9883
Colorado

Ouray: Hiking the 'Switzerland of America'

From Ouray in Colorado’s incredible San Juan Mountains, hike challenging mountain trails and discover fascinating wildlife and geology from local experts.
Rating (4.8)
Program No. 9883RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
1,729
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8 days
7 nights
18 meals
7 B 6 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Ouray, CO
D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m. Daily hikes up to 10 miles per day over rugged mountainous terrain.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table outside the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: 5:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will begin the program with easier hikes, both in distance and elevation gain/loss, and build each day in length and difficulty in order to acclimate to both physical and altitude factors. Be sure to bring your own reusable water bottle. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll order plated meals from the menu with coffee, tea, soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Portland Trail Above Ouray, Box Canyon Park
Ouray, CO
B,L,D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Driving approximately 10 miles total; less than 1 hour round-trip. Hiking approximately 4 miles roundtrip; about 4 hours total, with stop for trail lunch; 750’ gain/loss of elevation and maximum elevation of 9,200 feet.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant, we choose plated meals from the menu with freshly brewed coffee, tea, milk, juice and water.

Morning: After transferring via van, we’ll begin our hiking adventure with an easy hike in the forest near Ouray after gathering in the brisk morning mountain air with our resident geologist and Group Leader. This short trail gains about 500 feet in elevation over its well-groomed course following Portland Creek through the basin above the Amphitheater, a large depression in one of the mountainsides surrounding Ouray. The Amphitheater resulted from volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. The rewards of the hike are the magnificent vistas and nearby waterfalls that fall magnificently into the amphitheater area.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll stop to have our boxed lunches.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll travel to the trailhead and take a short hike in Box Canyon Park. The trailhead begins at the southwest end of town and allows us another view of the town nestled in its valley. As we continue walking along the gorge, high above the ribbon of Canyon Creek, we’ll cross "The High Bridge," built in 1900 to carry a water pipeline between two reservoirs. The project was disbanded in 1950 when extra water was no longer needed. Making our way into Box Canyon, we’ll reach Box Canyon Falls along a catwalk passing a winch left by miners who were unsuccessful at finding gold in the creek sediments.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll order plated meals from the menu with coffee, tea, soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to explore the historical, Victorian town of Ouray, or perhaps take a swim in the hot springs pool.

DAY
3
Local Mining History, Rail Grade Hike & Old Turntable
Ouray, CO
B,L,D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Driving approximately 30 miles each way; about 1.5 hours roundtrip. Hiking approximately 4 miles roundtrip; about 4 hours, with stop for trail lunch; easy terrain, 400’ gain/loss elevation and maximum elevation of 10,500 feet.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Arriving by van, we’ll take an exploratory hike on the Red Mountain Mining Area trail, during which we’ll walk along old rail beds and visit several mines including Yankee Girl and American Girl, both of which produced some of the most gold and silver in the area. While here, we’ll learn from a local historian about extraction operations of the late 1800s and early 1900s, as well as about the relatively short-lived mines and the towns that grew up with them—most lasted little more than five years. Continuing, we’ll visit Guston where, by 1888, several dozen homes had been built and the population was about 200. The town's streets were so steep that they had to snake up the mountainsides. In 1897, all three mines closed and Guston quickly became a ghost town. The only structures remaining in the area are the mining structures and of the Yankee Girl mine. While here, we’ll gather for a sit-down lecture accompanied by pictures of the old town.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll have boxed lunches.

Afternoon: Our hike follows the railroad, an engineering marvel of the time, which served the towns and the mining operations in the area. We’ll learn from whom our accompanying local historian how the railroad came through the valley as we enjoy an on-site lecture at the turntable and ‘Y’ configuration of the tracks, which enabled the locomotives to be turned around. Then we’ll see the results of the “cut and fill” method of keeping the tracks level by cutting through rock ridges and filling in gullies. We’ll return in the early afternoon for a self-led exploration of Ouray Historical Museum.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll order plated meals from the menu with coffee, tea, soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
High Alpine Hiking Near Silverton, Mine & Mill
Ouray, CO
B,L
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Driving approximately 70 miles total; about 1.5 hours roundtrip. Hiking approximately 4-6 miles roundtrip depending upon turn around point; about 5 hours with stop for trail lunch; moderate terrain, 1100’ gain/loss elevation; maximum possible elevation of 13,000 feet.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel, we’ll board our vans for travel south from Ouray on US Route 550 to the trailhead for today's hike. This road is known as the "Million Dollar Highway” for its remarkable views. Along the way, we’ll cross Red Mountain Pass with its red color as a result of the highly oxidized iron content of the mountain. Continuing, we’ll take a rough gravel road to the trailhead in an alpine meadow at 11,400 feet. Beautiful views of the mountain ranges accompany the start of the hike on a jeep road, making for easy walking that may occasionally encounter late summer snowfields and pristine runoff streams. Also notable throughout this walk is the absolute carpet of flowers as we hike to our destination of Bullion King Lake in the Porphyry Basin at 12,500 feet. Porphyry refers to a texture of igneous rocks. In its non-geologic, traditional use, the term "porphyry" refers to the purple-red form of this stone, valued for its appearance. When we stop for lunch, we’ll enjoy a lecture about the geology of the area given by our Group Leader.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll have our boxed lunches.

