Date hiked: 06/21/16
Mileage: 6.9 miles; 3 hours
Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 0 groups
Early spring can be such an ugly time for Colorado, but even that can’t ruin the beauty of Ouray. And feeling a little homesick for Boulder, I knew the only antidote was a quick trip to the Switzerland of America.
Starting out from Pinecrest Drive, the trail claims over one thousand feet in a steep series of switchbacks, with sweeping views of Ouray and Lower Cascade Falls, the Amphitheater, and Box Canyon Falls. Topping out at about 9,500 feet, the trail then crosses Oak Creek at the crest of a waterfall. In early spring, the water levels make the usual point of entry unsafe and impassable, but climbing about seventy feet upriver, a half-submerged line of boulders provides a dryer crossing.
The trail parallels Oak Creek’s opposite banks for about three-fourths of a mile until it draws away into an overgrown meadow. As the elevation climbs, route-finding grows increasingly difficult. Second-guessing my every step, I followed the faintest depression in the grass, hoping it wasn’t a bear-led path leading me into their den. But in its final ascent towards the Oak Creek Overlook, the trail comes back full force.
Looking east towards Ouray, the view stretches impressively from the Amphitheater on the left to the lesser known Darley Mountain on the right.
Instead of an out and back, form a nine mile loop by following the Silvershield trail from its intersection with Oak Creek 1.1 miles to River Road/Oak Street/County Road 17, then head south in town for two miles until you end up back at the Oak Creek Trailhead. It’s a loop I really wished I’d known about going into this, and something I look forward to doing in the, hopefully, near future.
(From Ouray): On Highway 550, head west on 3rd Avenue (the road just north of the switchbacks) for .2 miles. Turn right onto Oak Street, then left onto Queen Street .1 miles further. With 2WD, park in the limited spaces at this point, or further down on Oak Street. With 4WD, turn left onto S. Pinecrest Drive and drive to the trailhead .6 miles up the road.
.9 miles; 6 min