In its historic beginnings, Ouray was home to miners seeking out gold and silver in the surrounding mountains. Today, tourism is Ouray's primary industry, but most of the buildings from its late 19th century origins still stand. The entire town is registered as a National Historic District.
The massive, 13,000-foot tall peaks that almost entirely ring Ouray is part of the tourist draw. Ouray itself is tucked at a narrow end of a valley. Called "the Switzerland of America" because of this unique positioning, Ouray is perhaps surprisingly not a ski town at all, but an ice town. Ouray is home to the Ouray Ice Park, the first artificial ice climbing park worldwide. Visitors can climb dozens of frozen waterfalls, which range from 80 to 200 feet in height.
In the summer, the mountains are blanketed with wildflowers and attract hikers and especially off-roaders. Rough, four-wheel-drive-only roads take visitors through the mountains to Telluride or the beautiful Yankee Boy Basin. Of course, the many historic buildings, including the Beaumont Hotel and Wright's Opera House, are open year-round, as is the unique Ouray Hot Springs swimming pool.
Ouray is about 35 miles south of Montrose via US 550. Without four-wheel-drive, Telluride is an hour and a half away via a loop around the mountains.