Pacsafe Road Trip Part I: Ouray, Colorado

(One of Pacsafe’s writers, Bryan Schatz, took a roadtrip out West in Colorado.  This is part 1 of a 3 part mini-series of his trip)

We’re on a journey across the West in search of pure road trip bliss. We packed up the Suby with a bunch of necessities: hiking shoes, sunscreen, some sleeping bags and a cooler full of beer that’s already running dangerously low. There is no destination, exactly, but rather an extended wandering through fine mountain towns and the great outdoors in the form of rivers, forests, deserts and high alpine peaks. Our first stop is Ouray, Colorado.

Ouray is like the center of a watermelon. It drips with outdoor flavor and makes you wish everywhere was about the same. The town itself sits in a valley below jaw-dropping peaks that range in color from lime green to deep brown-red; hitting all shades on a circular journey that begins and ends with a vibrant, fire orange. There’s hiking, hot springs, two breweries, some great dining options and a campground that sits on a cliff that overlooks town. You might want to start with a hike.

Hiking…is everywhere, and it’s nearly impossible to find a bad trail. They head up into the mountains to skirt high peaks, alpine lakes and meadows and go right through refreshing waterfalls. The Ouray Colorado website has trail descriptions for some of the best hikes in the area. If you stay at any of the nearby campsites, you’ll likely be able to head out on trailheads leaving right from the tent flap – most abut the wilderness areas. If you want some direction, try out the Upper Cascades hike, which climbs from Amphitheatre Campground and comes to a halt at an old mining cabin just past the falls.

Hot Springs: In Ouray, the hot springs do not come in the form of mud pits out in the nowheres, but as a community pool and soak. It gets crowded, but after a few days of hiking, it’s one of the most relaxing things you can do. There are four pools that vary in temperature from 78-degrees to 106. It’s delicious. Especially when followed up with some ice-cold beers in town.

Breweries: Ouray Brewery, which has both a brewery on the outskirts and a brewpub on the main drag, is fine and dandy. But if you want a bit more flavor, both culturally and in your beer, check out Mr. Grumpy Pants Brewing Company (AKA The Ourayle House) off of 7th Avenue. They do single barrel brewing and like to experiment. Thus, the result is unnamed beers served up with dry wit and down home aesthetics. It’s like drinking in your garage or cabin with some good homies.

Camping: The popular spot in the area is Amphitheatre Campground, about a mile south of town on Highway 505. It overlooks Ouray and sits on the side of the mountain that holds Cascade Falls and some tremendous views of the surrounding wilderness. You can make reservations or just show up, but get there early and have your fingers crossed because it fills up fast. Four miles north of town there’s a nice KOA, but tent sites come in at $31 as opposed to $18 at Amphitheatre.

Next stop, Durango, CO, its surrounding wilderness, and even more beer. Can’t wait.

By Bryan Schatz