Ouray Perimeter Trail
|Round Trip||6.5 miles|
|Round Trip||3 hours|
The Perimeter Trail continues to be a work in progress, but only a small portion on the west side of town is still to be completed. There are five miles of trail providing beautiful views of Ouray and the surrounding peaks. There are several places along the trail where one can leave or access the trail, so the entire five miles does not have to be hiked to return to town.
Ouray's Perimeter Trail, a unique five miler, features the surrounding cliffs and mountains. It begins across from the Ouray Visitors' Center on the east side of US 550. (Please wear boots or sturdy shoes on this mountain trail!) Parkingspace is available behind the Visitor's Center.
ATTRACTIONS AND FEATURES:
To begin, walk across the road to a large pink boulder, sign and tree. The trail starts on a wood edged path north of a planted berm behind some condos. It climbs wood stairs in the hillside to Cascade Cliff. Hike south on the cliff path .7 mile to Cascade Falls and Cascade Creek bridge. Cross the bridge, and continue uphill on Lower Cascade Trail to a right turn (.9 mile). (At the first clearing, ahead of you to the south are Ouray's signature views of Mt. Abram, 12,801', and Hayden Mountain, 11,475'. The southwest skyline shows U.S. Mountain, 13,036'. To the west are Whitehouse Mountain, 13,452', and Twin Peaks, 10,798'.) Cross the 5th Avenue Trail and continue hiking to the Amphitheater Campground Road (1.3 miles). Turn right and walk down the road .1 mile to the Baby Bathtubs Trail. Ascending this section, you will reach a shallow, often dry, crossing of Little Portland Creek with lots of little rock bathtubs (great for kids to play in). Walk uphill to the left, parallel to the larger Portland Creek, to a footbridge. Across the bridge, walk 300' to a trail fork and turn left. Here, you will enter the Three Pines Day Use Area. Go south across the picnic space and follow the trail through forest about 1,000' and exit onto Portland Mine Road. Follow the road uphill 300' and turn right into the old miners' Potato Patch. (They really grew potatoes here.) Hike across the Patch, following posts and cairns to a spartan, rocky upland of cactus and flowers in spring and summer. This is the trail's highest elevation (8,500'). Enjoy the views! (Behind and to the east is the 3,000' gray Amphitheater wall; to the west is Hayden Mountain. Downhill is US 550 and the Uncompahgre Gorge.) Descend to the highway and cross carefully, listening and looking for traffic. Turn left at the Ice Park Trail, following the hydroelectric dam access road to a trail going west downhill to the gorge and river bridge. Cross the bridge, taking time to admire the views and continue uphill to the old pipeline and a metal stile. Over the stile, turn right (north) and walk along the Ice Park access road. Past the Ice Park Reservoir (a great swimming hole for dogs), veer slightly off the road to a trail that soon crosses CR 361 and heads to the Box Cañon high bridge. (If you decide to tour Box Cañon Park, there is a $4 fee.) Cross the suspended bridge over Cañon Creek's spectacular gorge to Ouray's old water tunnel. (The ceiling is low; watch your head.) Past the tunnel, steep stairs lead down the cliff along the gorge.
The Perimeter Trail currently ends at South Pinecrest Street, a mile from the Visitors' Center. At this point, walk straight downhill to Queen Street, turn right, go a block to Oak Street and turn left. (Views to the north and east include Ouray; Gold Hill and the Blowout, 10,587'; Cascade Mountain, 11,000'; the Amphitheater and Cow Mountain, 13,111'.) Walk north on Oak Street past 7th Avenue to the City's Maintenance Shop near Fellin Park. Cross the footbridge and return to the Visitors' Center where you began.
For those who wish to see a particular section of the Perimeter Trail, hike a connecting trail, or leave the trail part way, the map on the back shows several trail access points. The complete trail can also be shortened to 4.2 miles at the crossing of US 550 by turning right on the Ice Park Shortcut. You then will exit on the east side of the Uncompahgre Bridge. To continue, walk across the bridge and up CR 361 for 500' to the right hand trail leading to Box Cañon High Bridge.
Construction of the final section of the Perimeter Trail, along the west cliffs, is planned for the near future.