Twenty-five dollars a night is pretty steep for a campground that doesn’t provide free showers, but with no other good options available (apparently, the campgrounds in the area fill up fast in the summer months), we stayed at what wound up being a very nice walk-in campsite in Ridgway State Park. The park is between Telluride and Ouray, which positioned us well to check out the two towns we were interested in exploring in the area.
We spent our first full day in the area checking out Telluride. We had wanted to hike up to Bridal Veil Falls, but due to a road failure earlier in the season, the road to the trailhead was closed, as was the trail. We parked our car at the construction zone, proceeded to walk directly through the construction zone (Van was in heaven) and walked as far as we could to glimpse a view of the falls. Although we disappointingly missed out on hiking to the falls, we did spy the large white house perched on the cliff above. We wondered to ourselves, and with a couple of folks from New Mexico who had also made their way through the construction site, who was crazy enough to build a home and live in it on that cliff edge. A little later in the day, we learned that the pretty white house was not a residence, but was instead a power plant. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more attractive power plant and I’m not sure I ever will.
Since we were excited to do some hiking, we simply turned around and hiked in the other direction. Our hike eventually lead us right into the center of town. Fortuitous, indeed!
We wandered around town for a while, and while looking for a spot for lunch, Alan spotted a small sign pointing down a street that said Free Gondola. What? Free and gondola in the same sentence? Well, actually the sentence was only two words, but still. As soon as we finished lunch, we headed in the direction the sign pointed and a few short minutes later we were walking right onto the gondola and heading up and over the mountain. Van was wide-eyed for most of his first gondola ride and was equally excited to ride a second time back to the center of Telluride. Definitely a must-do if you ever find yourself in this beautiful mountain town.
After a full day in Telluride, we spent the next day exploring Ouray, which is also known as Little Switzerland. It’s in a beautiful location and I understand how it received the moniker, though I hate when things are referred to as “little (something more famous)” or things of the like. I think it cheapens the place and makes it less special. Ouray is a tourist town with steep, imposing mountains rising on both sides. The location is great, but we weren’t enthralled by the town. We spent the morning checking out a nearby waterfall and taking a walk around town, but decided the afternoon would be better spent running errands and getting Van to nap in the tent. Van normally naps in the car, but we were excited to actually get him down for a nap in the tent with the bright sun shining through. The nap was short-lived, though, as a thunderstorm rolled in and the lightning was handily breaking the 30/30 rule (less than 30 seconds between lightning and thunder). We wound up spending a fair amount of the afternoon sitting in the only safe place nearby – our car. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this was just a harbinger of things to come for us over the next week.
We awoke on our last morning in Ridgway State Park, excited for our drive down the Million Dollar Highway to Durango. We were right to be excited – it was beautiful! Every turn provided exciting new views, completely different from what we had just driven through. Towards the end of the drive, we drove through the western town of Silverton, also touristy, but a whole lot cooler looking than Ouray (at least according to us). Enjoy the photos below from our drive over the aptly named highway.
Beautiful photos!! You should go back in the early spring, with snow on the peaks, and post more. 😀
I remember camping in Ridgway State Park. I remember it being a bit expensive, and also having coin-operated laundry. That part, at least, was nice. There’s a road that leads up out of Ouray, toward Yankee Boy Basin, with some free camping near the river.
I’m sure the area in the snow is just gorgeous! By the way, thanks for the tip on free camping.
Wow, beautiful story and excellent photos. Stacey I wish your grandfather and his parents had written it down as you have and had the photos to go with the story when they took 3 months to drive across country to California in 1935 stopping at relatives and at all the National Parks. Your grandfather turned 12 that summer. I remember the stories they told but alas no permanent record. Van will have “Bottling Monnlight” to show his grandchildren.
I am lucky enough to call Durango my home. I hope you enjoy your stay here. I would offer to show you the sights, but I will be on my way north tomorrow, to camp and climb some of those beautiful mountains you drove past.
While in Durango, I highly recommend Cyprus Cafe for a wonderful lunch or dinner. You can make a meal out of their great salads and appetizers. The combo app is my fave: hummus, pita, peppers, feta, etc. There is a nice bike/walking path next to the river. We have a super library, with computers and free wifi. Stop by the information center right on Main Ave, in the historic downtown and they will be happy to help you. If you get up to the college, you will have a nice view of the whole town and surrounding mountains. I could go on and on…
Thanks for all the great recommendations. If we come back through, we’ll have to check them out. We did find the info center (quite nice) and the trail along the river while we were there. But, we’re long gone (in Montana now) as my posts tend to usually be a bit behind where we actually are.