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What Are The Tourist Places Nearest to Mount Ouray?

Discover the Best Tourist Attractions Near Mount Ouray: Hidden Gems and Must-Visit Spots

Mount Ouray

Mount Ouray

Mount Ouray stands proudly in the far southern Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains, its 13,961-foot summit offering breathtaking views and a sense of adventure. Nestled within the San Isabel National Forest and located 7.5 miles west of Poncha Pass, Colorado, this prominent peak lies on the boundary between Chaffee and Saguache counties. Named in honor of Ute Chief Ouray, this mountain is more than just a hiking destination; it is surrounded by a myriad of attractions that cater to diverse interests. From serene hot springs to historic towns, and scenic byways to vibrant wildlife, the region around Mount Ouray is a treasure trove for tourists. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top tourist places nearest to Mount Ouray.

1. Poncha Springs

History and Charm

Poncha Springs, often referred to as the “Gateway to the Rockies,” is a quaint town located just east of Mount Ouray. Its rich history dates back to the late 19th century when it served as a bustling stop for travelers and miners. Today, Poncha Springs maintains its historical charm with a mix of old and new.

Activities and Attractions

Visitors can explore local shops, dine in cozy restaurants, and enjoy the peaceful ambiance. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the numerous trails for hiking and mountain biking, and during winter, the area transforms into a haven for snow sports.

2. Salida

A Riverside Gem

Situated a short drive northeast of Mount Ouray, Salida is a vibrant town known for its stunning riverside views and lively arts scene. The Arkansas River runs through Salida, providing opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and white-water rafting.

Arts and Culture

The historic downtown area is home to art galleries, boutiques, and cafes. The Salida SteamPlant Event Center hosts various cultural events, including concerts, theater performances, and film screenings. The town’s rich cultural tapestry is complemented by its Victorian architecture and scenic riverwalk.

3. San Isabel National Forest

Natural Beauty

Spanning over 1.1 million acres, the San Isabel National Forest is a vast expanse of wilderness that encompasses Mount Ouray. This national forest is a paradise for outdoor lovers, offering activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Key Spots

  • Monarch Pass: A high mountain pass offering stunning panoramic views and excellent opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in winter.
  • Cottonwood Lake: A serene spot perfect for fishing, picnicking, and paddleboarding. The surrounding trails provide excellent hiking options.

4. Monarch Crest Scenic Tramway

Panoramic Views

Located near Monarch Pass, the Monarch Crest Scenic Tramway offers a unique way to experience the Rockies. This tramway takes visitors up to the Continental Divide, where they can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.


At the summit, visitors can hike along the Continental Divide Trail, go mountain biking, or simply relax and take in the stunning scenery. The tramway operates seasonally, so check availability before planning your visit.

5. O’Haver Lake

A Serene Retreat

Nestled in the San Isabel National Forest, O’Haver Lake is a picturesque spot ideal for a relaxing getaway. The lake is surrounded by dense forests and offers a tranquil setting for fishing, canoeing, and paddleboarding.

Camping and Picnicking

There are several campsites around the lake, providing a perfect opportunity for overnight stays. Picnic areas are also available, making it an ideal spot for a family outing or a quiet day in nature.

6. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

A Unique Landscape

Approximately a two-hour drive southeast of Mount Ouray, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve features the tallest sand dunes in North America. This unique landscape offers an otherworldly experience, with vast dunes set against the backdrop of the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains.


Visitors can enjoy sandboarding, sledding, and hiking on the dunes. The Medano Creek, which flows seasonally at the base of the dunes, is a popular spot for wading and cooling off. The park also offers excellent stargazing opportunities due to its remote location and dark skies.

7. Hot Springs Near Mount Ouray

Relaxation and Wellness

The area around Mount Ouray is blessed with several natural hot springs, perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation after a day of outdoor activities.

  • Mount Princeton Hot Springs: Located near Buena Vista, this resort offers a variety of hot spring pools with temperatures ranging from warm to hot. The resort also features spa services, lodging, and dining options.
  • Cottonwood Hot Springs: A more rustic option, Cottonwood Hot Springs offers natural soaking pools in a serene setting. The facility emphasizes a peaceful atmosphere, making it a great spot for unwinding.

8. Historic Sites and Ghost Towns

Exploring the Past

The region around Mount Ouray is rich in history, with several historic sites and ghost towns that offer a glimpse into Colorado’s past. Just as we know What Are The Tourist Places Nearest to Mount Wrangell?

  • St. Elmo: One of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns, St. Elmo is located west of Mount Ouray. Visitors can explore the old buildings, which include a general store, a schoolhouse, and private homes. The town is accessible year-round, but some buildings may be closed in winter.
  • Vicksburg and Winfield: These lesser-known ghost towns are also worth a visit. Located in Clear Creek Canyon, both towns have preserved structures and artifacts from the mining era. The surrounding area offers excellent hiking and off-road vehicle trails.

9. Buena Vista

Adventure and Tranquility

North of Mount Ouray, Buena Vista is a charming town known for its outdoor recreation opportunities and scenic beauty. The town’s name, which means “Beautiful View” in Spanish, is a testament to the stunning vistas of the Collegiate Peaks.

River Sports and More

The Arkansas River runs through Buena Vista, providing some of the best white-water rafting and kayaking in the country. For those who prefer land-based activities, the area offers numerous hiking and mountain biking trails. Buena Vista also boasts a lively downtown with shops, restaurants, and breweries.

10. Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Majestic Mountains

Part of the San Isabel National Forest, the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is home to some of Colorado’s highest mountains, including several “fourteeners” (peaks over 14,000 feet). This wilderness area offers rugged terrain, pristine alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife.

Outdoor Activities

Hiking, backpacking, and climbing are popular activities in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. The area is also ideal for fishing, horseback riding, and nature photography. The trails range from moderate to challenging, catering to different skill levels.

11. Chalk Cliffs and Chalk Creek Canyon

Geological Wonders

The Chalk Cliffs, located near Mount Princeton Hot Springs, are a striking geological feature. These towering white cliffs are composed of kaolinite clay, which gives them their distinctive appearance.

Scenic Drives and Hikes

Chalk Creek Canyon offers scenic drives and several hiking trails that provide stunning views of the cliffs and the surrounding landscape. The area is also rich in wildlife, making it a great spot for birdwatching and nature photography.

12. Valley View Hot Springs

A Natural Oasis

Located southwest of Mount Ouray, Valley View Hot Springs is a hidden gem that offers a peaceful and natural hot springs experience. The springs are situated on the Orient Land Trust, a private nature reserve that emphasizes conservation and sustainability.

Eco-Friendly Retreat

Valley View Hot Springs features a variety of soaking pools with different temperatures, all set in a tranquil and natural environment. The land trust also offers guided tours of the historic Orient Mine, home to a large colony of bats, and promotes eco-friendly practices throughout the property.


The region surrounding Mount Ouray is a haven for tourists, offering a blend of natural beauty, historical intrigue, and outdoor adventure. From the charming towns of Poncha Springs and Salida to the majestic landscapes of San Isabel National Forest and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re soaking in hot springs, exploring ghost towns, or hiking through pristine wilderness, the attractions near Mount Ouray promise a memorable and enriching experience.

By planning your visit to these enchanting tourist places, you can create an itinerary that balances relaxation with adventure, history with natural beauty. Embrace the spirit of the Rockies and discover the hidden gems that await near Mount Ouray. Happy travels!

Know More about Mount Ouray.

When Were Mount Ouray Formed?
Where Are Mount Ouray Located?
Who Discovered Mount Ouray?
How to Reach Mount Ouray?
Why are Mount Ouray So Prominent?

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