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
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 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.