Ouray Perimeter Trail
|Round Trip||5.6 miles|
|Round Trip||4-5 hours|
Ouray's Perimeter Trail is a unique 5.6-mile hiking experience that features remarkably varied terrain, unmatched scenery, four waterfalls, six bridges, up close geology and a hidden troll. Hiking it involves approximately 1,600 feet of elevation gain and loss and will typically take 4-5 hours to complete. Good footwear and trekking poles are highly recommended.
The trail begins across from the Ouray Visitors' Center on the east side of US 550. Parking space 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 east of a planted berm behind some condos. It climbs wood stairs in the hillside to Cascade Cliff or the Pool Wall. Hike south on the cliff path .8 mile to Cascade Falls and Cascade Creek bridge. Cross the bridge and continue uphill .2 miles to an intersection where the Cascade Trail heads east and the Perimeter Trail turns right. Cross the 5th Avenue Trail and continue hiking to the Amphitheater Campground Road (.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. 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 to a rocky knoll that features cactus and flowers in spring and summer. This is the trail's highest elevation (8,500'). Enjoy the views! Descend to the highway and cross carefully, listening and looking for traffic. Turn left at the Quartzite Trail, following the old access road .5 miles to a trail going west downhill to the gorge and river bridge. Cross the bridge and continue uphill to the large pipeline and a metal stile. Climb over the stile, turn right and walk along the Ice Park access road. 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 the lower Box Cañon Park, there is a fee, but it is well worth it.) Cross the suspended bridge over Cañon Creek's spectacular gorge and, watching your head, go through the tunnel. Past the tunnel, steep stairs lead down the cliff along the gorge.
As the trail reaches Pinecrest Road, it offers an option of returning to town but to finish the trail continue uphill to a scenic high point with great views toward the east. The Oak Creek Trail departs to the left from here while the Perimeter Trail descends into rugged Oak Creek Canyon. At the Oak Creek bridge check the superstructure for the troll and then ascend the stairs and follow the trail out of the canyon to another great view point called Henn’s Overlook. From here follow the signs and trail downhill for an eventual return to the starting point. A new section of trail and the Bench Bridge are being constructed in Spring 2023.
One very popular feature of the Perimeter Trail is that it is never more than 500 feet vertically or 1⁄2 mile horizontally from Ouray’s City limits. As a result, there are several locations along its route where one can leave the trail and return to town without having to hike its entire length. Several of those access points are identified on the map.
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