15 Things to Do in Ouray, Colorado

Known as the Switzerland of America — Ouray is one of my favorite mountain towns in Colorado. Nestled in the middle of the picturesque San Juan Mountains, it’s easy to see how the town got its nickname. It is absolutely reminiscent of all the little town at the foothills of enormous mountains that you would see in Switzerland. It’s no wonder that it’s a popular destination for adventure lovers — offering everything from great hiking, to rock climbing, to canyoneering, to off-roading, to ice climbing. The town itself is also a destination in itself — with a rich history that goes back to 1876 — meaning Ouray is coming up on it 150th anniversary in 2026! There’s cool architecture, fun shopping, great food, a hot springs, and much more — all with a casual, laid-back feel that’s not nearly as intimidating as Telluride can be. I went here last Fall and am visiting again this summer (so the list below may grow), but here are 15 activities I recommend in and around Ouray.

First, you’ve got to explore the town itself:

1. Stay at the newly-renovated Western Hotel, which offers both historic charm and modern comforts. It’s definitely one of my favorite places in Colorado that I’ve stayed. The hotel itself transports you to times long gone — but the rooms have new, comfortable beds (which can be one of the biggest issues with historic hotels), as well as fully functional mini kitchens. They also have one of my favorite restaurants in all of Colorado — and now a relaxing spa on premises, as well.

2. Visit Beautiful Main Street, which is a designated National Historic District. Aside from offering some charming views, it also has lots of great little shops — from the cool to the weird. You can get anything from a Ouray T-shirt, to some elegant jewelry, to Western boots and hats, to antique furniture, to a trio of taxidermied animals playing poker. Some of my favorite shops were the Gator Emporium, Twig+Feather, Rockin P Ranch, Silver Lynx, Grateful Goods, and The Blue Pear.

3. Relax at Ouray Hot Springs, which is a sulfur-free hot springs right in the middle of town — and especially restorative after a long hike. The Ute Indians who settled the Uncompahgre Valley considered the mineral springs sacred and healing, and it’s said that Chief Ouray, the Ute Indian after whom the town is named, visited the pool often. The pools are family-friendly and tickets are $26 for adults, $16 for youth, and free for children under 4. Pool hours are Mon-Fri 12pm-9pm and Sat/Sat 11am-9pm.

4. Have a drink on the rooftop bar at Imogene Hotel, which has a fire pit and fantastic 360-degree views of Ouray. It’s open Thu-Sat 4pm-8pm (ish) — but maybe check their Instagram at @theimogene for the latest.

5. Speaking of rooftops, visit Ouray Brewery and try some local beers on their picturesque rooftop. Ouray Brewing Company’s Camp Bird Blonde Ale was the recipient of the Judges Award for Best Lighter/Summer Beer at the 14th annual 2012 San Juan Brewfest in Durango, CO. This is also a restaurant, although it mostly serves things like wings, salads, sandwiches, and burgers — so I’d definitely recommend it for lunch more so than for dinner.

6. Taste some Colorado wine. It’s not just a beer town! You can also experience some local wines with a tasting at Sauvage Spectrum, which sources their wines from Palisade, Colorado. See my post on visiting Palisade, Colorado if you’d like to see more of Colorado wine country.

7. Have a cocktail at The Saloon at The Western, which is still at its original location from the 1890s. While it’s been renovated, it retains many elements of the original saloon’s charm — now with more comfortable seating and craft vintage cocktails. Full bar service is 12pm-10pm daily and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are available for dinner service at the restaurant attached to it when the kitchen opens at 5pm — so you can always transition to their restaurant then (see below).

8. Eat at the restaurant at The Western, which is hands-down the best restaurant in Ouray. These guys seriously deserve a green Michelin star for their innovation with local ingredients and commitment to sustainability. The Kitchen is centered around the original wood-fire hearth and brings a “farm-to-fire approach that honors time, place and purpose, including the farms and ranches of the Western Slope.” While the dining hall is is gorgeous, I recommend experiencing the Chef’s Counter if you can, where get an up-close and personal look at the open hearth and get to hear the Chef’s perspective.

9. Try something a bit more hidden. Much more low-key is a little Mexican restaurant in Ouray called Mi Mexico Family Mexican (right behind The Western). I love to try Mexican restaurants in Colorado mountain towns, because they tend to be super friendly, authentic, and delicious — and they’re also usually less crowded than the touristy spots. I loved the spicy shrimp and micheladas here!

10. Check out the local dive bar. If you’re determined to stay out late, there’s only one place in Ouray for that — a quintessential dive bar called the Silver Eagle Saloon. Complete with pool table and juke box. No fancy cocktails served here.

And then there are all sorts of outdoor activities around:

11. Visit Cascade Falls, which is a short walk from downtown Ouray (and you can also climb up to the Upper Falls if you want). This is definitely more impressive in the Spring than the Fall, as there will be more water flow then.

12. Hike the Perimeter Trail around Ouray, which you can start at Cascade Falls. It’s a challenging, up-and-down 5.4-mile hike with 1.5k elevation gain and narrow paths — so be prepared! Bring water, wear the right shoes, etc. This might not be for those afraid of heights, as there are some steep drop-offs.

13. Explore Box Cañon, which is accessible by foot off the Perimeter Trail mentioned above (free) — or by car a quick drive from downtown (there is approximately a $7 parking/entree fee).

14. Drive the Million Dollar Highway — which is about a 1-hour drive south to Silverton (and then further on). It’s a windy drive not for novice drivers, but it’s absolutely gorgeous — although I’d only recommend this in good weather conditions. There are several great pullover areas with beautiful views, as well as the famous “Switzerland of America” sign just outside of Ouray. There are also lots of amazing hikes along this road, too, and I’m a big fan of AllTrails for finding the right one for you.

15. Drive to Telluride (which is about a 1-hour drive in the opposite direction of the Million Dollar Highway mentioned above). You can take the gondola in Telluride to experience more gorgeous views. There are also lots of things to do in town here, and I’d honestly recommend spending a couple of days here, as well.

There are also lots of tour companies that run outdoor adventure trips from Ouray — from off-roading Jeep tours in the summer, to ice climbing trips in the winter — but we were on a budget and opted to try just the free (or close to free) activities. Perhaps I’ll have more on this after my next trip!


    Note: This trip was not sponsored by Ouray or any of the companies above. The only hosted part of this stay was the accommodation was a discounted stay at The Western, which I reached out to myself.

    And that’s all folks! Feel free to contact me with any questions.