The Perimeter Trail – Ouray, CO

Ridgway, CO

Ouray’s Perimeter Trail is a unique six mile hiking experience that takes you up and around the town.  The trail begins across from the Ouray Visitor’s Center on the east side of US 550.  Parking space is available behind the Visitor’s Center.

To begin the hike walk across the main 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.

The trail begins with a steep gain in elevation

Once up on the ridge we enjoyed nice views of the town below as we hiked.

Town hot springs and pool

The narrowest part of the trial

Whitehouse Mountain in the distance (13,492′)

After a little over a mile we came to Cascade Falls and the Cascade Creek bridge.

After a steep uphill climb and a short walk on Amphitheater Campground Road we hiked a short trail along Little Portland Creek to a nice area called the Baby Bathtubs.

We followed the trail up through the woods  and onto Portland Mine Road.   The road goes uphill a short distance and the trail turns right into the old miners’ Potato Patch. (They really grew potatoes here.)

The Potato Patch

The trail went across the Patch to a rocky knoll that features great views.  This is the highest point (8,500′) on the trail.

Lunch with a view

Climbing down from our lunch perch we crossed US 550 (carefully!) and followed one of the trail signs down a dirt access road for a half mile before turning back on to a trail.

A short distance down the trail a bridge crosses the Uncompahgre River (un-COME-pah-GRAY).

Uncompahgre is a Ute Indian word that means “dirty water” or “angry water” or “red lake,” because mountain minerals color the water.

Uncompahgre River

After crossing the bridge we continued uphill to a large water pipeline and a metal stile.

Moving down the trail we passed a wall of rock on the other side of the river.  This area is known as the Ouray Ice Park.  In the winter, sprinklers pour water from the pipeline, allowing giant icicles to form down the gorge’s walls, attracting ice climbers from all over the world.

Summer view of the ice park wall

Winter in the ice park (internet photo)

Passing the ice park the trail goes along a beautiful little reservoir filled with crystal clear water.

Past the reservoir the trail veered slightly off the road and soon crossed CR 361.  It then heads to the Box Cañon high bridge  over Cañon Creek’s spectacular gorge,

View of Cañon Creek from the bridge

Past the bridge, the trail passes through a low-hanging tunnel that was built for a water pipeline project in the early 20th century before it was abandoned in the 1950s.

Once through the tunnel the trail goes down a steep set of steps with a fence on the edge and a cable along the wall to help hikers.

The remainder of the circuit consists of road walking, beginning with a downhill stroll on the unpaved Pinecrest Drive.  After crossing Oak Creek you take a left on Oak Street, a residential drive that parallels the Uncompahgre River as it heads northward.  At the town maintenance garage take a right and cross the pedestrian bridge over the river and follow the path back to the Visitor’s Center and parking lot where the hike began.

Cool deck built around two trees

The 6.5 mile Perimeter Trail is a great way to experience a variety of terrain while enjoying great views of the town of Ouray.  If you are a hiker, this is a must-do experience while visiting Ouray.

Next up for us is a visit to the towns of Gunnison and Crested Butte.  More on that later . . .

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21 Responses to The Perimeter Trail – Ouray, CO

  1. Laurel says:

    That looks like a fun hike with a lot of variety! The color of the water in the reservoir is stunning. Were you tempted by any of those 14,000-foot peaks? (I’m not. No way.) I was in Ouray a long time ago and remember soaking in those wonderful hot springs. I’d like to return. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      The trail definitely offers lot of variety so they is always something to see. The 14ers are beautiful, but I do believe my super steep climbing days are over. The pools looked very inviting. One thing we left in BC was out bathing suits.

  2. Jeff Pierce says:

    OK that looks like a great hike, with diverse conditions and scenes. Thanks for sharing.

  3. exploRVistas says:

    The hot springs look inviting! That’s some amazing weather you are having!

    • placestheygo says:

      Jim, we have hit the jackpot with weather this year. Our temps have been perfect with lots of sun and hardly any rain other than a few sprinkles. The warmer temps have slowed the leaves changing but we’ll take it.

  4. Nancy says:

    What a fabulous hike! So many sights! And looks to be fabulous weather too!

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    That is such a great hike! And those views are pretty too! We hope to get back that way next summer for a visit…it has been awhile!

  6. Diana says:

    Love this hike! We did it earlier this summer, but there was a LOT more water in the river when we were there. I can’t believe how low it looks.

  7. heyduke50 says:

    I use to backpack many a mile in the Uncompahgre Wilderness

  8. Sue says:

    Beautiful views, but as you know, there was nothing about that hike that I would enjoy (with the possible exception of the gorgeous reservoir)! Nice to see it from here though! I’ve heard about the Ouray Ice Park, but never knew what it was, thanks John!

  9. Jim and Barb says:

    Although we have heard a lot of about Ouray, we have never been there. So many cool areas in that state….

    • placestheygo says:

      It’s amazing how many neat little towns Colorado has like Ouray. This area of the state has been on our list for awhile. We tried last year but the weather didn’t cooperate. This year is perfect. Lots of ATV and Jeep roads!! And fishing around every corner!

  10. I would have love that great hike you did, beautiful! I know, we missed this but glad you were able to show us what its like especially the Ouray Ice Park! The fence and the cable added thrill to the hike.

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