Ouray is famous for its natural beauty, its hot springs, and its ice climbing opportunities. But visitors can also enjoy sightseeing in Ouray if they want something different than sports. The Ute people, who used to live here, knew about the therapeutic qualities of the hot springs. The name ‘Ouray’ itself comes from a Ute chief who was highly regarded and widely respected by his people.
Due to the mineral wealth of the San Juan mountain range, miners started coming to the area to look for silver and gold. Some of the paths and mountain passes that we still enjoy today were established by these miners, who wanted to get access to mining areas. Miners are also the reason for the many ghost towns that dot the area such as Red Mountain and Ironton. Both are accessible via snow shows or country skis in the winter
Gradually, Ouray became famous for its natural beauty and astonishing mountain views. Nowadays, activities like backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and swimming in hot springs have become the focal points of its visitors. But Ouray never forgot its past and the many sightseeing possibilities testify to its rich history.
Walking around Ouray
If you like museums, visit the Ouray Alchemist Museum for a personalized tour of the museum and admire the many ancient artifacts.
Take the time to stroll around Ouray and enjoy the town’s architecture. You can take the Ouray walking tour to see the many historic buildings dotting Ouray’s main street, like the Prevost building, constructed in 1899, the Jeffers building, built in 1890, and the Columbus building, constructed in 1898. All are still standing and have been restored to their past beauty. They document Ouray’s rich and colorful past as well as its importance in the mining industry of the area.
Walk past Ouray’s City Hall with its restored façade that reminds us of the building’s initial construction in 1891, and the Tanner House, built in 1901.
Admire the Ouray Courthouse, completed in 1888. Besides being featured in the 1969 John Wayne Film “True Grit,” it has richly decorative detailing common with Italianate, Romanesque, Queen Anne, and early Classical Revival architecture popular in the late 1800s.
Enjoy the stained glass windows at the Reynolds House and the Ashley House and take a look at the Elk’s Lodge clock, which always reads 11 o’clock: it’s their tradition.
The Wright Opera House, sometimes referred to as Wright’s Hall, was constructed in 1888 and definitely requires a stop. For many years after the mining bust and subsequent end of performances, it was used as a multi-use building for presentations and community events. Today, you can choose from a wonderful range of productions, from Galaxy Quest to The Shadow and Glass. You can even browse local handcrafted wares in the Back Lot of the Wright every summer Saturday.
Ouray also has several Queen Anne houses, buildings, and hotels. Walk around Ouray and take in the architecture and the general vibe of the past and immerse yourself in its gentleness and beauty.
All these buildings are evidence of the development and growth of Ouray in the 19th century: bankers, manufacturers, architects, entrepreneurs, and photographers have created a rich tapestry of how active and bustling Ouray used to be.
Make stops to enjoy our town’s hospitality
Walking around can make you hungry. Stop at the Artisan Bakery for something sweet—or savory—to get started or get you going on your Ouray discovery.
If you would like to enjoy a beer with your family and friends, then you will be happy to hear of the two Ouray breweries with a collection of home-made brews. It’s the perfect stop after a busy day in the mountains!
If it’s chocolate you are looking for, then Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee is a must. Their chocolates, truffles, and cookies will delight you. If you can’t really choose, take an assortment: it’s worth it!
And when you get hungry, there are several great eating and dining choices in Ouray. You can choose between American steakhouses, Italian, Asian, or local cuisine. It’s the perfect way to end a wonderful stroll around Ouray.
Although Ouray is famous for its outdoors, don’t miss out on its beautiful architecture, its museums, and cozy cafés for a day of strolling, walking, and sightseeing. Set again the breathtaking mountains, the town is calling you to stay and enjoy its charm.