Yoga treat: Make time during your retreat for this hike above Ouray



Drive time and distance: 96.4 miles, 2 hours

Length: 3.8 miles round trip to scenic overlook (4.7 miles to Portland Mine)

Hiking Time: 3-4 hours

Difficulty: Relatively easy other than the elevation

Elevation: 8,300 feet (2,530 meters) to 9,300 feet (2,834 meters)

Yoga on the mountain.

Five participants from last weekend’s Academy of Yoga retreat in Ridgway traveled a little farther south for a short afternoon hike above Ouray. Four of them posed — the Warrior Pose — beneath majestically snowcapped 12,000-foot Cascade Mountain in the San Juan Mountains. It was quite a site/sight.

The Academy of Yoga at 102 S. Fifth St. in GJ hosts numerous yoga retreats at the Chipeta Sun Lodge in Ridgway. A two-hour session last Friday evening, two sessions Saturday and another session Sunday had all its participants feeling pretty mellow. Yet, five of us still needed a little aerobic exercise, so we decided to sneak off for a little hike between sessions last Saturday.

We trekked along the Upper Cascade Falls/Chief Ouray Mine Trail above Ouray and found beautiful, sunny weather, snow-capped peaks and plenty of room to stretch out.

To reach this trail, travel south from Grand Junction on U.S. Highway 50 to Montrose, then keep heading south on Hwy 550 all the way through the town of Ouray. Just south of town, you’ll climb around two switchbacks and take a left turn on the Uncompahgre National Forest Amphitheater Campground Road. It’s only 1.1 miles from the south end of Main Street in Ouray.

You can park a few yards up the road on your left. The trail head is easily visible, with excellent signs of all the trails in this area, including lower Cascade Creek, Upper Cascade Falls and the Portland Mine Trail.

There’s a sign-in at the trail head, just in case the Forest Service has to send someone out to look for you, and as I look out my window at snow in the happy valley, I’m guessing you may want to take snowshoes, or perhaps clip and save this column for a hike next summer.

We’re truly blessed with some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world, and there are numerous hiking trails around here. Much of the area around Ouray is still wilderness, and even though the trail we took the other day is very close to town, it’s immediately remote. These are rugged mountains with demanding terrain. Even experienced mountaineers have been lost or injured here.

Weather is always important and may be a “limiting factor for mountain excursions,” according to the Ouray Trail Group. “Storms blow up over ridges without much warning and electrical storms are common.”

So, go prepared.

The Ouray Trail Group is a non-profit corporation of volunteers founded in 1986 and “dedicated to the preservation and safe public use of Ouray County’s trails.” The group works in close cooperation with the Ouray District of the Uncompahgre National Forest Service. They post excellent trails maps on numerous trails in the area.

The group also produces a great hiking map that includes sections from 12 U.S. Geological Survey maps, and descriptions of 73 trails as well as the Mt. Sneffels and Wetterhorn Peak approaches.

The map includes a guide to difficulty, distance, elevation and time it takes to hike these trails. You can find it almost anywhere in Ouray, at local sporting goods stores, or online at It’s an invaluable resource if you’re planning on a hike, ski or snowshoe in Ouray County and the Uncompahgre Wilderness.

The trail we took is a 4.9-mile round trip from the Amphitheater campground cul-de-sac, but we didn’t go that far. We made it a couple of miles up the trail to a great scenic overlook staring up at Cascade Mountain. It was great lunch spot, and a wonderful place to practice our Warrior Pose.

This is a well-used and well-maintained trail, yet we saw only five or six other hikers all day. There are numerous forest service trail signs, and even more Ouray Trail Group signs.

From the Amphitheater Campground, you’ll go two-tenths of a mile up, turn left at the first junction, then travel another six-tenths of a mile and turn left again for the steeper part of the hike.

Yes, it’s steep. And it’s at elevation. The trail head sits at about 7,800 feet above sea level, and goes to the mine at 10,000 feet in elevation.

Another walk-in trail head that extends this trip by a little more than half a mile begins at the east end of Fifth Avenue in the town of Ouray. (The trails group is quick to ask everyone to respect private property at the trail’s beginning.)

Remember to go prepared. Never go alone, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. Take enough equipment so you’re prepared for those sudden weather changes.

Your head is your best survival tool. Use it well, and as our Yoga instructor, Monica Zielke-Cullinane would say, “Namaste.” I bow to you.


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