Home > Trip Reports > Ouray, CO Trip Report

Ouray, CO Trip Report

August 14th, 2013

Last week I got to work in Montrose, CO., which is only 36 miles north of Ouray.  Working so close to the Jeep Capitol of the World, Summer and I took the opportunity to spend a long weekend in the mountains.  We enjoyed some of the local trails and soaked in the amazing scenery, while the kids enjoyed some time with their grandparents and cousins in DFW.

 

On Thursday, we drove from Abilene to Santa Fe, NM.  I had never been to Santa Fe before, so we explored the town a bit that evening and enjoyed a tasty dinner at Tomasitas Restaurant, which offered amazing green chile dishes.

(click pictures to enlarge)

The flat cotton fields of Lubbock, TX.  This was our view for most of the day....no mountains in sight.

The flat cotton fields of Lubbock, TX. This was our view for most of the day…no mountains in sight.

Leaving Santa Fe, the mountains start to grow on the horizon.

Approaching Santa Fe, NM…the mountains start to grow on the horizon.

 

Friday morning, we left Santa Fe and headed north toward Pagosa Springs, CO.  We stopped in Pagosa Springs and ate lunch at Kip’s Grill before continuing on toward Ouray.

Sandstone mountains in NM.

Sandstone mountains in NM.

Echo Amphitheater - located in the Carson National Forest.

Echo Amphitheater – located in the Carson National Forest.

Entering the promised land.

Entering the promised land…

The Million Dollar Highway (CO HWY 550)

The Million Dollar Highway (CO HWY 550)

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Rock tunnel near Ouray.

Finally in Ouray.

Finally in Ouray.

An example of the historic buildings in Ouray.   All of Main Street is registered as a National Historic District.

An example of the historic buildings in Ouray. All of Main Street is registered as a National Historic District.

Lots of cool Jeeps around town to gawk at.

Lots of cool Jeeps around town to gawk at.

 

Saturday was our first day to ride trails.  We ignored the old adage of saving the best for last and decided to tackle Black Bear Pass and Imogene Pass first.   Both Black Bear Pass and Imogene Pass run from Ouray to Telluride, but the last few miles of Black Bear are one way.  We took Black Bear over to Telluride, walked around town and enjoyed a good lunch at Smuggler’s Brewpub and then took Imogene back to Ouray.

Black Bear Pass Trail head.

The Black Bear Pass Trail head.

Stunning mountain views await.

Stunning mountain views abound.  We stopped about every 25 feet to take more pictures.

Two waterfalls near the tree line.

Two waterfalls as we near the tree line.

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Climbing toward the summit.

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On top of the Bear.

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Jeep Parking Only.

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A few other Jeeps and a Ford Explorer were on the trail at the same time.  One of the Jeeps lost his 4WD right before the descent into Telluride, which is the worst part of the trail.   We stopped for a bit while he figured out what was wrong.   Once he got things working, we started down the trail again.  The group wanted me to lead the way down, which I was happy to do…until I realized that the Jeep that lost his 4WD was immediately behind me.   Not wanting to act as his emergency brake…I pulled over and let them pass.

Approaching the infamous Steps, it started to rain.

Nothing like a little rain to make The Steps interesting.

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Better make a right….

First time driving through a waterfall.

First time driving through a waterfall.

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Narrow shelf road.  Slow and steady….

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Bridal Veil Falls in the distance.

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A closer view of Bridal Veil Falls.

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The trail back to Ouray.

Looking back at the switchbacks of Black Bear from Imogene.

Beautiful aspen trees all around.

Beautiful aspen trees all around.

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Winding narrow shelf roads are fun.

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Another cool rock tunnel.

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Tomboy mine ruins.  When I hopped out to snap this picture, another Jeep with Texas plates pulled up beside me and asked where I was from.  We were both surprised to learn he was also from Abilene.

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Climbing into the clouds.

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The second highest vehicle mountain pass in CO.

