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A Weekend Guide to Ouray, the Nation's #1 Vacation Destination in 2024 Macomb Daily

A Weekend Guide to Ouray, the Nation's #1 Vacation Destination in 2024 Macomb Daily


Ouray is a small mountain town five and a half hours from Denver, nestled in a valley and surrounded by the San Juan Mountain Range. (Photo by Lily O’Neill The Denver Post)

By LILY ONEILL | The Denver Post

My birthday approaches Memorial Day weekend every year and I like to take advantage of the long weekend by checking a city off my Colorado travel list.

In years past, my friends and I enjoyed views of San Juan Mountain in the warmth of Pagosa Hot Springs and whitewater rafted Class 4 rapids in Caon City's Royal Gorge . This year we plan to go sandboarding in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

But it’s my trip to Ouray in 2022 that still impresses me. The mountain town is nestled in a valley surrounded by the San Juan Mountain Range and lives up to its nickname as the Switzerland of America. It takes about 5.5 hours to get there from Denver.

This month, Mens Journal named Ouray the #1 vacation destination in the United States out of 50 on its 2024 list for good reason.

Here's a quick guide to my vacation in Ouray for your reference, before foreign tourists started crowding the humble mountain streets:

Where to stay: We have booked Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs on the edge of town. Our room in the old-fashioned lodge was small but affordable, and we didn't spend much time inside anyway. When it rained, we warmed ourselves in the red cedar bathtubs filled with mineral water from the hot springs.

Where to eat: We stocked up on coffee and chocolate croissants from Artisanal bakery and cafe, watching the bright yellow, topless Jeeps race down Main Street. We caught the golden hour (when only the mountain peaks are shrouded in sunlight) with a few beers on the roof of Ouray Brewery. Then, for my birthday dinner, we celebrated with espresso martinis followed by braised short ribs and whipped Yukon potatoes. Brick house 737.

< class="">A view of Ouray from Box Caon Falls Park.  (Photo by Lily O’Neill – The Denver Post)
A view of Ouray from Box Caon Falls Park. (Photo by Lily O’Neill The Denver Post)

What to do: Our hotel was a short walk from Caon Falls Parkwhere I highly recommend being dazzled by a 285-foot waterfall plunging into the quartzite canyon.

For summer visitors, horseback riding should be a top priority. We booked a two hour ride to Ridgway, just down the road from Ouray, with Action and adventure guide outfitter. Driving through the aspen forests, streams and past the colorful landscape of Ouray was an absolute dream.

If your legs need a break from all the nearby hiking trails, head down the A million dollar highway. Not for the faint of heart, the 25-mile-long road winds around mountains and gorges in all different shades of red, orange, blue and green. There is also a viewpoint over American Switzerland for a photo opportunity.

On the way back, make a stop at Gunnison Black Canyon National Park, an hour from the city. The abrupt look at the gorge, which I likened to the Grand Canyon's little sister, reminds you how small you are in this big world.




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