Ouray Perimeter Trail surges in popularity

  A six-mile long hiking trail that almost encircles Ouray, Colorado has become one of the most popular paths in the San Juan Mountains. According to trail registers, more than 25,000 people trod the decade-old Ouray Perimeter Trail in 2017 — and that figure represents a mere fraction of actual users.

“According to Forest Service estimates, the true number of trail users tends to be two or three times the number that sign registers,” said Bob Risch, president of Ouray Trail Group.

“Usage is growing 25 percent a year,” Risch said. “Perimeter Trail turned out to be dramatically more popular than we expected. It kind of startled us.”

Why are so many hikers discovering — and then returning to — the trail?

It’s utterly unique, for one thing. Perimeter crosses six streams and rivers on seven bridges and visits four waterfalls. It courses through a former water diversion tunnel the Town of Ouray built in the early 1900s. It thrills rock hounds with its geological discontinuity; in this case, Precambrian rock that’s mysteriously 1 million years younger than the basement rock on which it sits. It offers gobsmacking views of the mountain scenery that led to Ouray’s nickname of “Little Switzerland.”

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