9883
Colorado Rocky Mountains
Hiking the Best of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains
From one of two locations in Colorado’s incredible Rocky Mountains, hike challenging mountain trails and discover fascinating wildlife and natural history from local experts.
Rating (4.86)
Program No. 9883RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
1,149
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8 days
7 nights
18 meals
7 B 6 L 5 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Hotel Check-in 3-4 pm, Orientation and required safety lecture 5 pm followed by dinner.
Ouray, CO
D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Ouray has been a special destination for more than 100 years. Set at the narrow head of a valley at 7,792 feet and surrounded on three sides with 13,000 foot snowcapped peaks - Ouray is home to hundreds of miles of historic roads, hiking trails, sulfur-free hot springs with stunning views and the world-famous Ouray Ice Park. Remarkably, two-thirds of Ouray's original Victorian structures, are still occupied, and have been lovingly restored in order to preserve their turn-of-the-century charm.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant where you will order off of the menu.

Evening: Prepare for next morning's hikes

DAY
2
The itinerary of hikes are the planned program hikes. The schedule may change due to weather, closures or unforeseen circumstances. Portland Trail above Ouray/Box Canyon Park. Note on each day's hikes: We begin with easier hikes both in distance and elevation gain/loss building each day in length and difficulty so that participants can acclimate to both physical and altitude factors.
Ouray, CO
B,L,D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Today's hike will be 4 miles round trip, 4 hours total including trail lunch, elevation gain of 500' and maximum altitude of 8,000'.

Breakfast: Full breakfast at a local restaurant.

Morning: Today we begin our hiking adventure with an easy hike in the Forest near Ouray. We gather in the brisk morning mountain air with our resident geologist and leader. This short trail, gains about 500 feet elevation over its well-groomed course. It follows 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 reward of the hike are the magnificent vistas and nearby waterfalls that fall magnificently into the amphitheater area.

Lunch: Picnic box lunch on trail

Afternoon: After lunch we travel to and take a short hike in Box Canyon Park. The Box Canyon Waterfall & Park is Ouray’s natural wonder—formed when the rushing waters of Canyon Creek eroded a deep and very narrow box canyon through fault weakened limestone. The trailhead begins at the southwest end of town and allows us another view of the town nestled in its valley. We then walk along the gorge, high above the ribbon of Canyon Creek. We crossed "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. We make our way into Box Canyon, reaching Box Canyon Falls along a catwalk passing a winch left by miners, unsuccessful at finding gold in the creek sediments.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant where you will order off of the menu.

Evening: Free for exploring the historical, Victorian town of Ouray or a possible swim in the hot springs pool.

DAY
3
Local Mining History-Rail grade hike and old turntable
Ouray, CO
B,L,D
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Easy hiking day with 4 miles total round trip, 4 hours hiking including lunch on trail, 200 feet elevation gain, maximum altitude 10,000'

Breakfast: Full breakfast at a local restaurant.

Morning: Today we explore the Red Mountain mining area. Walking along old rail beds we visit several mines—in particular, Yankee Girl and American Girl, both of which produced the most gold and silver in the area. We learn about extraction operations of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The mines and the towns that grew up with them were relatively short-lived—most lasted little more than five years. We 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.

Lunch: Picnic box lunch on trail

Afternoon: Our hike follows the railroad which served the towns and the mining operations were really the engineering marvels of the time. We discover how the railroad came through the valley, we see an engineering marvel of the day, the turntable and ‘Y’ configuration of the tracks so the locomotives could be turned around, and the “cut and fill” method of keeping the tracks on a level by cutting through rock ridges and filling in gullies. We return early afternoon for a self guided tour of Ouray Historical Museum.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant where you will order off of the menu.

Evening: Free for reflection, relaxation; optional Hot Springs and Swimming Pool visit

DAY
4
High alpine hiking near Silverton, Mine and Mill Tour
Ouray, CO
B,L
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: A moderate hike 4 miles round trip over 4 hours including lunch on trail, elevation gain of 800'. maximum altitude 12,500.

Breakfast: Full breakfast at a local restaurant.

Morning: To reach the trailhead for today's hike, we travel south from Ouray on US Route 550. This road is known as the "Million Dollar" (for views) Highway. We cross Red Mountain Pass. The red results from the highly oxidized iron content of the mountain. We take a rough gravel road to the trailhead in an alpine meadow at 11,400 ft. Beautiful views of the mountain ranges start the hike on a jeep road, making for easy walking occasionally encountering late summer snowfields and pristine runoff streams. Notable throughout this walk are an absolute carpet of flowers. The hike destination is 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. We stop for lunch and a lecture about the geology of the area.

Lunch: Picnic box lunch on trail

Afternoon: We descend by foot and van into the mining town of Silverton and then drive to the Old Hundred Gold Mine for an authentic undergound tour. We also visit and tour the Mayflower Mill where millions of dollars of gold were processed for several decades.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is on your own in Silverton to enjoy and explore the town.

Evening: Return to Ouray

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

Activity note: Moderately difficult day hike from 6 to 8 miles round trip depending upon hikers interests; 6 to 8 hours including lunch on trail, elevation gain 1,200' to 2,000' with highest elevation 12,500'.

Breakfast: Full breakfast at a local restaurant.

