Ouray and Ridgway
Charismatic Colorado charm with scenery that rivals the Swiss Alps
These two Colorado towns are postcard-pretty retreats. Ridgway is known as the gateway of the San Juan Mountains. Surrounded by public lands with a network of trails for hikers, bikers and winter sports enthusiasts, Orvis Hot Springs is beautifully landscaped and of Colorado’s most esteemed clothing-optional hot springs. Accommodations and dining are abundant in both locations.
Snow-covered peaks and rugged mountains define Ouray, called the “the Switzerland of America.” It is the Jeeping capitol of the world. The San Juan Scenic Byway traverses the spectacular Million Dollar Highway giving access to off-roading, fishing, hiking, camping, biking and more. The dramatic landscape creates an abundance of waterfalls, which in winter provide some of the best ice-climbing in Colorado. Hot springs include the Ouray Hot Springs Pool & Fitness Center, The Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodgings, Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs, Orvis Hot Springs, and Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs.
A Quick History of Ouray and Ridgway
Named for Chief Ouray
Frequented for centuries by Native Americans, the town of Ouray is named for the legendary leader of the Tabeguache and Uncompahgre bands of Southern Ute tribes. Its original Ute name was “Uncompahgre,” which means “hot water springs.”
Mining Boom Days
The surrounding mountains were rich in precious metal ore drawing miners to the boomtown. Mining continued to be a vibrant part of the local economy until the 1980s. It was mining that created the web of back-country roads, including those used by outdoor enthusiasts today.
Million Dollar Highway
The two-lane Highway 550 out of Ouray is also called the “Million Dollar Highway.” It is believed that was the cost to build the precipitous, cliffside roadway that is part of the San Juan Skyway, a Colorado Scenic Byway.
Ouray, Colorado is a National Historic District with exquisitely preserved Victorian-era homes, hotels and other structures.
Ridgway began as a railroad hub, serving the nearby mining towns of Telluride and Ouray. The Ridgway town site is at the former northern terminus of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad where it met with Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Those trains no longer operate but the town has a world-class Railroad Museum and a historic depot.
Hot springs, Victorian buildings and plentiful outdoor activities continue to draw visitors to Ridgway.