Ouray Hiking Trails
Ouray’s magnificent system of trails is largely a result of the mining activity of the 1800s and the legacy of Native Americans moving through this region. Many trails follow historic narrow gauge railroad grades or mining service roads, passing by countless ghost towns and abandoned mining structures. It’s possible through these trails to not only gain high peaks but also link regional towns like Lake City, Silverton, Ouray and Telluride over incredible mountain terrain, sometimes even within the same day.
From the paved bike trails of our local State Park, to old mining roads passable only by off-road vehicles, to knife-ridge hikes in the surrounding high country, Ouray has a trail to whet any outdoor enthusiast’s appetite.
The Ouray Trails Group, a local non-profit, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, has developed and maintains over 76 spectacular hiking trails in the area. The region provides trails for all experience levels, ranging from easy, shorter hikes to longer and more challenging ones. The Hiking Trails of Ouray County, a customized area topographical map and guide, is an excellent source for detailed information regarding the difficulty level, attractions, hazards and location of the trailhead for each of our area hikes. This map is issued by OTG and may be purchased here at the Chalet or at the Visitor Center.
Ouray trails are as varied as they are vast. They often lead to the tops of peaks, where an entire panorama of mountains sits at your feet, but remember to always be prepared by bringing along adequate supplies and letting others know where you are going and when you expect to return. Below are some trail etiquette rules and a checklist of what to take on your journey into the high country.
- Hike with at least one partner
- Pack it in, pack it out
- Don’t pick wildflowers or disturb historic sites
- Honor posted signs and do not trespass
- Check daily conditions
- Do not disturb wildlife
- Stay on trails to avoid erosion
- Mountain bikers yield to hikers and horses; all users yield to horses
- Avoid hiking or riding in muddy conditions
- Riders and hikers traveling downhill yield to those traveling uphill
- Trail users should travel single file
- If you use earphones, keep the volume low to hear potential threats or other travelers along the trail
- Make sure children know what to do if separated (hug a tree & stay put)
- Pick up after your dog and obey leash laws
- Call 911 in case of emergency (Ouray Mountain Rescue, under the direction of the Ouray County Sheriff’s Office, is always on call for assistance.)
Remember to protect these trails: “Take only pictures, and leave only footprints.”
Checklist and Precautions for Day Hikers
- Hydration (water, water treatment device)
- Food (two-days worth: salty & calorie dense)
- Layers of insulation (jacket, gloves, hat)
- Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, hat)
- Light (flashlight, head lamp)
- Camera & cell phone
- Navigation device (map, GPS, compass)
- Fire (lighter, waterproof matches, fire starter)
- First aid kit (first aid supplies, knife, duct tape, pepper spray)
- Emergency shelter (reflective blanket, tarp, tent)
- Walking/trekking poles
It is always a wise choice to check on trail conditions before heading out into the high country. A detailed list describing local trails and current conditions can be found at the Ouray Trails Group website.
Please allow yourself to become acclimated to the elevation before taking strenuous hiking trips. Jogging or walking at lower elevations prior to coming to Ouray, or just starting out here, with the Perimeter Trail, will help significantly.
Give your self and your travel group peace of mind by purchasing a Search & Rescue Card. For only $3.00 a year or $12.00 for five-years, you are covered by the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Fund (COSAR). This fund reimburses counties for large costs associated with backcountry rescues such as helicopter air lifts. These cards are available at Ouray Mountain Sports and the Ridgway State Park.
Encounters with Wildlife Guidelines
While it is rare to encounter a black bear or mountain lion along a trail, we do share the alpine environment with them. Never approach, startle, or feed any wild animal, especially a bear or lion with young. If you encounter a bear: stay calm, back away, and speak softly. Step off the trail and allow the bear to leave.
If you encounter a lion: make yourself look larger by raising your arms or opening up your jacket. Never turn your back and run. Pick up small children to keep them from running.
For more information about hiking trails in the area please download this pdf.