July 16, 2020 Montrose, CO Ouray Waterfalls (Day 6)

We woke up with some things to take care of before we left on our outing today. Bob and Ran checked his trailer hitch to make sure it was set up right before their departure today. They also had to go to the office and get our bill straightened out with the campground office. What a mess that was! Ran wanted us to show him how to stream movies on his phone’s hot spot. Then they were ready to head out for Crested Butte at 10:30. Safe travels! We prepped our bus so we were ready to change sites to #13 after it became available. Those campers didn’t pull out until almost 11:00 which is checkout time. We moved over to site #13 and were set up again in about 10 minutes. Our new site is shadier and it faces west so we can see the sunset from our front window.

Once we got set up, we ate lunch and were on the road by 12:00. The day was cooler than yesterday and mostly cloudy. On our way there, we had a really heavy rain shower, but it was quickly gone. This was the first really heavy rain we’ve had since we left on our trip in May.

We passed under a couple more rain clouds and saw rain in the mountains on our way to Ouray. Our mission today was to visit 3 different waterfalls in and around Ouray. I love driving on this scenic stretch of highway between Montrose and Ouray.

We arrived in Ouray around 12:40 and it was busy with lunch patrons.

We took Highway 550 into town for our first falls. Taking 3rd Ave. on the north side of town, we parked near the Box Canyon Lodge and walked up a 1/4 mile to the upper parking lot and entrance to Box Canyon Falls.

We paid an entrance fee of $4 for Seniors and walked to the Box Canyon Falls–an 85 ft. drop through a quartzite canyon with 100 ft. walls.

The path took us along the edge of the canyon. We could hear the road of the falls before we reached it.

We walked on a metal stair structure as we got deeper into the canyon.

It took us along the rock walls of the canyon where we had a closer view of the water as it cascaded down from above through a chasm of rocks never fully really revealing itself to us.

I walked down to the water’s edge where the roar of the falls echoed against the walls of the canyon.

Needless to say, the water was icy cold. We walked back the same way to the entrance.

At the beginning, I walked up the high staircase toward the top of the falls while Bob waited for me down below. The walk was 1/2 mile round trip with a 200 ft. steep gain in elevation. The first part of the walk was another metal, very steep staircase. The second part of the walk was rocky and I had to climb up and over rocks as I went higher and higher. It was very strenuous and the elevation was taking a toll on my breathing. It was hard to catch my breath. I got to the point where I couldn’t go any further, but the view of Ouray from above was awesome.

The walk down was much easier. While Bob waited for me down below, he was entertained by these cute little creatures at the bird feeder.

The bird feeders hanging there were very active as well.

From there, we walked down to the Jeep and began our drive to the 2nd falls. I drove because we had to go 2-3 miles out of town on the Million Dollar Highway. The Million Dollar Highway is Highway 550 that runs between Ouray and Silverton, CO. It is called the Million Dollar Highway because it cost $10,000 a mile to build in 1924. Someone else was quoted as saying “You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to drive on that road again.” The Million Dollar Highway has been called a downright dangerous drive marked with narrow lanes, steep cliffs, sheer drop-offs, 10-15 mph hairpin turns, and no guardrails. It is not a road for RV’s, although they do travel on it. Truckers are advised not to swing wide on the turns because the corners are so tight and there are rock overhangs. It is said to have the most spectacular views. Since it was only 2-3 miles, I figured it wouldn’t be too scary to drive…for me. Now I can at least say that I have driven on the All-American Byway….for at least 2 miles.

I took it slow as we climbed higher and higher and ended up going through a tunnel cut through the rock.

We reached a parking area and viewing stand which was built to view the Bear Creek Falls and its 200 ft. drop from the highway.

From the viewing stand, we could see the falls as it passed under the highway. The view was beautiful looking up into the canyon which was foggy at the top.

On our way down, we stopped at this overlook by the sign for Ouray–Switzerland of America. It is called that because of its location tucked into the mountains.

This area is also known for its historic mining operations that occurred here.

From this vantage point, looking in the other direction we got an overhead view of the 4WD road we took to Yankee Boy Basin the other day. This is the beginning which is “milder” than the rest of the road.

I drove us down the mountain into town to the location of the 3rd falls at the top of 8th Ave.–Cascade Falls. Cascade Falls is visible from anywhere in Ouray. This is the view from across town taken from Box Canyon (zoomed in).

We drove to the top of the steep hill and walked the short distance to the base of the falls.

Cascade Falls gets its name from Cascade Creek which is the primary drainage for Cascade Mountain. The creek follows a steep course which passes over a series of 7 waterfalls. Cascade Falls is the final one of the series. It was beautiful as it cascaded down the rocks

A large part of Ouray is in the flood zone, so a trough was built to direct the flash floods that occur every 10-20 years.

That brought us to the conclusion of our waterfall tour today. We stopped for gas in Ouray when our gas tank said it was empty–but it wasn’t. Something is wrong with the gauge. We also checked out the Ouray Campground just outside of town. We saw these unusual off-road campers. They were so very compact and had everything!

Back at the campground, it rained lightly for the rest of the afternoon until dinner. It cooled off quite a bit after the rain and was so refreshing. Auggie, Bob, and I took our evening walk and then watched the sunset out of our front window. It wasn’t as spectacular as it has been other nights, but it’s always beautiful just the same. We have not spent any time in this corner of southwestern Colorado before, so it was all new to us. I love this area of the small western towns of Montrose, Ridgway, Telluride, and Ouray. It is one of the prettiest areas of the Colorado mountains I have seen. The San Juan and Cimmaron Mountains are so picturesque. We move on to Moab, UT tomorrow for a week with lots to see and many off-road opportunities. I have been a little behind with my blog the last couple of days because we have been so busy with Ran and Jane. We had such a good time camping and touring around with them the last 6 days. It was lots of fun and good memories were made. Thanks Ran and Jane for coming to spend some time with us.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.