By Margaret Hedderman
Ouray is “The Switzerland of America.” Yep. They went there. But don’t let their odd choice of a slogan fool you, Ouray is quickly becoming one of my favourite small Colorado towns.
And it has nothing to do with the newly opened Ouray Brewery.
Actually, it has everything to do with the Ouray Brewery. The brewpub is located in a historic 3-story brick building on Main. Very much like the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet St., the Ouray Brewery is a maze of taprooms and seating areas. Though, by far, the most spectacular space is the rooftop dining area, overlooking the San Juan Mountains and the world-famous Ouray Ice Park. The beer is brilliant and the caramelised sweet potato fries, beer-cheese dip, and pretzels are the perfect reward for navigating Red Mountain Pass and the dizzying road to Ouray.
Yes, engineering genius placed U.S. 550 on a 200+ ft. drop with less than shoulder and certainly no guard rail. Best not drive back this way after visiting the Brewery.
Ouray is one of Colorado’s many historic mining towns. As you drive down into town off the pass, it is almost unmistakeable from the black and white images of the early 1900s – square, grid-like streets and old brick buildings. For a few short years, Ouray was a hub for gold and silver mining. Now it’s a hub for tourists who huff and puff up the steep Main Avenue, sucking in the thin air at nearly 8,000 ft.
It’s actually quite easy to mistake Ouray as a tourist trap. Granted, that’s its economy, but behind the sea of America! t-shirts and white sneakers, Ouray is a cute, close-knit community. My first time through I was covering the newly opened Wright Opera House. For years, one owner after another has struggled to renew the glory days of the Opera House. Now operating under a governing board, the Wright Opera House is on its way to be a fully-function arts venue.
Naturally, Ouray is miles and miles and miles from anywhere. Fortunately, from any direction, a drive to Ouray is through some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado. Hot springs, amazing hikes, and in the winter, ice climbing, offer days and days of reasons to stay in Ouray. I shall certainly be back (many) times this summer!