|Elevation Gain||1,411 ft|
|My Time||2 hr 55 min|
|Food Nearby||Ouray Brewery|
Ouray Perimeter Trail
The Ouray Perimeter Trail is a great trail that circles above the city. It goes by sights like Cascade Falls, The Baby Bathtubs, a box canyon and even a tunnel! It isn’t an easy walk in the park though and actually is fairly challenging. The hike is absolutely worth it though!
The trail officially starts at the visitor center near the hot springs. Across the street from the center is a large rock that signals the start of the perimeter trail. This leads up a steep cliff and takes you to a scramble section. It was actually too steep for me to feel comfortable and I had to stop my attempt. If you are comfortable with scrambles you should be ok but I just wasn’t comfortable.
I was upset that I might not be able to do this hike until I pulled into the entrance to Cascade falls. That is when I saw that the trail connects there and it is a much softer take off so I was able to do the rest of the hike from here.
The hike around the Ouray Perimeter is pretty stunning. It is also a little hard to describe. The trail surround the town and alternates from being high above the town and then drops down lower. It has pretty much everything that you could ask for on a hike visually but one of the keys was that you always had a great view of the town.
There are several places where the elevation gains get a bit steep. In the upper teens in percentage of grade is common. There are also some longer flat sections. The trail that I did tops out around 8500 feet. I don’t know that I could break down every bit of the hike from an elevation standpoint but here is a break down the major area’s of the hike with a bit more detail in each section. For reference, I started at Cascade falls and took the trail clockwise around town.
The first stop on my loop was Cascade Falls. There are a series of seven falls in total but the only one that I ended up seeing was the lower falls. The lower falls are stunning. To get to the falls there is about a quarter mile walk from the parking area. There is a small viewing area set up in front of the falls in which you can observe.
This lower section of the falls has about a 200 foot drop. To the left of the falls there are some trails that get higher views but for me the view at the base was amazing.
The long fall of the water leads to a small stream that leads down towards the town. After exploring the falls for a bit I headed to the south to start the main section of the loop. This starts with a relatively steep hill and then a walk through the woods on a small dirt path.
The next stop on the perimeter trail is The Baby Bathtubs trail. There is a small parking area at this trailhead and it is still part of the Perimeter trail. The trail leads you back into the woods and across a small stream. The trail is about a tenth of a mile and pretty easy with some great views. The highlight comes from the small waterfall towards the end of the trail. The water drops into what seems like a basin so I guess that is how the hike got its name!
There is a nice little spot where you can get down close to the water and enjoy the water. I used this as a good spot to take a bit of a break and grab a snack. The water wasn’t running too high in the spring but it was still a really nice spot. I even got a visit from this blue bird.
Continuing south you will pass by the ampitheatre and onto a place that I think is one of the most beautiful I found in Colorado. This is also the highest point on the trail at around 8500 feet and there is an incline of about a 200 feet over a third of a mile so it is one of the steepest sections as well.
The views make it all worth it though.
From this spot above the amphitheater you have unobstructed views of the mountains that surround the city and for me it was the absolute highlight of the trail. I certainly wasn’t expecting views like this on a town perimeter trail! I stayed and enjoyed these views for about 20 minutes just soaking it all in.
Crossing the Road
After the amazing views above the amphitheater you will make your way down the cliffside and come to a road. The trail continues on the other side of the road and you will need to cross it.
When you cross the road you will continue a slow descent down the path. The path widens out and you will be completely surrounded by trees with the sounds of rushing water in the distance. This path will lead you directly to the Uncompahgre River. There will be a “waterfall” where the water is being released through a pipe and a wood bridge to cross the river.
The Great Pipe
After crossing the river you will head back up a small hill and find yourself next to a giant water pipe. There is a little staircase to get over the pipe. After climbing over the pipe you will follow the pipe for a ways.
While walking next to the pipe you will alternate between views of the woods and the mountains. You will also run into an old shack with some mining equipment. Eventually you will come to the climbing area.
The climbing area is a challenging one. Beginners shouldn’t attempt it without an experienced guide. There are several rules posted as well. I did not even come close to attempting any of this!
After the climbing area there will be another small dirt road to cross. This leads to a nice walk through the trees that ends up at the bridge over the Box Canon. This is one of the coolest features of the hike in my opinion.
The bridge is pretty high up the box canon and gives a great view down to the water below. Judging by this picture it was a little higher than I thought!
The bridge itself is well built and a fun challenge for anyone who is scared of both heights and closed spaces. You see after the bridge you go directly into a tunnel!
The tunnel runs about 30 yards through the rock and has some motion activated lights to help you get through. I actually really enjoyed the tunnel part but I know its not for everyone.
And if the bridge over the canyon didn’t wreck your nerves, and you made it through the tunnel without freaking out, then your reward is this intense staircase down the side of the cliff!
I felt a little more uncomfortable on this staircase than I did the bridge. The stairs only had a wire between me and a fall so I didn’t like that so much. I was glad that I was taking the stairs down and not up though!
Finishing the Loop
After you make it down the stairs it is time to head right back up a hill! This hill is a service road so it is plenty wide but it does get pretty steep. The elevation grades get into the high teens so make sure you are prepared for that. This road leads up to the large “Box Canon” sign that you can see from town so that was neat.
After the hike to the top of the hill the trail takes a gradual downhill path. The last stop for me on the loop was Henn’s Overlook. The views from Henn’s Overlook are pretty impressive of the town and the canyon.
There are also a couple of small waterfalls on this side of the loop depending on when you take the hike.
I ended up taking a path down to town after Henn’s Overlook. There was a continuing trail but it was getting late. The path took me down to the west side of town near the campground and then I walked back through town to get back to the falls.
Such a great hike with so much to see on a six mile loop!
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Elevation and Distance
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 5.92 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1411 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 8,497 feet. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 55 minutes.
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There are parts of this trail that are really difficult. The beginning has a scramble that I wasn’t comfortable with doing and ended up starting at the next section. After that first section the trail becomes more manageable. There continues to be some ups and downs of hills but they are pretty spread out. Other than that the length becomes the determining factor. One thing to keep in mind is that if you have to start at Cascade Falls like I did. The walk back up the street to your car is pretty steep!
The trail is well defined but on the day I was doing it there was a crew of fella’s out cutting down some trees that had fallen on down. Some of the trail is on service roads and some is on narrow and steep rock/dirt trails. It all just depends on where you are on the loop. This is not just a gentle paved walk around the city though. It is a true hike and I would suggest a good pair of hiking shoes.
The main starting point for this hike is across the street from the visitor center. There is parking behind the center and then you have to walk across the road to the big boulder and sign. However, this area contained a bit of a scramble that I wasn’t comfortable with.
I started at the Cascade Falls entrance. That is located at the end of 8th Avenue. At that location there is room for 8-10 cars and there is a port-o-potty. There is direct access to the falls and then the perimeter trail connection. There is a donation box at this site as well.
Wrapping up the Ouray Perimeter Trail
What an absolutely amazing hike the Ouray Perimeter Trail is. Most town trails like this are paved and have some nice views. This trail actually put you in the woods. It also had waterfalls, mountains, bridges, rivers, tunnels and pretty much anything you could ask for on a trail.
I have been on many hikes that have taken me deep into the woods and have only seen one or two of those features, not all of them! This is a great hike and I highly recommend it. Keep in mind it is more challenging than your typical “town” hike. This is a legit hike and it is worth the sweat!
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