[Western Colorado, San Juan Mountains.] WHAT WILL WE SEE? Everybody always asks that,” says Brandy Ross of Ouray’s Switzerland of America 4×4 adventure tours (Tour Video). “They want to know where we go and what to look for.”
“We get the same question,” agree Jimmy Lokey of Red Mountain RV and Denny Martin of Silver Summit, both in Silverton, and Jim and Nita Arnold, Rocky Mountain Jeep Rentals and Pleasant View Resort, Lake City. All three companies rent jeeps and offer lodging and/or RV accommodations, but none to tours. All agree on the answer though: “Wildflowers, waterfalls, wildlife, and plenty of western mining history.’”
Jeep roads (and ATV trails) through the San Juan Mountains are old mining trails once traveled mostly by miners and mules. (Exploring the backcountry.) Many are rugged and rough enough to satisfy those seeking a thrilling, Poughkeepsie Gulch white-knuckle adventure complete with mud, rocks, and sharp dropoffs. Poughkeepsie Gulch. Yet wherever you look, there are enough stunning visual treats to please everyone. The ride up traverses fields of wildflowers.
[SW Colorado] Eons before lthe gold rush of the 1870s, Colorado’s western slope was home to the Ute Indians, with the valley of the Uncompahgre River being the traditional homeland of the Uncompahgre Band. (Uncompahgre is the Ute word for warm, flowing water.) Spanish descriptions from the 1760s feature Ute legends about their ancestors, who had an ancient spiritual relationship with Ouray’s copious hot springs. Here the Utes cleansed and healed themselves, offering gifts to the waters to appease the mythical “water babies.” As recently as the late nineteenth century, Chief Ouray, the most famous of all Utes, built a small adobe home at hot springs where the Wiesbaden Spa in Ouray is now located.