If there is a Shangri-la this is it. There are a few places on earth that compare to Ouray. It is an insolated gem that remains unknown to many tourist and residents alike.
Hidden deep in the remote San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado, The natural hot springs have been beckoning people for centuries. The Ute Indians made their summer camps near the bubbling hot springs on the banks of the Uncomphragre River.
They believed that this special valley of the hot springs had "big medicine". It does. The hot spring will wash away your worries and rejuvenated you spirits. Soaking in the mineral waters and watching the clouds drift over the alpine peaks, is a relaxing way to take in the Colorado Rockies.
Ouray Colorado is a special place. The novelist, Ayn Rand, thought that it was so special that she used Ouray as a setting for her utopian city of Galt's Gulch in the novel, Atlas Shrugged.
This little Victorian Village is scattered with many natural hot springs seeping out of the nearby mountains. One is even located in a cave. Many of the lodges in town offer accommodations featuring use of their private hot springs. Many have multiple hot tubs and others have pools and some have both. It is a soaker's paradise.
Ouray is blessed with beauty. It is called "The Switzerland of the Rockies". On all sides of the village, great mountains rise 2000 feet above the valley floor. The snowcapped peaks that ring the village are outlined against the blue skies. Words can not describe it and cameras are in adequate too. It is just spectacular.
Like all alpine villages it has a myriad of outdoor activities. You can do the normal stuff like: hiking, jeeping, exploring ghost towns, rafting wild rivers, as well as, taking pictures of alpine meadows full wildflowers and waterfalls. But Ouray has something new and different. It has the world's first ice climbing park.
This tiny little town does not hibernate in the winter any longer. Each year thousands of ice climbers come to Ouray to climb the artificial ice known as "hero ice" created by the "Ouray Ice Farmers". It is quite a festival.
But the town's Hot Springs Pool remains the major attraction for Ouray. The pool has been completely remodeled, updated and expanded. It is now 250 feet by 150 feet with a warm section for soaking and a cooler section for laps. The temperature varies from 70 to 104 F. Soaking in the pool is the best way I know for recuperating from an active day in the mountains.
If you are a romantic, you can tour this Victorian town in an old western stagecoach, or perhaps, you prefer a white horse-drawn carriage. The local living stable has both.
The pool brings visitors from all over, but you will only feel like a stranger in town for a few minutes. The locations are laid-back and very friendly. It seems that there is a slower pace here, very relaxing. They say "howdy" will smile, in that unique western way.
Ouray and The Hot Springs Pool is a popular year-round getaway for Western Colorado residents. But it is still an insoluble gem, that remains unknown to many tourist and residents alike.
Ouray may not actually be Shangri-la, but it looks it, and feels like it and it has that mystical charm.
By Tod Vandewalker