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by Myranda Hausheer

THIS SERIES CONTINUES OUR COVERAGE of the renowned “San Juan Skyway,” which traverses across five counties in a dazzling 236-mile loop. To read Part Two: Cortez to Telluride of this San Juan Skyway series, check out Durango Magazine’s Winter/Spring 2023-24 issue. This time, we’ll head from Telluride to Ouray.

We’ve said goodbye to the 2,500 people who reside in Telluride, a jaw-dropping mountain town flaunting a variety of lodging, culinary, and recreational options. Next up: Ridgway, population 1,213. We’ll travel to this quaint town along Highway 62, savoring the expansive mountain views of the Dallas Divide, the magnificent 14er Mount Sneffels, and Double RL Ranch, Ralph Lauren’s iconic 17,000-acre property.

Ridgway rests along the Uncompahgre River in the foothills of the mighty San Juan Mountains. Its rich rail and ranching history dates to 1889, when the Rio Grande Southern Railroad was established. Ridgway serviced the nearby mining towns of Ouray, Telluride, Rico, and Durango.

The town has a reputation for survival, enduring 1900s perils that included the collapse of the silver market, two destructive fires, the Great Depression sandwiched between two world wars, and the demise of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad. These overwhelming challenges earned Ridgway a reputation as “the town that would not die.” Two popular Hollywood films, How the West Was Won (1962) and True Grit (1969), give Ridgway the recognition it deserves.


GNAR Tacos is one of my favorite restaurants in Ridgway. This gourmet taco shop, found along the main drag of town, unconventionally merges flavors and techniques from around the globe. My go-to’s include the Drippy Mitch, Yardcore, and Avo tacos. Don’t skimp on their Sketchy Fries, glorified tater tots loaded with house chorizo, queso blanco, pico, and Rick Ross sauce. The Gnarly Salad hits, too.


After fueling up on tacos, take a .2-mile stroll down Sherman Street to the Second Chance Thrift Store, where the friendly staff are happy to point out the building’s unique offerings. Check out their dollar rack, and if you’re lucky, score a deal on a half-price color tag. All profits benefit the Humane Society. Ridgway State Park is another beautiful destination to investigate, while the Ridgway Railroad Museum and Ouray County Ranch History Museum offer enlightenment on the town’s most influential characters and innovations.

Continuing the expedition, we’ll drive south toward Ouray. Courthouse Mountain towers to the east (your left). If you want to take a two-hour, out-and-back scenic detour, head north on Highway 550 and turn right on County Road 8 for 19.2 miles to view one of the most notable landscapes in True Grit.

Welcome to Ouray, population 921. Surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks, this postcard-worthy, Victorian-era mountain hamlet is aptly known as the “Switzerland of America.” Established as a mining camp in 1876, the town is well-known as the start or finish of the “Million Dollar Highway,” an engineering feat crafted by Otto Mears in 1883 to connect Ouray and Silverton.

Ouray’s slogan is the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Colorado,” touting a plethora of activities, including rock and ice climbing, mountain biking, hiking, trail running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, off-roading, hot springs, and more.


Once you arrive in Ouray, your first stop should be Mouse’s Chocolate & Coffee for a caffeinated beverage and an indulgent treat. This family-owned business of chocolatiers and coffee roasters takes pride in making everything by hand. Do not miss their fudge and scrap cookies.

Check into the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs and experience your own oasis in this charming hotel. Built in 1959, the hotel is known for the mineral hot springs captured in red cedar tubs before emptying into the nearby Uncompahgre River.


Box Cañon Falls Park is a family-friendly stop where we’ll witness the culmination of Canyon Creek spilling thousands of gallons a minute of water, creating a 285-foot waterfall that plummets into a narrow quartzite canyon. Be careful near the slippery rocks! Parking is tricky, especially in warmer months, so try to get here early.

Check out the Ouray Via Ferrata in the famous Uncompahgre Gorge for a fresh perspective on vertical horizons. Book a guide through Basecamp Ouray, San Juan Expeditions, or San Juan Mountain Guides to tackle this thrilling adventure. Basecamp Ouray also has access to a privately owned Gold Mine Via Ferrata route outside town.

Ouray Hot Springs is a must-see when visiting. The sulfur-free geothermal pools range from 74°F to 106°F and are fed by an underground aquifer. The pools feature minerals like iron, manganese, zinc, fluoride, and potassium for ultimate relaxation.

If off-roading is your thing, I highly recommend embarking on a guided 4×4 tour and skipping the angst of keeping your eyes on the road or not having the proper off-roading skills. Instead, you can sit back (while getting rocked about) and take in Colorful Colorado’s most stunning scenery.


Winter in Ouray offers just as many opportunities for adventure. Ouray Ice Park is the world’s first ice climbing park. It has expanded natural falls, supplied by a sprinkler system, creating dozens of frozen waterfalls ranging from 80 to 200 feet high along the Uncompahgre Gorge. The park is maintained by volunteers and supported by donations from local businesses, gear manufacturers, and climbers. The Ouray Ice Park is free and attracts climbers from around the world.

The annual Ice Climbing Festival transforms Ouray into an ice-climbing mecca. This weekend-long extravaganza features contests, exhibitions, and instruction from many of the world’s top ice climbers. The Ice Climbing Festival is typically held toward the end of January and spans three days and four nights.


GNAR Tacos: (970) 626-9715,

Second Chance Thrift Store: (970) 626-3233,

Ouray Hot Springs: (970) 325-7073,

Basecamp Ouray: (970) 318-0298,

San Juan Expeditions: (970) 460-6065,

San Juan Mountain Guides: (970) 946-0713,

Box Canyon Lodge: (970) 708-2025,

Mouse’s Chocolates & Coffee: (970) 325-7285,

Box Canyon Falls: (970) 325-7080,

Switzerland of America Jeeps: (970) 325-4484,

Alpine Scenic 4×4 Tours: (970) 318-6513,

San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours: (970) 325-0089,

Canyon Creek Jeep: (970) 325-4833,

Altitude Adventures Side x Side Rentals: (970) 318-0287,

Colorado West Jeeps and UTVs: (970) 325-4014,

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