After leaving the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, we spent the next two nights at Ridgway State Park. Our plans for the full day in the area was to hike the Ouray Perimeter Trail which circles the town of Ouray, just 20 minutes away. We had heard good things about this trail, but we weren’t quite sure what to expect or how long it would take us to complete it.
The drive from Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Ridgway State Park was less than an hour, so, even after stopping for gas, we reached our camp site between 2 and 3 pm. It was a hot day, in the 90’s, and our camp site had no shade. Luckily, we had reserved a site with electric hookups, so we plugged in and turned on the air conditioner. For dinner, we made Thai peanut curry chicken with rice. It was the first time Right Buddy (RB) made it with canned chicken and it tasted pretty good.
RB walked down to the reservoir to check it out. It was much larger than it appeared. From our camp site, all we could see of the reservoir was a small piece of a small finger of the reservoir. RB walked by a day use area, a lovely sand beach swim area, and a marina with large sailboats and motorboats. She spooked a deer in the parking lot near the marina. She only got a glimpse of the main part of the reservoir between two hills before she needed to head back to the van before it got dark.
We spent the whole next day in Ouray. Our alarm was set for 7:30 am in hopes we could start our hike on the Ouray Perimeter Trail by 9 am. We managed to leave the campground by 8:45 am and made it to the parking lot by the Ouray Visitor Center on the north side of town by a little after 9 am. However, our daughter was texting us saying she was having internet issues at home and needed it for work. So Left Buddy (LB) was helping her trouble shoot the issues via messaging. After helping her all he could, we hit the trail at about 9:50 am. The restrooms at the Visitor Center were closed, but we found restrooms before we hit the trail at Fellin Park, which was just at the other end of the parking lot. The Visitor Center itself was closed, but an outside table was staffed starting at 10 am. Even though we were there before that time, we were still able to pick up a brochure with a detailed description of the Perimeter Trail.
The trail starts out steep. In fact, most of the trail seemed pretty steep. However, the payoff was well worth the effort. There was such a variety of interesting things to see all along the trail. The views of the surrounding peaks were constantly changing around the loop as different peaks came into and out of view. Even seeing the same peaks from a different angle made them seem different.
There are several spectacular waterfalls and several bridges to cross over steep, narrow canyons. The terrain and trail changed from dirt to slick rock, going along exposed rock faces and through aspen groves. We did the loop in the clockwise direction so the mountains gave us total shade for about the first hour.
The trail goes along the canyon in the Ouray Ice Park known for its challenging ice climbing in the winter. The trail crosses and runs alongside the three foot diameter pipeline (penstock) that runs from one end of the ice park to the hydroelectric power plant at the other.
Just after the ice park is a Via Ferrata rock climbing course. We could see several people harnessed into the cables on the route. Some of them looked pretty young.
The trail crosses the Box Canyon on the High Bridge and then goes through a tunnel. Entering the Box Canyon Falls Park itself requires paying a small fee per person. At one point along the trail near Box Canyon, RB looked over across town to the other mountain side and could see the Cascade Falls that we went by earlier that day.
One final steep climb going up to another bridge over a waterfall goes right by the Box Canon sign. We noticed there was no “Y” in Canon on the sign. Sometimes it is referred to as Box Cañon Falls, but there was no tilde on the sign. It also looks like it might light up at night since there were solar panels behind the sign.
As the trail descends back into town, it first goes along Queen Street with a variety of interesting houses. The trail then turns onto Oak Street which passes through 4J+1+1 RV Park before ending back to the Visitor Center. When we were on Queen Street, we saw a man out in front of his house, so LB asked him where the best hand-dipped ice cream was in town. He replied with Mouse’s. So after we dropped our backpacks off at the van and rehydrated while sitting in the shade at the park with a couple of cold Cokes from our fridge, we walked into town for ice cream.
Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee on Main Street was hopping with people getting ice cream, since it was a hot day. We’re not sure what brand of ice cream they sell but RB enjoyed her waffle cone of peanut butter cup and mint chip. However, LB was a little disappointed that his vanilla shake was made with soft serve ice cream instead of hand-dipped, but he said it still tasted good. The only place we found to sit outside was a bench around the corner on a sloped street. The bench was not level, but on the same slope as the street and sidewalk, which made it a little awkward to sit on. However, it wasn’t enough of a slope to slide off of it and it was in the shade, so we were grateful.
Ouray is a cute mining town with a historic Main Street and has been dubbed the “Switzerland of America”. It is the north end of the Million Dollar Highway and known for its world class ice climbing. RB was tired from our hike, but she still managed to find the energy to walk up and down Main Street, taking pictures of the old buildings.
Ouray Perimeter Trail was hike #37 in our 52 Hike Challenge : 6.5 miles with a 1870 elevation gain in five hours and 13 minutes. The trail turned out to be a wonderful experience and we’re so glad we had the opportunity to hike it. We’d definitely put it in the top ten of our favorite hikes of all time. It was a challenging, but very rewarding hike.
When we got back to Ridgway State Park, we were both still dehydrated and feeling a little overwhelmed by the heat. After emptying our gray tanks at the dump station, RB went to take a shower to try to feel better before making dinner. LB was a little cranky about that decision as he just wanted to eat. For dinner we had pepperoni, green pepper, & onion pizza on flour tortillas. RB noticed that the apples we had were starting to go bad. So she took the last two remaining apples and made applesauce. LB didn’t want any and there were no containers left to store it in, so RB ate it for a bed time snack. She felt she needed the extra liquid anyway.
The next day we drove around Ridgway State Park before leaving in the morning. The Elk Ridge Campground, unlike Dakota Terraces where we were, is set in the trees to provide some shade. At the end of one of the loops, there is a short walk out to an overlook. We went out to the overlook to get a good view of the reservoir that had escaped our view from our campground. There were all kinds of boats on the water, from sailboats and motorboats with skiers, to SUP boards and kayaks in the No Wake zone at the south end.
We didn’t have much time to enjoy Ridgway State Park, but our great experience on the Ouray Perimeter Trail was well worth our time. It is always a treat when something turns out better than you imagined. Hopefully you have been able to get out and have wonderful experiences of your own that exceeded your expectations.
Check out our related video: Ouray Colorado