From mid-December through mid-March, Ouray is full of climbing activity and good cheer, with “Have an Ice Day” greeting you from almost every open merchant and lodger’s window. Jim Donini, former president of the American Alpine Club, calls the Ouray Ice Park “the best venue in the world to develop ice-climbing skills,” and it’s easy to see why. The Ice Park is home to more than 200 ice and mixed climbs, most within a 15 to 30 minute walk from downtown Ouray. There are many opportunities to pick up the sport; you can hire an experienced local guide or attend one of the many seasonal clinics that have something for every group from beginner to expert, kid to adult, able-bodied to amputee.
Nowhere on earth is there a more beautiful place to experience the “gentle adventure” of hot air ballooning than Ridgway. Experience Ouray County the way you’ve always wanted to, from the air.
Colorado is a top destination for river sports enthusiasts – many families move here just to be close to the amazing mountain streams, rivers and lakes. Ridgway is no exception with the scenic Uncompahgre River that winds through the town. So close to the high mountain headwaters, this section of the river is still fairly narrow and shallow for most of the year, but there's still many opportunities to enjoy the water and river trails. For a few weeks in early summer, rafting and kayaking are popular here, and other times of year the river trails and parks are the main focus.
From tough singletrack to scenic off-road byways crossing the San Juan Mountains, 4-wheel drive roads and trails abound for every level of driver or rider. Go it alone or with guides who love to share their knowledge of the San Juans’ geology, flora, fauna, and colorful stories. The following businesses offer guided tours, self-drive rentals, horseback rides, guided nature hikes, and more. Contact High Country 4×4 at the KOA 970-325-4736 – Colorado West Jeep Tours at coloradowestjeeps.com, Switzerland of America at soajeep.com, and San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours at ourayjeeptours.com.
Ouray County’s 300+ days of sunshine make it an ideal location for golfing. The award-winning Divide Golf Club is located only four miles from Ridgway and features an 18-hole course with incredible views and 7,039 yards of challenging play. Complete with pro shop, restaurant and event services, the Divide meets all your golfing needs!
There are plenty of trails within a few minutes drive from Ridgway within the San Juan Mountains, including Mt. Sneffles and Cimarron Wilderness and surrounding BLM lands. Ridgway Area Trails (RAT) are a series of interconnected trails in and around the town of Ridgway. From the Weaver Trail System and the Angel Ridge Trails (both accessible from Town Park) to high alpine trails such as the Dallas Trail, more than 40 miles of single track and hiking routes are located in some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. From day trips to backpack trips there are many choices.
“No other canyon in North America combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness, and somber countenance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison,” Wallace Hansen wrote after studying the geology of the region for several years. Black Canyon National Park is only 30 miles from Ridgway via Highway 550 north to Montrose, then Highway 50 east. Plan to spend time visiting the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose along your way.
This beautiful park, created with the Ridgway Reservoir at its heart, offers breathtaking scenery, three campgrounds with modern amenities, three cozy yurts for overnight stays, playgrounds, and group event facilities. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the many hiking and biking trails along with birding and wildlife viewing opportunities. The park is a favorite for fishing, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, standup paddle boarding, picnicking, and swimming. More information can be found at www.parks.state.co.us/ridgway
Community theater is an important part of our culture in Ridgway and Ouray County with many venues offering a variety of performances. The Wright Opera House and the Sherbino Theater host a number of musical, performing arts and theater events throughout the year as well as weekly independent films and melodrama.
Whatever your interest or passion, local theaters are sure to present a performance or film to match it! The Sherbino Theater, Wright Opera House, coffee houses and other performance spaces around Ridgway provide year-round programming for diverse artistic, intellectual and entertainment tastes. For people who like to stay engaged in the world and find inspiration in the stories and creative talents of others, Ridgway's local venues provide many opportunities through films, lectures, poetry and book readings and other events including interactive activities like trivia nights and a scrabble tournament. Documentaries highlighting topics of local interest as well as what's happening around the world are shown monthly, while unique film festivals and narrative films are also highlighted throughout the year.
