Ouray, Colorado—also known as the “Switzerland of America”—is a gem set in the rugged Rocky Mountains. Off the beaten path of life’s everyday hustle and bustle, this narrow valley surrounded by the looming 13,000-foot snow-capped peaks of the San Juan Mountain range will take your breath away when you step outside of your Ouray vacation rental. With historic mining, ranching, and railroading areas, Ouray offers families tons to explore. Check out the top kid-friendly activities in Ouray.
1. San Juan Scenic Jeep Tour
Hop on board the 1890s stagecoach for the ‘grandest in the land’ ride through the breathtaking San Juan high country. Experience the 1880s world of prospectors, adventurers, and mountaineers as you traverse the steep cliffs and wagon roads by jeep, and explore the old mining ghost towns above Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, and Lake City.
2. Mine Tour
Take the kids into the heart of the Galena Mountains to see live demonstrations of the original San Juan mining gear used in famous local mines such as Sunnyside, Camp Bird, and Idarado. Above ground, marvel at the ‘Cliff Dwellers’ boarding house perched on a cliff 12,000 feet above the tour. The kids can pan for gold in the outdoor sluice box, look through the turn-of-the-century blacksmith shop, have a soda at the outdoor cafe or a picnic table, and shop for mineral supplies at the gift shop.
3. Ouray County Museum
Housed in the original 1886 Joseph Miner’s Hospital, this beautiful museum has three floors crammed with 38 exhibits in 27 rooms. Some displays are cleverly showcased in the hospital’s dumb waiters, hall closets, and alcoves. The minerals and Indian artifacts reflect the natural, social, and cultural history of Ouray County and Colorado’s San Juan Mountain region.
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4. Ouray Historical District Walking Tour
Pick up a map of the historical district in the museum, and take a leisurely stroll or drive from site to site. Over 25 buildings reflect a variety of architectural styles, and many were built by local craftsmen and businessmen. St. John’s Episcopal Church sports a basement constructed of native stone, carved woodwork, and gorgeous stained-glass windows, lending a Victorian-Gothic appearance to the building.
5. Cliff Climb
Climb the cliffs in the woods around town on one of the well-maintained routes just perfect for beginners and families. The routes are equipped with stainless steel bolts that make the climb up the limestone cliffs easy and safe, while advanced climbers can take advantage of more difficult climbing routes as well. The Wall Pool area has a birds-eye view of the hot springs below.
6. Waterfall Hiking
When high country snows begin to melt, nature’s mountainous faucets funnel the runoff into spectacular waterfalls over craggy folds and steep cliffs. A quick hike in town takes you to Cascade Falls, the Box Canyon waterfall park, and the Baby Bathtubs. The Portland Trail hike along a gentle stream is ideal for kids who can soak their feet in the clear water or scamper along the smooth rocks by the creek. The Sulton Mine Trail is a little harder with a series of switchbacks, but you get an amazing reward at the top with an inspiring overview of the town below, the Million Dollar Highway, and Bear Creek Falls, and you also get a choice of picnic tables for lunch.
7. Movie Location Walking Tour
The Ridgway Chamber of Commerce leads a one-hour walking tour every Friday that is a blast for the whole family. ‘True Grit,’ ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown,’ ‘How the West Was Won,’ ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ and many other movies were filmed in the Ouray area.
8. Ouray County Scavenger Hunt
Stop at the Ouray County Visitor Center and pick up the scavenger hunt list, then turn it in before you leave for a wonderful memento of the experience. There are some funny questions on the list, but looking for clues keeps everyone on their toes as they explore this historic area.
9. Ridgway State Park
Grab the binoculars, cameras, and kids, and head off to Ridgway State Park. Go from end to end in the park, and see most of the wildlife habitats in the Rocky Mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, moose, and a variety of deer, as well as black bears, wolves, coyotes, mountain goats, and bobcats. Get around easily on the 3 miles of universally accessible concrete trails, while 11 miles of natural surface trails let you enjoy the scenery but keep you in range of the park facilities. There’s also a hot springs pool, swimming beach, fishing pier, and playground.
10. Ouray Hot Springs and Park
Ouray is blessed with a natural 750,000-gallon, sulfur-free mineral hot springs pool within the city. Fellin Park, or the Ouray Hot Springs Park as it’s known in town, is located just south of the hot springs pool, and it’s an ideal place to have a picnic or sit and relax in the gazebo. This park includes a large playground, a skate park, a quarter-mile asphalt track, and a basketball and pickleball court.
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