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Another Day in the Office: Ouray to Durango

October 11, 2013

Have I mentioned lately that sometimes I love what I get to do while traveling for work? Yes, yes I have.  But I’ll say it again.  Last week I drove more than 850 miles in three days to conduct a series of seven meetings, but it was actually enjoyable because those miles were spent in the mountains of southwest Colorado. 

On day 1, I wrapped up my meetings with plenty of time to make a stop in the gorgeous town of Ouray for a hike before making my way to Durango for the night.  Ouray is a small town located between Ridgway and Silverton on Highway 550, also known as the Million Dollar Highway.  After a little bit of research I chose the Ouray Perimeter Trail for my adventure.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

I chose this trail partly because I could tell that it should have high traffic and cell phone service throughout.  That’s not normally a priority of mine when selecting a hike, but when I’m hiking alone it sure is.  I discovered once I got going that it also had these handy signs at almost every juncture, which made it almost impossible to lose the trail.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

As the name suggests, this trail works its way around the perimeter of Ouray, a picturesque town in the middle of the San Juan Mountains.  The appearance of Ouray gives it its nickname, the Switzerland of Colorado, which sounds kind of funny but definitely makes sense once you see it.


I parked at the “Baby Bathtubs” trailhead (I know, right?) and quickly picked up the Ouray Perimeter Trail. 

Ouray Perimeter Trail

The views quickly opened up to the towering mountains surrounding Ouray.  Some dark clouds urged me to pick up the pace a little, but they didn’t look threatening enough to really worry me.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

Even on this overcast day, the scenery surrounding Ouray was spectacular.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

Ouray Perimeter Trail

The variety of scenery on this trail was my favorite aspect of it.  From sweeping high mountain views to aspen glades and even a tunnel, this trail has it all.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

After meandering through the aspens, this trail passes through the Ouray Ice Park, a canyon area where people braver than I go ice climbing during the winter.  It’s supposed to be one of the best ice parks around.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

I all but squealed with delight when the sun came out about 2/3 of the way through my hike.  Every view was instantly even better.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

From above, you can see how improbably Ouray has been built up between the mountains.  If it hadn’t been for the miners who established the town back during Colorado’s mining heyday, I wonder if it ever would have been developed.


A little more than half-way through the loop from where I started, the trail passes through Box Canyon Park.  In the Box Canyon, you can view a geological feature called the Great Unconformity, a one billion year gap in the deposits of sediment that created the canyon.  I don’t think anyone really knows why the Earth just stopped building mountains here for a billion years.  Is your mind blown? Because mine was.  You see where that the gap occurred by finding the point in the canyon where the rock layers go from vertical (older) to horizontal (newer).

Box Canyon Ouray

I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked pondering the formation of the Earth, because the best place to view the unconformity is from this super-high and super-scary suspension bridge.


I would have taken a picture looking down from the bridge for you guys, but I was too scared to linger.  I ran/walked as fast as I could over that bridge without worrying that I’d trip and somehow plummet to my death.  The bridge led directly into this tunnel through the side of the canyon.

Ouray Tunnel

If you have a fear of heights and/or claustrophobia, this would be a tough section of the trail for you.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

After making it through the scary section, I was rewarded with a trail that sloped gently down toward the town.

Ouray Perimeter Trail

Remember when I said it was practically impossible to get lost on this trail? This is the point where those handy little signs eluded me.  I knew I was supposed to cross through town to the mountains on the other side, but couldn’t figure out how or where to do so.  At least Ouray is an adorable town to walk around feeling confused.


After some Googling, I found myself back on the trail by the Cascade Falls. 

Ouray Perimeter Trail

From there, it only took me about 20 more minutes to hike back to my car.  This hike doesn’t have a ton of vertical gain, but it was a beautiful way to get in a decent workout.  I didn’t time it, but I believe I was hiking for around 3 hours, including the time I spent getting lost and then finding myself again.  The full loop is 5 miles, and I think that’s about how far I went. 

Back in the car, I had about a 2-hour drive between myself and my destination for the evening in Durango.  This stretch of highway over Red Mountain Pass is about the most beautiful (and treacherous!) that I’ve ever driven.  In exchange for braving stretches with no guard rails and plunging drop-offs, you get views like this one of Red Mountain itself.

Red Mountain

After a phenomenal drive, I arrived in Durango hungry for dinner.  I freshened up at the hotel and made my way to my favorite spot in town, Cosmopolitan.

Cosmo Durango

Wanting to make the most of a truly lovely evening, I took a seat on the idyllic rooftop patio. 

Cosmo Durango

It was just me, myself and I under a beautiful sunset with a glass of local Viognier and a delicious dinner.  That dinner consisted of a beet and goat cheese salad and a Tuna and Prime Rib Bacon sushi roll.  Is your mind blown again?  Mine was.

Cosmo Durango

Business travel can certainly be a mixed bag, and I do get road-weary from time to time.  And despite appearences, I actually do have to work when I’m on the road.  However, rare evenings like this one make up for all the rest!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2014 7:38 pm

    That area of the country is wonderful, but the Million Dollar Highway is a bit hairy in places!!



  1. A Day in Ouray | Peaks and Passports

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