Ouray Perimeter Trail, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Colorado

Ouray, CO
Length: 4.25 mi.
Type: Loop

About This Trail

[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

ACTIVITIES: Hiking, birding, caves

LENGTH OF HIKES: 4.2–5.8 miles



ELEVATION GAIN: 1,150 feet





BIKES/HORSES/MOTORS ON TRAIL: Horses in some areas



POTENTIAL CHILD OR BABY HAZARDS: There are some very narrow and rocky
parts. Put toddlers/younger children in a carrier pack, if possible, through these areas.

GEAR SUGGESTIONS: Carrier pack, bug spray

The Ouray Perimeter Trail is located in an old mining town and is an exciting day trip for families interested in getting in a good, lengthy hike. Expect to see butterflies, mountain goats, maybe a bear, and lots of birds. You will also find old mining tunnels, ropes, and bridges, because silver mining was big in this town in the 1800s.

There are two versions of this hike, depending on if you choose to take a shortcut, which shaves off about a mile. The hike will take around 3 to 4 hours to complete, depending on if you opt for the ice park shortcut. Ouray Ice Park is a man-made ice climbing venue in the Uncompahgre Gorge that’s considered to be one of the premier ice climbing spots in the world. Every January, the Ouray Ice Festival attracts elite ice climbers from around the world to this area. While this is one of the main hikes people visit in the area, from this trail you can access a number of
other harder and longer trails off of the Ouray Perimeter.

This may not be the ideal hike for a new walker, but we couldn’t pass up adding this to the book because of its uniqueness and beauty. This hike is iconic Colorado with amazing views into a deep canyon and some narrow sections that you will just want to hold a hand to venture through. The trail starts off with a steep uphill climb plan
to carry here), but don’t worry, it gradually flattens as you hike along. In the beginning, you will see high mountain peaks all around you, starting with Mount Abrams (12,801 feet) and Hayden Mountain (11,475 feet). To the southwest is U.S. Mountain (13,036 feet), and to the west are Whitehouse Mountain (13,452 feet) and Twin Peaks (10,798 feet).

There are moments on this hike where it will feel “risky” with narrow ledges and high bridges, but this is not a razor-thin hiking trail. The trail isn’t crowded, and you will never feel like ants marching along. The narrow sections will keep you on your toes and add to the excitement and fun. Keep in mind, if you do have a fear of heights, this might not be the trail for you.

Your first breathtaking site on this hike is the Cascade Waterfalls. Spray from the falls can be a little cold if it’s not a sunny, warm day and you get too close. Obviously, you will want to keep kiddos back from the falls because it’s powerful and definitely not swimmable! While you can hike this trail at any time of the year, we would recommend the summer so you can enjoy the mountain chilliness of the waterfalls and streams.

Cascade Falls can be pretty crowded because many people just hike to the falls from the access point downtown, but don’t worry about the whole trail having this feel. There’s only a small section where you will notice the masses. Take a moment at the falls and then head on because there is a lot more fun coming up on the trail.
The waterfall is followed by the baby bathtubs, then continue hiking and you’ll enter a beautiful meadow, cross the Million Dollar Highway, and you’ll have views for days. From here you can take the left fork and go out to the ice park bridge and
dam or you can take the right (the ice park shortcut) and still see part of the ice park. Remember that at certain times of year, mosquitoes can be fierce.

That’s not the end of the adventure, though. Keep hiking and you get to Box Canyon. Megan said one of the highlights of their hike was the tunnel at Box
Canyon. “Our 3-year-old kept asking to go through it again and again. He loved running through the open meadows, and he had fun “oooohing and aaaahing” at the waterfall, but the tunnel was the best.” There is a little walk over a bridge, then you go through the tunnel and go left, where a new offshoot was just completed in summer 2017. Note that there are multiple areas where the town has provided a “registration” area so they can keep track of hikers entering the different areas of the trail. It’s best to sign in to all of the registration logs. They just ask for your name, number in your hiking party, ZIP code, and a few other things. This allows emergency services to quickly locate hikers in case of an emergency.

“The Ouray Perimeter Trail is truly one of the most incredible and FUN hikes my husband and I have been on (especially with kids). Ouray is considered the “Switzerland of the US,” so as you can imagine, the views are breathtaking. But it’s not only the views that make this trail worthwhile. It’s as if every mile you hike, the trail leads you to another amazing site or attraction to see. Our kids especially loved being able to go through a cave on the hike!” —MEGAN MOUNTAIN

The parking is rarely full. If it is, you can also park at the visitor center. Go to the Ouray hot springs at the end of your hike (there are fees to get in and they vary by age). There is also a fun playground and green space/park at the end. You can walk into the hot springs entrance area and buy fish food to feed the fish in the pond (a quarter for a bag). Don’t miss Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee. “Their turtle sundae is amazing, and their chocolates are great for bribing little ones to get through the hike.”

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Trail Features

Elevation gain 1,150 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains No
Bathrooms No
Cell reception Excellent
Pet friendly No
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles

Trail highlights

Visitor Center and Waterfall

Trail Contributor

[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.


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