way to top off a fun-filled day in Ouray. The tubs offer spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains. 

    Natural Hot Springs in Southwest Colorado


    box canyon lodge hot springsRevered throughout history for their soothing powers, hot springs have been popular and sought out all over the world. Europe and Asia created huge bath houses dedicated to the therapeutic effects of natural spring water, and legend states the Native American people of North and South America have always deemed the land surrounding hot springs as sacred ground and avidly maintained a truce of peace while visiting the many pools across the west. Upon the arrival of settlers in southwest Colorado, perhaps the Ute Indians found some level of camaraderie through the soothing waters known and respected by both peoples.

    Southwest Colorado boasts many towns and spas with natural mineral hot springs, but Ouray has the added good fortune to possess hot springs with very low sulfur content; soakers can enjoy the soothing heat of water full of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, without the distinctive odor of sulfur. Common to almost every mineral hot spring is a high content of sodium, which may explain the lightness so many bathers comment on when enjoying this natural wonder.

    redwood tub terraced on mountainsideBubbling to the surface at temperatures from 140 to 180 degrees, Ouray does have to cool its water to make it safe for bathing. The Box Canyon Lodge provides four redwood tubs tiered on the hillside in our courtyard for guests to enjoy the peace and beauty of the San Juans while soaking in a more private, natural setting. The temperature of our mineral hot spring water is maintained between 101 to 108 degrees varying by a couple of degrees from tub to tub.

    The City Pool at the north end of town contains over one million gallons of mineral hot spring water ranging in temperature from a cool 82 degrees to a balmy 104. There is a section set apart for swimming laps and a large water slide. The Swim Shop offers everything from water toys for sale or rent to bathing suits just in case you forgot yours, to snacks. Upstairs, the newly renovated gym provides a fantastic view of the pool below as you work up a healthy sweat prior to a soothing soak.

    The Wiesbaden is on the east side of Ouray.  This facility has a large soaking pool outdoors;  it also is home of the Lorelei, a small yet private outdoor soaking pool that can be rented by the hour, and the unique vapor cave in the basement of the hotel. 

    Although there are just a few known sources where the mineral water rises to the surface, evidence of the hot springs flowing beneath Ouray is all over, from steaming drainage grates, to portions of road that never seem to be quite as frozen as the rest of the ground in deep winter. Driving past Ridgway, Colorado, north of Ouray, it is not unusual to experience the sensation of driving through a cloud, as the heat from the springs creates a surreal mist across the highway near Orvis Hot Springs, a bathing suit optional facility well worth visiting if only to view the beautiful grounds and natural setting of the several tubs scattered about the property.

    Just 5 miles north of Durango on US Highway 550, Trimble Hot Springs boasts warm water too.  Like Ouray, the water is essentially odorless; it is high in iron and calcium.  Trimble Hot Springs has two geothermal pools that are opened year round and they range in temperature from 101-105 degrees Farenheit.  In April - October, they also open an Olympic-size swimming pool.  Noting its proximity to Mesa Verde National Park (less than 1 hour away), it seems likely the ancient puebloans may have soaked in these waters too. 

    Pagosa Springs too has natural hot springs. The water in Pagosa has the traditional odor of sulphur.  There are three separate facilities that cater to the public and all are in downtown Pagosa.  Healing Waters (formally known as The Spa at Pagosa Springs), the Overlook, and the Springs Resort


    Let's Meet in Ouray Colorado: Switzerland of America


    city of ouray colorado Ouray Colo. will not appeal to all meeting planners.   It’s not glitzy.There are no humongous ballrooms for mega-plenary sessions, or honeycombs of bland break-out rooms.

    Non-glitz has its rewards, in this case.  In Ouray, Mother Nature is the star attraction, providing the WOW factor that affects nearly all visitors.  It provides an ambiance in stark contrast to super convention hotel settings, and works excellently for certain types of meetings.  Meeting planners frequently comment on how this setting combined with the relaxed nature of the town affects the productivity of the meetings.

    The awesome scenery and the different pace are rejuvenating.

    Ample facilities, services and commercial district are suited well to meetings, conferences, and other groups are in place because tourism, with a focus on recreation and nature, is the major industry.  Ouray is a tiny, picturesque Victorian village nestled into a valley surrounded by rugged alpine peaks rising from the very edges of the town.  Meeting planners seeking a change of pace from the usual, run- of-the-mill meetings at prices that don’t break the travel/meetings budget will find Ouray a breath of very fresh air.

    ...something different—an experience factor...

    city of ourayMeeting facilities can accommodate up to 200 with modern facilities and technology, with spaces available for smaller, more intimate meetings,.  There are 300-500 lodging units, depending on the season, as well as condos.  Unlike other low-key mountain towns, Ouray provides an unusual array of commerce, with the compact five-block Main Street housing over 50 shops and restaurants.  An ample list of caterers and other suppliers, destination managers, and entertainers is available.

    The setting provides considerable extracurricular opportunities in both winter and summer, which can be worked into meeting schedules or for pre or post meeting planning.  

    Mountain sports reign in Ouray CO--mostly free.

    In winter there is ice climbing at the world famous Ouray Ice Park (lessons available for individuals or small groups). Back country snow shoe and groomed Nordic cross-country skiing are available nearby up in the mountains.  Major league downhill skiing is available in Telluride, with shuttle service from Ouray available.

    In summer, hiking is paramount in and around Ouray.  Trails can be accessed within steps of most lodging facilities. Jeep roads created from old mining trails of yesteryear make easy, but adventurous, access to more hiking, mountain climbing, wildflowers, and waterfalls (including two major waterfalls right in town).

    An immense year-round municipal natural hot springs pool provides lap swimming as well as a hot tub and two other pools of varying temperature.  It lacks the sulfur odor so common in most hot springs, and, is considerably more affordable than the privately owned large hot springs in other mountain towns.  Several lodging facilities also have hot springs.

    There are spa treatments, jeeps to rent, or jeep tours to take, fishing and high altitude golfing nearby, art galleries and boutiques to browse, entertainment in restaurants, an active cultural calendar, and several major events each year.  “Team building” professionals and facilities are available to include in your agenda, as well as guides for group back country hiking trips.

    Assistance with your next meeting can be provided by Ouray Event Planning.


    Southwest Colorado: Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad Winter Train

    Enjoy the San Juan mountains in Southwest Colorado by riding the train!  The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has extended its Local Appreciation fares to ride the Cascade Canyon Winter Train on selected days in February.

    This offer is available to residents in Colorado counties: Archuleta, Dolores, San Juan, La Plata, San Miguel, Ouray, and Montezuma; San Juan County in New Mexico and Utah; and Teec Nos Pos, Arizona.  Standard-Class coach seating is $20* for adults and $15* for children (ages 4 -11); Premium-Class seating is available for $45* for adults and $30* for children.   

    The Cascade Canyon Winter Train departs at 10:00 a.m. and returns at 3:00 p.m.  The trip includes an approximate 45-minute break by the Animas River, deep in the heart of the San Juan National Forest. Tickets must be paid for at the time of booking. Proof of residence is required. Special fares may not be combined with any other offer or discount. Tickets are non-refundable and change fees do apply. *Fares subject to 4% Historic Preservation Fee.

    Details on the Cascade Canyon Winter Train are available at Reservations for Local Appreciation fares must be made by phone at 970-247-2733 or at the depot.

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