When you live in a secluded little mountain town in Colorado, it might not feel like the most advantageous choice to visit another secluded little mountain town in Colorado in an attempt to switch up the scenery, but I’m telling you, Ouray just hits different man. It was exactly the reset and change of scenery I was desperate for, and they don’t call it the “Switzerland of America” for nothin, let me tell YOU. I’ve been to Ouray (pronounced yer-aye, at least that’s how I say it) a handful of times, and each time my cup just as filled to the brim/overflowing with joy as the last. Like every other piece of colonized land in America, Ouray’s origin begins with its Indigenous founders. From coloradoinfo.com, “
“The first known humans to inhabit the area were the Ute Indians. For centuries, the nomadic tribes traveled during the summer months to this idyllic setting to fish and hunt the abundant forest game and to soak in what they called their “sacred miracle waters.”
In fact, the town’s original name was “Uncompahgre,” the Ute word for “hot water springs.” By 1873, Chief Ouray, a multilingual speaker and the legendary leader of both the Tabeguache and Uncompahgre bands of Southern Ute, reluctantly signed a government treaty releasing their treasured San Juan territory to encroaching settlers. The town, incorporated in 1876, was named in the Chief Ouray’s honor.”
& like many other western territories taken over by settlers, Ouray went on to become a mining town, relying on the industry well into the 80’s where the focus then shifted towards outdoor recreation and tourism which became the town’s economic backbone.
Which brings us to folks like us who flock to the town with a population of just over 1,000 to experience the pure bliss that is simply existing in nature. Ouray is located in a box canyon which means the mountains are RIGHT in front of you, humbling the small speck of dust that is your existence and looking fake 99% of the time. As the original name of the town suggests there are several hot springs, both natural and manmade, within and around the town. Our first visit back in January of 2020 we stayed at the Box Canyon lodge. Pretty standard rooms, but the best part is the hotel has its own little set of hot springs which are small but mighty. Initially, they look slightly larger than wine barrels with the tops cut off. Stepping down into them however, you’ll find they host a surprising depth as well as several levels of benches or steps around the periphery to allow you to submerge to your desired level. Our favorite hot springs are Orvis Hot Springs located in Ridgeway, just outside of Ouray – fairy/mermaid-esque natural outdoor rock pools, clothing optional 😉
On our recent visit, we were celebrating our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and making it through another busy winter season. We were lucky enough to book a room at the 125-year-old St. Elmo Hotel on Main Street and dine at the restaurant located below the hotel, Bon Ton which dates from the 1880s. The hotel was magnificent – intricate patterns everywhere, deep reds and golds, long hallways and high ceilings. I was secretly hoping for a clawfoot bathtub experience but discovering an outdoor hot tub just outside our room wasn’t a bad consolation. Given the age of the hotel, I was open to/hoping for some paranormal experiences, which according to the internet we were most likely to experience in the dining room. Sorry to disappoint, but all we experienced in the dining room was a cute little b&b style breakfast in the morning, sharing large family-style tables with the other guests of the hotel. We’ll get ’em next time fellow paranormal enthusiasts.
As you can see, truly a stunning space and even with renovations throughout the years, the hotel has maintained its original charm and was one of the most memorable places I’ve stayed. Following the magic of the hotel itself, the attached restaurant did not disappoint. With a 7 pm reservation, we arrived at 7:05 because even when the commute is less than 1 minute I managed to delay getting ready until I stressed myself out, because why wouldn’t I? Obviously no one cared besides me, and after a few sips of my Sauvignon Blanc I was ready to enjoy a delicious Valentines Day meal with my love.
We ordered a surf-n-turf V-day special (filet mignon and a lobstah tail with mashed potatoes) and an eggplant parmesan that was lovely. The restaurant was divided into two rooms, a smaller front room where we dined and a larger back room whose slight din could be heard through the glass windows separating the two. This lent itself to an atmosphere of being in a bustling restaurant while maintaining the intimacy of a small space.
The next day, we walked the Main Street, checking out the bookstore and having a beer at the Ouray Brewery. The architecture of Ouray is incredible, Main Street hosts timeless buildings against a backdrop of the humbling mountains of the box canyon once again duly earning its designation as, “The Switzerland of America”. Cue another gallery of photos to lure everyone to visit this magical place:
Before heading out of Ouray, we decided to drive over Red Mountain Pass to the town of Silverton which felt like stepping back even further in time. When I visit new places, I’ll often take small video clips, intending to edit them into a cute little video with a montage song playing over it. Unfortunately, I tend to get stuck on the step where I actually edit the clips together. So, for now I have several 30 second clips hanging out in my phone that one day I hope to do something with. Until that day comes, I’ll share the photos I managed to snap and leave you with something to look forward to in the future.
I chose not to edit any of these photos because they truly are perfect just as they are. And with that, my friends, we’ve concluded our visual tour of Ouray, CO. There is so much more to be discovered here than what I rambled about, but I just wanted to share a bit of the beauty we’re grateful to have experienced. I am beyond thankful to live this life, and I appreciate you for stopping by my corner of the internet to appreciate it with me.
until next time!