The picturesque municipality of Ouray provides adventurers with stunning views of towering mountains, gentle meadows, thundering waterfalls, and abandoned mining towns. You can access the most scenic views by hiking or driving off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails that range from simple to challenging difficulty levels. Continue reading to discover eight of the best places to take pictures in Ouray, Colorado.
Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon Falls, also called Box Cañon Falls, is a 285-foot waterfall where Canyon Creek plummets before joining the Uncompahgre River. Walk on a steel catwalk to access the waterfall and enjoy views of the slot canyon. If you’d like a more challenging route, you can walk the upper trail, which also offers beautiful views.
If you enjoy photographing birds, you might want to visit Box Canyon for more than just the waterfall. Here, you may also see Black Swift birds, the largest swifts that migrate to North America. They usually stay at Box Canyon from early June through mid-September, building their nests on the rock face. At the end of their stay, they migrate to Brazilian rainforests.
Lower and Upper Cascade Falls
Lower Cascade Falls, located in Cascade Falls Park, is a charming waterfall that generously rewards a short and moderately steep hike. To reach the falls, drive east on 8th Avenue to the Cascade Falls parking lot, then hike for a quarter of a mile to the waterfall. You can sit at the base to enjoy the roar and waterfall mist.
Lower Cascade Falls is the lowest in a series of seven waterfalls in Cascade Creek. If you’re an experienced hiker, you can trek much further on the steep Chief Ouray Mine trail to reach Upper Cascade Falls.
Ouray Ice Park
With more than 200 routes, Ouray Ice Park is the world’s largest human-made public ice climbing park. It spans nearly 2 miles of the Uncompahgre Gorge, and the nonprofit organization Ouray Ice Park Inc. operates the park every year.
The park is typically open mid- to late December and closes mid- to late March. Ice farmers spray overflow water from the City of Ouray water supply tank down the gorge. Climbing the walls is an adventure, and their beautiful appearance is a testament to the power of combining natural features and human ingenuity.
Red Mountains and Crystal Lake
The Red Mountains are a set of three peaks about 5 miles south of Ouray. Iron ore gives the mountains their striking red color, but the formations are also streaked with orange, yellow, silver, purple, brown, and black.
You can get an attractive shot of the mountains from many angles. A nearby ghost town mining camp, Red Mountain Town, is an interesting place to visit. From the town, you can take pictures of the rust-colored mountains.
However, many people find that the best view of the Red Mountains is from Crystal Lake in the San Juan Mountains. The three peaks rise from between two other mountains, and their reflection in the lake creates a serene image.
Dragon’s Back Peak is a small, beautifully formed summit in the Uncompahgre Wilderness. The ridges of the dragon’s spine jut toward the sky and curve around a small body of water, creating the image of a rocky dragon guarding a pond. The ground rolls toward the dragon, and in the distance, mountain edges line the sky.
You can reach the trailhead to the dragon by driving on Engineer Pass Road, which connects Silverton, Ouray, and Lake City. You will need a high-clearance vehicle with 4WD to make it through Engineer Pass Road. If you enjoy rock scrambling, you can climb up the Dragon’s Back; however, the more expressive pictures will be of the dragon itself.
Yankee Boy Basin Route: Drinking Cup
Yankee Boy Basin is an 18.6-mile out-and-back trail popular for fishing, mountain biking, and horseback riding. It’s a moderately challenging trail, so you’ll want to drive a 4×4 vehicle on the route. And since the path has some steep dips, you’ll want a vehicle with an accommodating approach angle.
Along the trail, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to stop your vehicle, enjoy the scenery, and capture magnificent shots. One of the best places to take pictures in Ouray, Colorado, is on the Yankee Boy Basin OHV Route. If you like documenting off-road excursions with adventurous photography, park your vehicle safely turned toward the cliff edge, then have a companion walk back up the road to take a picture of you and your rig looking over the canyon.
The Ouray region has a rich mining history, and when you visit the site of the old Atlas Mill, you’ll find plenty of antiquated equipment surrounded by beautiful Ouray wilderness. Take a few snapshots of the relics of a silver-mining boomtown that became a ghost town in 1924.
You’ll see equipment like a drill sharpener, motor components, drills, tracks, and cables that transported silver and gold. After being exposed to the elements for so long, the equipment is covered in a layer of rust. But many of these pieces are rare finds that make for evocative photography of an important chapter in the West’s history.
Finally, enjoy breathtaking scenery on the challenging Imogene Pass trail. Imogene Pass sits at 13,114 feet, and this 17.5-mile point-to-point trail provides an unforgettable adventure to and from the top. Just be sure to drive in a 4×4 vehicle with a short wheelbase and moderately high clearance to travel the trail safely. If needed, consider joining one of the many guided tours for more support.
Driving the trail, you’ll see how Ouray earned the nickname the “Switzerland of America.” You can view gorgeous mountains, waterfalls, streams, and mountain lakes. And in the spring and summer, admire the alpine flowers that carpet the meadows.
On the north side, crystal-clear water crossings make the trip down fun. As you descend on Camp Bird Road, you’ll drive under a dramatic and picturesque rock overhang.
Ouray’s rich history and awe-inspiring wilderness provide professional and hobbyist photographers with ample subjects. Whether driving through difficult terrain or visiting a more accessible location, get there in a rental vehicle from Diff. Our Jeep rentals in Ouray will safely transport you over rugged trails.