Morning: We retrace our earlier in the week's drive south on US550 to today's trailhead and the Ice Lake Basin Trail. This at times strenuous all day hike has the attraction of reaching three spectacular lakes on this trail. We hike through intermittent forest for 1.8 miles. Once in the lower Ice Lake Basin, rugged mountain views are constant. There are also numerous big waterfalls and creeks. Wildflowers are tall and thick. The trail to the upper basin cuts up through a massive rock wall. Ice Lake, the first lake encountered is surrounded by sharp, jagged peaks. The rolling hills are festooned with flowers. The view is as one author put it, "classic Colorado. Inspiring!"

Lunch: Picnic box lunch on trail

Afternoon: After a welcome lunch break, options for additional hikes to two more lakes are available. Fuller Lake is a relatively easy 1.7 miles round trip hike. We continue on the same trail that brought us to Ice Lake. It is a good trail that 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. Another option is to hike to Island Lake: We cross the outlet stream from Ice Lake and pick up a trail contouring north up the mountainside. Island Lake is around the saddle 1.2 miles round trip above. Once again spectaculat views and fields of wldflowers prevail. We return to Ouray in late afternoon.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant where you will order off of the menu.

DAY
6
All day hike on Sutton Mine Trail
Ouray, CO
B,L
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Moderate hike 4.4 miles round trip, 6 hours 900' elevation gain, highest elevation 9,000'

Breakfast: Full breakfast at a local restaurant.

Morning: One of the great hikes accessed from town is the Sutton Mine Trail where some spectacular views beckon hikers. This hike is a fairly short out and back. From the trailhead, the hike is 2.2 miles to the Neosho Mine and the wonderfully decorated Antique Store. The first 0.5 miles is akin to walking on a stairmaster with an endless series of switchbacks. The trail is in very good shape, but, it is steep so slow and steady is the way to go. With a shorter stride, the Scenic Overlook comes soon enough. From this point on, the hike is very enjoyable. The trail undulates with an upward slope, with short spurts through stretches of pine trees with the occasional aspen. The views are very nice and you can see the Million Dollar highway below and the Amphitheater above. The Bear Creek Drainage to the east is an interesting site and with very good eyes one can watch 4x4s meander the spur that takes Jeepers up to Engineer Pass and connects Ouray to the Alpine Loop. The Bear Creek Overlook comes 1.7 miles from the trailhead. But, keep walking another 0.3 miles to the best view on the hike. Cross two streams (the first could easily be dry by late June and the second will last the full year), emerge from the forest at approximately 2.0 miles from the trailhead to a magnificent view of the Bear Creek Falls. This stunning vantage point for Bear Creek Falls comes with a wonderful picnic location too. Nice rocky outcroppings make for a nice bench in which to rest weary feet and the road below makes for some interesting observations. Bear Creek Falls goes under US Highway 550 and plunges 225 feet.

Lunch: Picnic box lunch on trail

Afternoon: After lunch on the trail continue the hike. Arrive back in Ouray mid-afternoon. The town is named after the great Ute Chief Ouray (c. 1833–August 24, 1880). Ouray (Arrow in the Ute language) was a Native American chief of the Uncompaghre band of the Ute tribe, then located in western Colorado. Because of his leadership ability, Ouray was also acknowledged by the United States government as a chief of the Ute. In 1880 he left Colorado to travel to Washington, D.C., where he testified before Congress about the Ute uprising of 1879. He tried to secure a treaty for the his tribe, Uncompaghre Ute, who wanted to stay in Colorado; but, the following year, the United States forced the Uncompaghre and the White River Ute to the west to reservations in present-day Utah. Although unsuccessful in keeping their homelands in Colorado, Ouray was renowned as he sought reconciliation between peoples, with the belief that war with the whites likely meant the demise of the Ute tribe.

Dinner: Dinner on own to explore Ouray restaurants

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

Activity note: Moderate-strenuous hike 6 miles round trip, 4 hours 1,900' elevation gain, highest elevation 11,900'

Breakfast: Full breakfast at a local restaurant.

Morning: We drive to the town of Telluride. Some may choose to spend the morning exploring the town or hiking the Lizard Head Trail. The trail traversing Black Face Mountain’s broad, panoramic ridge the most scenic route to the base of Lizard Head peak. From the ridge leading to the top of Black Face the San Miguel Range, including Mount Wilson (14,245-ft.), Gladstone Mountain (13,913-ft.) and Wilson Peak (14,017-ft.), form a dramatic backdrop for Lizard Head’s lone spire soaring 400-ft. above its rocky pedestal. To the east spectacular views encompass Trout Lake and the peaks surrounding the Lake Hope basin including Sheep Mountain, Pilot Knob, Golden Horn and Vermillion Peak. To the north, Sunshine Mountain rises above picturesque Wilson Meadows. In the distance to the northeast is the jagged profile of the Sneffels range.

Lunch: Picnic box lunch on trail

Afternoon: Continue morning hike-climb returning to Ouray in late afternoon.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant where you will order off of the menu. Celebrate with your fellow Road Scholar participants the hiking achievements of the week.

Evening: Free for relaxation and packing.

DAY
8
Departures after breakfast, motel check out 10 am
Ouray, CO
B

Breakfast: Full breakfast at a local restaurant.