Ridgway and Ouray County hav rich, year-round cultural scenes that are sure to stimulate the mind, touch the heart and excite the senses. There is a plethora of nonprofits that offer classes and workshops for every age or ability. This is a year-round focus for our community. Whether you are interested in the fine arts like photography, sculpture or painting, or you want something more physical like karate, dancing or fencing, there is something for everyone! There is a broad spectrum of monthly lectures on a variety of topics. Ridgway State Park also offers lectures and instruction about fishing, wildlife and nature.
The Ridgway Concert Series is the newest FREE outdoor concert series on the Western Slope. Each Thursday in July, Ridgway features awesome live music, along with great food, non-alcoholic beverages, and beer and wine for purchase. Each concert is a multi-faceted, family-friendly affair, with great kids’ entertainment to go along with the music. The focus is first, and foremost, to bring in high-level talent and make it accessible to the whole community. The secondary focus is to provide multiple music genres to match a wide range of ages and tastes.
Walking through the town of Ridgway, you will see the unique and lively arts-related assets, which have earned the town a Creative District designation. Creative Districts are defined areas that include arts and cultural assets and nonprofit as well as for-profit creative businesses, usually within easy walking distances.
True Grit was certainly one of the most famous Westerns ever made. The film was directed by Henry Hathaway, famed for his work on a long string of Westerns most notably in the 1950s and '60s, with the top stars of his day: Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott and John Wayne. True Grit's celebrity-studded cast featured Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper.
Spectacular scenery around our charming Colorado town caught the attention of the director of the film that was released in 1969. Ouray County was the main film location with key sets in the movie located right in Ridgway. In six weeks in 1968, the film crew turned the center of this old railroad town into the 1880s-style Fort Smith, Arkansas, complete with Hanging Judge Parker’s three-man gallows. The firehouse now survives as an artist studio, and the livery stable became the post office. The paddy wagon from the movie, True Grit, sits in Heritage Park on the southwest corner of Highways 550 and 62. A short walk up Clinton Street, past the Sherbino Theater, leads you to the living quarters of Rooster Cogburn. Be sure to visit the John Wayne-themed True Grit Cafe and check out the actor and movie memorabilia.
The tight-knit community of Ridgway is full of interesting people with unusual and fascinating backgrounds, as well as historians with deep knowledge of a variety of people and places. From top international athletes to prominent scientists and artists, we have a large pool of experts who are happy to share their stories, insights and knowledge through presentations, films and discussions. Locals also are connected to world-renown presenters who love to make the journey to our beautiful valley, where they can enlighten and inspire.
From our well-known Railroad Museum to the growing Ouray County Ranch History Museum, Ridgway has a lot of history packed into our little town. Within short drives to neighboring towns, you can also learn about mining, the Utes and other local history.
The captivating beauty of Ridgway, Ouray and surrounding areas has attracted a number of production companies making movies, documentaries and commercials. More than 100 films have been made in southwestern Colorado. The rugged peaks, steep canyons, rustic mine buildings and ghost towns of the San Juan Mountains make you feel as though you are still in the Old West of the American frontier. Hollywood filmmakers have always thought so too. Thus, the Ridgway area has served as settings for several classic western movies. Many film sites, buildings, props and embellishments may still be seen in and around our town.
Ridgway, home of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, had its beginning as a railroad town in 1890. Otto Mears, known as the Pathfinder of the San Juans for his network of toll roads, and his fellow investors founded the town to be the headquarters of their Rio Grande Southern Railroad (R.G.S.). The R.G.S was to connect the new town with Durango, passing through the rich mining camps of Telluride and Rico along the way. The R.G.S. was 162 miles long,crossed more than 140 bridges and trestles and connected to the Ouray branch of the Denver & Rio Grande at Ridgway.
After a long day of adventures, there’s no better way to end your day than soaking in natural hot springs. Orvis Hot Springs is located just one mile south of Ridgway and offers seven soaking areas, a sauna and natural landscaping to give you the ultimate relaxation experience. Four soaking areas are outside where you can enjoy the gorgeous Colorado sun and the star filled evening sky. Plus, an indoor pool and two private tubs are great for getting out of the sun or inclement weather. Orvis Hot Springs' natural lithium water will allow you to rest, relax and feel rejuvenated when you leave. Water temperatures ranging from 90 degrees F to 112 degrees F and a blanket of stars fill the sky above. Clothing optional.