Got mail?  Be sure to sign the guest book when you visit.

Have to sign the guest book if you visit.

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Representing my local Jeep club – Cult of Jeep.

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Clouds breaking up to show another amazing view.

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A true scenic overlook.

Close to the edge.

Close to the overlook edge.

Beautiful creek crossings.

Beautiful creek crossings.

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Riding the creek banks.

Suddenly the trail and the creek merge...

We rounded a corner to find the trail disappear.  A small waterfall up ahead on the left feeds right through the trail.

 

Sunday was our last day to ride trails, so we made the day count.  We left Ouray on Engineer Pass and went up to the summit.  After enjoying the views, we backtracked down to County Rd 2 and headed over to Animas Forks ghost town.  At Animas, we enjoyed a sack lunch from Timberline Deli.   After looking around a bit, we headed back to Ouray via California Pass, Hurricane Pass and Corkscrew Gulch.   After resting for a bit and enjoying dinner at Buen Tiempo, we finished up the evening soaking in the stunning views from Yankee Boy Basin.

Heading out on Engineer Pass.

Heading up Engineer Pass, part of the Alpine Loop.

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More incredible views and shelf roads.

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The only thing that could make the mountains more beautiful, my wonderful wife.

Climbing

Engineer is a rocky trail.   This part was smooth as glass compared to the earlier sections.

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Rock slides covering the trail.

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Closing in on the summit.

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The top of Engineer.

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Long and winding roads.

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Finally convinced Summer to drive.

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Wasn’t sure if I’d ever get back behind the wheel.

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Animas Forks mining ghost town.

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Ruins of the Columbus Mine.

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We had fun watching the yellow-bellied marmots scamper across the Alpine Tundra.

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Bright blue waters of Lake Como.

Red mountains.

Jeep posed by the Red mountains.

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Summit of California Pass.

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Summit of Hurricane Pass.

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Any vehicle coming down the trail should yield to those heading uphill.  As we were coming down Hurricane, a group of 4 side-by-side ATVs came along, so I pulled over and inched my way up on this rock to make plenty of room.  The first ATV driver pulled up next to me and said “You don’t have to show off.”   As they passed, the last ATV driver pulled out his camera and took pictures of my Jeep.   I had to hop out and see what was so exciting to them.   Needless to say, most Jeep guys wouldn’t even be slightly impressed by this small amount of suspension flex.

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Everywhere you look the views are incredible.

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Feeling artistic. 

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The end of Corkscrew….or the beginning depending on which way you run it.  The lower portion of Corkscrew is a blast, like a roller coaster of whoop-dee-doos.

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Yankee Boy bound…

Twin falls at Yankee Boy Basin.

Twin falls on Sneffels Creek at Yankee Boy Basin.

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For about 30 minutes, we were the only people at the falls, so we just hung out enjoying the beauty.

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The sun was setting and we watched the light dance across the mountains.   Can you spot the Jeep?

Not often you see trees growing sideways.

Not often you get to drive under a tree that is  growing sideways on a mountain.

 

We headed to Montrose on Monday morning so I could start working, but we enjoyed one last surprise when we arrived.  After checking in with the utility, they sent us out to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  The canyon was just as stunning as the San Juan Mountains.  The Gunnison River drops at an average of 95 feet per mile, compared to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon dropping about 7.5 feet per mile, so the Black Canyon is truly an unspeakably deep, imposing hole in the ground.

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The camera simply cannot capture the views.

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The famous painted wall.

 

Summer and I have been blessed to go to some amazing places over the last 13 years, but this was my absolute favorite trip.   I’m counting down the days until we can head back to the San Juans.

  1. JC
    September 9th, 2013 at 20:55 | #1

    Glad to see you got to enjoy the Ouray area as we have many times.
    Jeeps are just plain awesome, regardless of what you’ve got!

    You REALLY need to make time to get to Moab, UT and participate in an Easter Jeep Safari!

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