The Waterfalls of Ouray Colorado Never Cease to Amaze!
Waterfalls tend to be some of the most photographed scenes in nature. While they are beautiful in any part of the world Ouray Colorado waterfalls are some of the most amazing and powerful. Ouray has dozens of waterfalls that can be found year round, although they are at their most stunning during the spring runoff. The thunderous roar of the water as it falls back to the ground can leave even the coolest teenager amazed at the wonder and power of mother nature in all her glory.
While there are several gorgeous waterfalls in the area Ouray is home to three great year round falls that should not be missed. The first fall that we will talk about is located just two blocks from our hotel and just so happens to be our namesake, the Box Canyon Falls. If you haven’t seen Box Cañon Falls, consider it a must. The entrance is two blocks up hill at the west end of Third Avenue. During the summer months there is a small fee to see the falls but it is worth much more than what they charge. This majestic and unique waterfall drains melting snows from great wildflower basins like Yankee Boy or Imogene Basin into Canyon Creek and then merges into the Uncompaghre River right in Ouray.
Just before it enters town, it drops a couple of hundred feet into a tall and narrow gorge that forms into a natural almost perfect 3 sided box canyon. Once you’ve been into the canyon and seen the falls itself, you have an option of climbing up a series of stairs and then following a 1/4- mile trail to a bridge far above the canyon. This area is also home to numerous birds, including the Black Swift, which makes its home on the steep canyon walls. This is a wonderful place to stop and take some wonderful photos or to take time out of your day for a relaxing picnic.
On the opposite side of town to the northeast you will find Cascade Falls.These falls are wide open and fall from the cliffs in a series of seven waterfalls that carry fresh snowmelt off of the mountains and down into one of the two flumes that flow through Ouray. The Cascade Falls are visible from nearly every spot in town. It is a steep walk upward from the parking area to the bottom of the falls but there is a great hiking trail that heads up the hillside known as Lower Cascade Falls Trail that winds around the hillside, this 1/4-mile hike to the base of the falls is most assuredly worth the time and effort.
There are plenty of places where you can sit and enjoy a peaceful, relaxing lunch along this trail. You can reach the falls by hiking uphill from Main Street on 8th Avenue. It is only a two-block distance to the beginning of the trail, but can be quite steep. Or you can drive to the end of 8th Ave. and park in the small parking area then walk from there. This hike can be started from anywhere in Ouray, the round-trip walk to the base of Cascade Falls should only take roughly 45 minutes, additional time if you spend much time at the top. Once you reach the top of the falls you will find breathtaking views of the town in the valley below, be sure to bring your camera.
The last of the three main waterfalls we will talk about is Bear Creek Falls located just outside of town, about 2-3 miles south of Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway. A viewing stand has been built and now provides a wonderful location to stand above the falls and watch the water drop a couple hundred feet below. Make sure to be on the lookout for beautiful rainbows that will form in the mist. You can also access this waterfall via Bear Creek Trail, this is an awesome hike and a favorite of many Ouray locals. This is a National Recreation Trail, one of only a few that have been designated in the U.S. as an especially scenic hike. If you have a fear of heights and narrow ledges, you may want to think twice about hiking this particular trail.
There are several seasonal waterfalls that can be found throughout the San Juan Mountains as well. Just look around the cliff walls as you drive into Ouray and you will see numerous falls along Red Mountain Pass and even along the red cliffs on the way to Ridgway. In July, as you venture into any high mountain basin in search of your favorite Jeep Trail or patch of wildflowers you will most likely find many wonderful waterfalls all summer long that cascade over granite through wonderful forests.