The Southwest Colorado town of Ouray is known around the world for its incredible mountain location, nestled deep in the San Juan Mountains. Abundant adventure tourism is found throughout Ouray’s towering peaks, rugged cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and natural hot springs. This Colorado town is often referred to as the “Switzerland of America” and is a must-see destination for anyone wishing to experience the mountainous beauty of Southwest Colorado. Although there are a number of exciting adventures to find in Ouray, all of us here at Vacation Rental Services want to share one of our favorite ways to get off the beaten path and find adventure, the Ouray Via Ferrata!
A via ferrata, Italian for “iron path”, is a type of climbing route that utilizes preplace aids such as cables, ladders, pegs, rungs, and even carved pathways to provide adventurers with protection and an easier way to progress along the route when compared to using only natural foot and handholds. As the climber progresses through the via ferrata, they clip leashes that are securely attached to their safety harness to the cables and other protection. By using multiple leashes, the climber is able to stay safely connected to the route the entire time. At no point should a via ferrata have unsafe or unprotected climbing and making progress along the route should always be safe when done correctly, making this an exhilarating and accessible option for a variety of adventure seekers!
Located in the stunning beauty of the Uncompahgre River Gorge, the Ouray Via Ferrata is one of only 10 such routes in North America and it is expected to be the United State’s first public via ferrata that is free of admissions charges and constructed to modern safety standards. Managed by the 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation Friends of the Ouray Via Ferrata, the area itself is under the ownership of the town of Ouray and the city government intends to operate it in the same manner as the world-famous Ouray Ice Park, renowned for the annual Ouray Ice Climbing Festival. Both of the routes available at the Ouray Via Ferrata, the original Downstream Route, and the newer Upstream option, are open for the 2022 season. Operating seven days a week from 8 am to 4 pm, each route has a variety of terrain to cover and will leave travelers with memories for a lifetime. The Downstream Route covers approximately 4,000 linear feet of terrain, including an airy bridge that crosses the Uncompahgre River. It is rated 4B on the Fletcher/Smith Italian Via Ferrata scale of difficulty. The more challenging Upstream Route, rated 4.5B on the scale, has 1,000 more feet of terrain to cover and utilizes fewer rungs and other manmade protection, so climbers will use natural features for their hands and feet as they make their way through the gorge. Both routes have been designed and constructed by experienced engineers, contractors, and local climbing professionals with intimate knowledge of the surrounding area.
For those with little or no experience climbing or using a via ferrata, guiding services are available and highly recommended. There are a number of such outfits in the area, and the Ouray Via Ferrata provides a list of their approved guiding services. These guides have the experience to keep travelers safe and will often share their knowledge of the area, offering adventures the opportunity to learn from local outdoor professionals. For those with the appropriate experience to venture out on their own, the Ouray Via Ferrata has the rules and guidelines listed on the official website
The town of Ouray itself has been a travel destination for many years and has excellent dining and entertainment options for a quaint mountain town of its size. When you’re finished traversing and ascending the steep terrain of the Uncompahgre River Gorge you can return to downtown and enjoy all that the Switzerland of America has to offer.
One of the top attractions of the area and a perfect complement to the via ferrata are the numerous natural hot springs in the area. There are a wide variety of options to enjoy and some also offer massage and spa services. From the social and lively Ouray Hot Springs to the private and secluded historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa, there are settings for everyone. Whether you’re returning from a high-altitude journey on the Via Ferrata or waiting for the adventurers in your group to make their way back to town, the hot springs in Ouray are high on the list of things to enjoy while you are there.
Another Ouray must is a stop by the historic Wright Opera House. Originally constructed in 1888, it has since been adopted by the non-profit organization Friends of the Wright Opera House. Restored with a mission to make the Wright a center of Ouray culture and entertainment, the opera house is once again the premier entertainment venue in the area. There are numerous art shows, performances, lectures, movies, and even a trivia night. You can check the online schedule for events, dates, and times.
For those planning a trip to historic Ouray, Vacation Rental Services is excited to offer our clients the opportunity to enjoy the premier accommodations available at the breathtaking Red Mountain Alpine Lodge. Only 20 minutes south of downtown Ouray and 15 minutes north of Silverton, another renowned Colorado mountain town, the brand new timber frame lodge is ideally situated in the natural wonder and expanse of the San Juan mountains. With serene privacy and sitting at an elevation of 11,000 feet, the Red Mountian Alpine Lodge can sleep up to 18 guests and is the perfect Rocky Mountain retreat. Vacation Rental Services offers our customers premier accommodations and best-in-class services at acclaimed travel locations all over the United States. When it’s time to plan your next trip, whether it's adventure tourism on the Ouray Via Ferrata or something else, we encourage you to contact us for truly memorable lodging and outstanding customer service!
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