With winter weather out of the way, we travelled thirty-five miles south from Montrose to the very picturesque town of Ouray, named for the Ute Chief. The town, which calls itself the ‘Switzerland of America” sits in a bowl surrounded by rugged mountains. The main street through town is lined with nineteenth century buildings and at the opposite end of town the Main Street becomes a dramatic switchback road that climbs up the steep mountainside and marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Road to Silverton.
We parked on a side street and spent the afternoon walking around town and exploring the shops. After a while we got hungry and we decided to get lunch at Colorado Boy Pizza. We were greeted with a “Hi Darlin’” from the bartender as we walked in.
After lunch we found a hiking trail on the edge of town that led to Cascade Falls. Belvedere was too big to park at the trailhead so we parked on the street two blocks away. Carolyn turned off the engine and, as we were about to open the door, a small herd of deer passed by on both sides of the RV, leapt over the fence in front of us and proceeded to snack on the bushes in the yard. We enjoyed the scene for a while, then quietly got out and headed up the street to the trail where we saw more deer snacking in people’s yards. It ace for a wonderfully magical afternoon!
The trail to the waterfall is not long, but it is all up hill, a bit rugged and the high altitude definitely made it feel harder, as well. But it was totally worth the walk. The narrow waterfall plunges down the mountainside in several cascades, the trail ends at the foot of the bottom cascade.
Because of Covid, we skipped the hot springs but we were sorely tempted! They are on the main road into town and the pools looked wonderful. Maybe on our next trip. Even so, we enjoyed a day of wandering around town and I’m looking forward to coming back via the Million Dollar Highway.
After a full day in Ouray we didn’t want to make a long drive so we were glad we found a spot at the Ouray KOA just a couple miles outside of town. This turned out to be the biggest and busiest KOA’s we’ve ever seen! There was a constant line of vehicles checking in late into the evening. We know because our spot was on the entrance road just a few spots away from the office. We walked around after we got settled into our site. In addition to the the camp store they had a restaurant, hot tub and sauna. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful but I wouldn’t call it a quiet relaxing night. All of the campground announcements were made via text, so my phone was busy all night with messages about someone’s headlights left on, last call for firewood, etc.
The next morning we packed up and made the drive to Telluride. It’s only nine miles away, as the crow flies, but it’s a fifty mile drive around the mountains to get there. I have wanted to visit Telluride since I first learned about their bluegrass festival. It’s like Ouray’s bigger, more famous brother. There were more shops, more restaurants, more houses, much better connectivity and a lot more people.
We were lucky to find a parking spot for Belvedere on a side street. From there we walked over to East Colorado Avenue, the main road into town and spent the rest of the morning exploring the shops and trying to decide where we wanted to eat. There are a lot of great choices in town and making a selection was difficult. After lunch we found the free gondola ride that takes you from Telluride up and over the mountain to Mountain Village. We stopped at San Sophia on top of the mountain to enjoy the views and take pictures. We didn’t go all the way to Mountain Village because it was getting late and our parking was about to expire in town. We rode back down to town and made our way back to Belvedere. But first, we had to stop at The Butcher and the Baker for some fresh baked cookies to eat on the way.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
It was getting late in the afternoon and we had a long drive ahead of us, so we reluctantly headed back through Montrose planning to drive east to Colorado Springs when we decided to give in to temptation one last time. We turned off and headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
The drive into the park gives you no clue about what you are going to see. It’s an uphill drive through open range that becomes more curvy as you get closer to the park. It doesn’t reveal itself until you get to the first overlook at Tomichi Point, then, BLAMMO! You get your first look at the canyon that got it’s name because it’s so deep and narrow that some spots on the river below only get sunlight for thirty minutes a day. We were simply not prepared for how massive and beautiful the canyon would be!
After spending time taking in our first views of the canyon we continued driving along the South Rim to the Visitor Center which was closed due to Covid. There was a small table outside the entrance where we got a map and learned that we could drive the Rim Road as far as Sunset Point in our RV. After enjoying the views from the back of the Visitor Center, we drove toward Sunset Point, stopping at almost every view point. Once we got to the end, the sun was beginning to set and we needed to find a place to stay for the night.
The South Rim Campground has three loops and after Labor Day most of the sites are first come first serve, so we decided to try our luck because I was excited at the opportunity to stay in a dark sky park. Each of the loops are small and hard to maneuver through in an RV. I couldn’t imagine trying to navigate the campground in anything larger than our 25 footer. The roads were narrow and trees made them feel even narrower. It became so tight in one loop we scratched the entire side of Belvedere on the tree branches. Fortunately, I was able to buff them most of them out. In the last loop we finally found an open site and parked. Then we walked back to the kiosk to check in and pay our camping fee.
The campground was full and the sites are close together. We could hear our neighbors late into the night. I got out to try to take some pictures of the night sky, but people with flashlights and a near constant stream of cars made it nearly impossible. Instead we spent the night inside and decided to head out early after one last stop for pictures. I highly recommend visiting Black Canyon, it’s an incredible place. However, I would not recommend camping there. If we were to do it again I think we would stay in Montrose then visit Ouray, Telluride and Black Canyon.
Where We Ate
Colorado Boy Pizza: This is a chain with locations in Montrose, Ouray and Telluride. The pizza was great! Our server was delightful and the chips and salsa, were amazing.
Caravan: This Mediterranean food truck was one of our favorite discoveries on the whole trip! It’s tucked in beside La Cocina and it’s probably the least expensive place to eat in Telluride. However, the ingredients are mostly organic and the food is fresh and flavorful! We had a Mezze Sampler which allowed us to try a number of side dishes, creamy hummus, smoky Baba Gannouj, Incredibly crunchy and flavorful Falafel and a spinach pie that was crispy outside but soft in the middle. We sat in the courtyard near a bubbling fountain and felt like we were miles away from the bustling street.