Afternoon: Descending by foot and van, we’ll make our way to the mining town of Silverton and then drive to the Old Hundred Gold Mine for an authentic underground exploration led by a local expert as we learn about the operation of the mine and the process by which ore is extracted from tunnels. Next, we’ll transfer by van to the Mayflower Mill where millions of dollars of gold were processed for several decades. Led by a local expert, we will learn about the operation of the mill and the process by which minerals are extracted from ore.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like in Silverton. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: After some time to explore Silverton, we’ll rendezvous at a predetermined time and place for travel back to our hotel in Ouray.

DAY
5
All Day Hike on the Ice Lakes Basin Trail
Ouray, CO
B,L,D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Driving approximately 40 miles total; about 1 hour each way; rocky mountain roads. Hiking up to 10 miles roundtrip depending upon hikers’ turn around point and afternoon trail choices; about 8 hours, including lunch stop; elevation gain of roughly 1,500 to 2,200 feet; maximum elevation of about 12,500 feet.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel, we’ll board our vans and transfer to the Ice Lake Basin Trailhead. This all-day hike can be strenuous at times, but it has the attraction of reaching three spectacular lakes along the trail. We’ll hike through intermittent forest for about 1.8 miles and, once in the lower Ice Lake Basin, the rugged mountain views become constant. There are also numerous big waterfalls and creeks surrounded by tall and thick wildflowers. The trail to the upper basin cuts up through a massive rock wall to Ice Lake, the first lake we’ll encounter, which is surrounded by sharp, jagged peaks. The view is as one author put it, "classic Colorado. Inspiring!"

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll have our boxed lunches.

Afternoon: After a welcome lunch break, we’ll split into subgroups, each led by a hiking expert, for a choice of two additional hikes to two more lakes. You may choose to do both if you wish! Fuller Lake is a relatively easy 1.7 miles roundtrip hike, during which we’ll continue on the same trail that brought us to Ice Lake. It passes an un-named little lake before making the moderate ascent to Fuller Lake. Wildflowers and a spectacular look back to Ice Lake make this a great side trip. The other choice is to take the hike to Island Lake, which crosses the outlet stream from Ice Lake and picks up on a trail that contours north up the mountainside and around the saddle for a 1.2 mile roundtrip hike. Once again, spectacular views and fields of wildflowers pepper the already beautiful view. We’ll return to the vans and transfer back to Ouray in the late afternoon.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll order plated meals from the menu with coffee, tea, soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
All Day Hike on Sutton Mine Trail
Ouray, CO
B,L
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Driving approximately 40 miles total; about 1.5 hour roundtrip; rocky mountain roads. Hiking approximately 6 miles roundtrip; about 7 hours, with lunch stop; moderate terrain; elevation gain of roughly 1,900 feet; maximum elevation of about 12,100 feet.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel, we’ll board our vans and transfer to the starting point of the Sutton Mine Trail. We’ll begin this out-and-back hike, climbing steadily up switchbacks and stopping intermittently to soak in the views from a series of overlooks peeking between pines and aspens. As we continue, we’ll keep an eye out for landmarks like the Million Dollar Highway below, cross streams, and approach the spectacular Bear Creek Falls.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll have our boxed lunches.

Afternoon: We’ll continue the hike and return to the vans at the trailhead for travel back to Ouray in the mid-afternoon. Named after the great Chief Ouray (1833 – August 24, 1880) of the Uncompaghre band of the Ute tribe, the town pays homage to him as a revered leader. Although his appeal to Congress in 1880 regarding the Ute uprising of 1879 did not ultimately result in a treaty allowing his people to remain in Colorado amid the encroachment of white settlers, his foresight and diplomacy as a leader is still renowned.

Dinner: On your own to explore the local fare at one of Ouray’s restaurants.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Lizard Head Trail, Telluride, Gondola Ride
Ouray, CO
B,L,D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Driving approximately 100 miles total; about 2 hours roundtrip. Hiking approximately 10 miles roundtrip; about 7 hours with lunch stop; moderately strenuous terrain; elevation gain of roughly 2,000 feet; maximum elevation of about 11,900 feet.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Upon arrival in the town of Telluride, we will set out on our hike up the Lizard Head Trail that navigates the gorgeous ridge of the San Miguel Range’s Black Face Mountain and to Lizard Head peak, which is a striking monolithic spire atop the mountain. The view from the summit affords picturesque vistas in every direction of nearby mountains including Mount Wilson, Gladstone Mountain, Wilson Peak, Pilot Knob, Golden Horn, and Trout Lake below. Those who would rather not hike may enjoy spending the morning exploring the town independently.

Lunch: Along the trail or in town, depending on individual activity choice, we’ll have our boxed lunches.

Afternoon: After completing the hike, both groups will rendezvous back in Telluride for our return to Ouray in the late afternoon.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll order plated meals from the menu with coffee, tea, soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, water included; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program and celebrate your hiking achievements with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
8
Program Concludes
Ouray, CO
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 10:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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