Bristlecone Pine Forest on Ouray's east side
Mount Ouray, named for a famous Indian chief, sits like a supreme monarch in the sparse southern end of the Sawatch Range. The summit is not on the Continental Divide, but is only a mile east of the Divide.
The Sawatch Range is home to 29 of Colorado’s 100 highest peaks, the "centennials". Mount Ouray is the southernmost centennial peak in the Sawatch Range. You can see Mount Ouray and its 13,971 foot pile of talus from a long distance away. It is plainly visible from the north on U.S. Highway 50 between Poncha Springs and Garfield. Even from Mount Shavano, the view of Ouray is excellent. Marshall Pass crosses just under Ouray's southern flanks.
Mount Ouray is a big and bulky Sawatch mountain, similar in configuration to Elbert or Shavano. Climbing Mount Ouray from the Little Cochetopa Trailhead will elevate you by 3700 vertical feet over 9 miles round trip. The hike is relentlessly scenic, so bring your camera. In contrast to its neighboring fourteeners, Mount Ouray is not popular, and for some of us that's a good thing. Mount Ouray has a pleasant mountain approach, from three major routes, complete with never-ending hikes through dense aspen forest, or a wild adventure through a large bristlecone forest. This enchanting forest of twisted wood lies protected within Ouray's broad east and northeast ridges that form the huge cirque named "The Devils Armchair."
Here are a few notes that might make this trip quite memorable. Do it in the fall, when all the aspens are changing to gold. Mount Ouray and its vicinity will not disappoint you if you're looking for aspen fall foliage. Spend some time exploring the bristlecone forest. Lastly, enjoy it for what it's worth; a non-technical hike that you can enjoy all by your lonesome, for you may see nobody all day long.
Thanks to Kane
who owned this page before I did, and wrote some of this text.
Mount Ouray from Little Cochetopa Trail
Marshall Pass Trailhead
is at 10,820' elevation and provides access to the southwest side of Mount Ouray. Drive 5.3 miles south from Poncha Springs and turn west onto Marshall Pass Road (FS 200). Measuring from this point, reach the trailhead at mile 14.3. With a 4WD vehicle you can drive an additional mile on an old road leading to a mine at 11,400'. There is a restroom at the top of Marshall Pass, just 0.2 miles southwest of the trailhead.
Grays Creek Trailhead
is at 9,660' elevation on the Marshall Pass road. If you are approaching from the north, go 5.3 miles south on Colorado 285 toward Poncha Pass form the junction of 285 and U.S 50 in the town of Poncha Springs. Turn right at the well-signed Marshall Pass road. This road is an improved dirt road and should not be a problem for passenger cars. Continue on the road for 2.4 miles and turn right on to FS 202. Continue on 202 for 0.8 miles and turn right at a four way stop. Continue another 4.2 miles to the Grays Creek pull-off on the right. There is no trailhead sign, just a "Grays Creek" sign.
Little Cochetopa Trailhead
, at 10,300' elevation, provides access to Mount Ouray's north side. Turn onto County Road 210, two miles west of Poncha Springs. Drive 5 miles south and west to Cochetopa Wildlife Management Area. The road is not maintained past that point and the last three miles to trailhead are rough, requiring a high clearance vehicle. If so equipped, drive the remaining 3 miles to the end of the road and the beginning of the trail.
Mount Ouray from Marshall Pass
No fees, no permits, and parking is free. Mount Ouray is wholly contained in the San Isabel National Forest.
When to Climb
Climbing is year round.
Camping is plentiful in the area. The O'Harvor Lake Campground, off of Marshall Pass Road east of Mount Ouray, has very good views of Mount Ouray. It costs $12.00 to camp there. There are also plenty of spots along the road to car camp.