Although not strenuous, the well-marked Perimeter Trail does include one steep 300-foot ascent at the beginning. It crosses two creeks, descends over a rocky slope, traverses a bridge high over a gorge, and passes through an old rock-hewn tunnel. Highlighted by some beautiful glade-like grassy areas, pools carved out of rock and wonderful tree-shaded stretches, the trail makes for a superb outing that can safely be accomplished in about three hours. Views range from unique perspectives of the town to unforgettable vistas of the Amphitheater and Abrams Mountain.
The best start and finish point is the Ouray Visitors Center, where hikers can pick up a trail description and map. The trail goes up Ouray’s Main Street to 8th Ave., where hikers turn left opposite the Nugget Café. Walk uphill to just below the spectacular Lower Cascade Falls and look for the Perimeter Trail sign pointing to the right. Climb steeply to level ground and follow the signs through the trees and above the east side of town to the Amphitheater road. Go downhill to the Baby Bathtubs Trail, and climb gently up this lovely section before reaching a junction with the Portland Trail. You should be able to turn right to cross Portland Creek, but if the creek is too high or fast go left for about 100 yards and turn back right in order to cross a proper bridge.
After going south a little distance from the creek, look for a Perimeter Trail sign on a tree to the left (where there is a five-foot tree stump). The trail goes up here, through some more trees, and enters a small open area before continuing left and then coming out at the Portland Mine road. Walk up the road for 200 yards and look for another sign directing you to the right through what used to be known as Potato Patch. Follow diagonally where the old vehicle tracks are and when you reach the rocky ridges, take time to climb a few feet to the left (watching out for the cacti) to get an unforgettable view all-around and especially east, up to Mt. Abrams. This is just past the halfway point and is ideal for a rest stop.
The trail now descends over rocky and grassy terrain toward U.S. Hwy. 550. Follow signs and look for a line of small rocks delineating the path. Enter a stand of aspen and follow the direction of some power lines until you reach the highway. The trail crosses the highway at a speed-limit sign; be careful and look for vehicles coming round the bend.
Across the road, step over the little rock barrier and then turn right onto the Ice Park Trail, which carries on down through picturesque country and across to the Camp Bird Road. Turn left and cross the bridge, taking time to inspect the climbing routes of Ouray’s famous Ice Climbing Park. Look for a Perimeter Trail sign going off to the right about 50 yards before the Sutton Mine trailhead.
The next section of trail meanders gently thorough the pines to emerge at Box Cañon Park just before the high bridge. Cross this impressive structure and enter the tunnel on the other side.
The next decline deserves alertness and care, but it also offers one more unique perspective of Canyon Creek, Ouray and its environs. Continue on until you meet up with Pinecrest Road. Walk down this road to the three-way junction. Keep right down Queen Street and turn left (north) on Oak Street. At the bottom of Oak Street there is an option to turn right onto 7th Ave. to return to Ouray’s Main Street or carry on another 300 yards through the trailer park to a small bridge adjacent to the city maintenance building. This crosses the Uncompahgre River and comes out at the back of the Hot Springs Pool and close to the Visitors Center.
If current plans materialize, a new section of trail starting just across from the Visitors Center and linking up with the trail at Lower Cascade Falls, thus eliminating the need to use Main Street and 8th Ave., should be ready to use by this coming fall. Sometime later – possibly another couple of years, after gaining right-of-way permissions and further construction – it is hoped that a final section will link the entry point at Pinecrest Road with the start/finish point at the Hot Springs Pool.
This trail has come about through the vision and hard work of many dedicated volunteers of the Ouray Trails Group and cooperation of the US Forest Service. Now open to the public it promises to be one of Ouray’s finest assets.