This Western US Town Will Make You Feel Like You're In The Swiss Alps

The Swiss Alps is known for its snow-capped mountain peaks, beautiful lakes, and quaint villages. As one of the best places for outdoor activities in Europe, it's no wonder it's such a popular place for adventure seekers worldwide. But what if you could get a similar stunning landscape of peaks, valleys, and shorelines in a small mountain town without the hassle of international travel?

Luckily, for those seeking domestic destinations with the same dramatic scenery and opportunities for outdoor adventure available in Europe, Ouray, Colorado, might be just the ticket. Nicknamed "The Switzerland of America," Ouray is located in the southwestern part of colorful Colorado. Like the Swiss Alps, Ouray is known for its gorgeous nature; fun outdoor recreation like hiking, climbing, and skiing; a charming downtown; and popular hot springs. Ouray is easy to get to, can be enjoyable year-round, and offers a variety of unique things to do.

Things to do in Ouray, Colorado

Hiking is a popular thing to do in Ouray, Colorado, and the Perimeter Trail is one of the most trekked. The 5.6-mile trail starts at the Ouray Visitors Center and leads hikers past waterfalls, over bridges, and to scenic viewpoints. For a shorter walk with the same wow factor, try the Box Canyon Waterfall Park. It's only 500 feet long and takes hikers to a 285-foot waterfall with the added opportunity to explore the park, relax, and picnic.

After an afternoon of hiking, climbing, and exploring Ouray, tourists can visit the Ouray Hot Springs, one of the mountain town's most famous attractions. The geothermal pools have been around for hundreds of years. They're sulfur-free, with soothing minerals, and temperatures ranging from 74 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

And for those traveling to Ouray in winter, don't miss the Ouray Ice Park. Colorado is the ideal winter sports destination, and the free ice climbing park that is walkable from the city is unique and definitely worth a visit. With more than two miles of climbing opportunities, outdoor enthusiasts will likely be entertained for hours.

How to get here and the best time to visit

Ouray, Colorado, is easy to get to for most. For travelers driving to "The Switzerland of America," the mountain town is about 300 miles southwest of Colorado's capital, Denver. When traveling from the south, drivers get to experience the Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Route 550), which includes 25 miles of gorgeous and windy mountain scenery. For those considering flying to Ouray, you have a choice between Montrose Airport (38 miles away), Telluride (48 miles away), or Durango (85 miles away).

There's never a wrong time to visit Ouray, but depending on traveler's preferences, some seasons may work out better than others. Temperatures range from 3 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. The summer tends to be the busiest season, while winter requires extra preparation — especially while driving. For example, drivers should always be aware of avalanche areas and black ice, bring chains, blankets, water, and food, and be on the lookout for active wildlife. It's also a good idea to check no matter what season you plan to travel to Ouray.

For a small mountain town, many popular annual events occur. Two favorites are the Ouray Ice Festival and Competition, a four-day event in January that attracts people from around the globe to compete, learn, and celebrate ice climbing. And for tourists truly seeking the international vibe, check out the Ouray International Film Festival, typically in June.