Drive to The Switzerland of America — Ouray, Colorado Part I

Nothing beats a nice weekend getaway. Especially when you’re growing bored of the sunny, dry climate of southern New Mexico and want to see some cool fall colors. So, friends Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec all climbed into the TL and joined me in one of my bucket-list destinations: Ouray, Colorado. Let the miles pile on!

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Nestled in the San Juan mountains north of Durango, Ouray was once a silver and gold mining town. Population isn’t much…just about 1,000 according to the 2010 census. It was named after Chief Ouray of the Utes, a Native American tribe and it’s best known for the extensive scenery that’s gorgeous in all seasons.

Total miles: ~1,200

Our round trip was as follows:

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Got the TL all washed up and ready to roll.

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From left to right: Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec. Jennifer and Alec had never been to Colorado so this was going to be quite a treat for them.

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Gas stop in Los Lunas before going through Albuquerque.

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First official stop was in Aztec, NM where we’d check out the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Contrary to the name, these were built and inhabited by the Pueblo Indians. The dwellings date back to 11th century and most are in their original, unrestored state.

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Always have to prep the cameras!

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One of the coolest parts is we actually get to explore within the ruins. Here’s Jouhl crouching down to enter the small doorway.

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Here’s an overview of the ruins. Looks like a video game.

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No time to waste. Back on the road towards Colorado. Clouds formed and threw a few rain drops our way. Just enough to get the TL nice and spotty.

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Stateline!

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Almost immediately, we started to see the fall colors. Man, I miss seeing this!

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The long, winding US 550 took us past the small mining town of Silverton, CO. And when I say small, I mean it as there are a total of 530 residents here. (2010 census) It was raining pretty good by now, so we opted to just take a short drive through instead of getting out and walking around. (Well, I did have to sneak out for a quick photo of the TL.

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Now, one of the best parts of the trip is about to begin. We now were on the “Million Dollar Highway.” Many refer to this as one of America’s greatest driving roads for its scenery and smooth twisty nature. In fact, it was so twisty that I didn’t have many opportunities to pull off for photos.

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This is one of the money shots of the trip. The temperature was dropping pretty quickly to the low 40s, so jackets were in order. The rain kept coming down, but in moderation. It was such a grand experience.

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As we ascended in elevation, we could see the rain was turning into snow at the surrounding peaks. Here’s a cool “selfie” Jouhl took of us.

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Darkness was approaching and this was the last photo of the drive today.

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We got into Ouray fairly late around 8pm and we wasted no time to grab some dinner. Our place of choice, The Outlaws.

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Folks were friendly, restaurant very hospitable, and atmosphere inviting. Food however, was disappointing. Regardless, we had fun.

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The next day was going to be full of outdoor fun. Here’s a shot of the hotel where we stayed. We caught the end of the tourism season, and the hotel was actually going to shut down for winter the following day. Yup, we were a few of the last guests of 2014.

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View from the front door.

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After a quick breakfast in the lobby, I wanted to drive around and see what we couldn’t the night before. Here’s downtown Ouray.

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Most of my “short-drive-around-town” moments end up taking half the day and in some of the most remote and interesting places. Today was no exception and luckily the gang loved it.

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I found this cool looking road leading into the forest.

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I just kept going and going. The fall colors were so beautiful.

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The road came to an end (well at least for us in the low slung TL). A higher vehicle could easily cross the creek and keep on going.

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We got out and just randomly walked around exploring the area. No joke here: this is where I was meant to be.

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Yup, that’s one happy Jason.

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We found a hiking trail, and ran with that for a while. The moss covered rocks caught my attention.

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After a few hours, it was time to head back to town. “BACK TO THA CHOPPA!”

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This is another of my favorite shots.

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Wait, did I make a wrong turn? How did I drive to Switzerland?

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The road back down the mountain had an awesome view of the town.

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Next on my list was Box Canyon Falls.

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The canyon was formed by the vicious rushing waters of Canyon Creek. Over time, they formed a deep and narrow box canyon.

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Here we are walking to the falls.

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The falls were actually somewhat hidden, but they sure made a lot of noise and mist.

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Next we checked out the Perimeter Trail which leads to some more breathtaking views of the town. This is scariest and most dangerous part that has taken lives. You hike along a narrow trail carved into the side of the cliff with only a cable to hang on to.

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The views…

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Now on to browsing the shops!

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Ouray locals claim they are the Jeep capital of the world. Not sure how accurate that is, but there were indeed a lot of Jeeps around. Many locals will even rent out their Jeeps. Never seen that before.

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Then we settled down in the Irish Pub for dinner. Our bodies were sore, tired and hungry. The food really hit the spot. My burger had bacon mixed in the patty and to make an already great burger better, Jennifer order some Guinness based BBQ sauce. Oh man, meat lovers rejoice!

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More to come! Stay tuned for Part II…

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3 thoughts on “Drive to The Switzerland of America — Ouray, Colorado Part I

  1. tysonhugie says:

    Hey Jason, what an adventure! I can’t believe the color on those trees. Remarkable. You were truly in your element. I bet the TL SH-AWD handling came in handy on those slippery wet curves of the Million Dollar Highway. I learned of a few new places thanks to your post, including Box Canyon Falls. Looks like I need to plan another trip out that way. I love that you took the dirt road all the way until you could go no further. Such a Tyson move 🙂

  2. pawela says:

    Hey Tyson,
    You bet I was in my element there! There are so many other places we weren’t able to go due to time. You would love the Box Canyon Falls/Perimeter Trail. I live for dirt roads that lead away from civilization! Let’s see where the next dirt road will take us. 🙂

  3. […] I was last weekend…to Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ. On Friday, I rounded up the gang from the Ouray, CO drive (Alec, Jennifer and Jouhl) and headed for beautiful Arizona. We met up with Tyson Hugie from […]

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