4 Options: Denver to Ouray Quick or Scenic Routes

Denver is a great city for entertainment and dining. But if you’d like to really experience a quaint, beautiful, mountain town then Ouray is a wonderful choice. Getting there can be confusing if you’re trying to figure out which route to take from Denver to Ouray. So use the options below to decide which route is best depending on what you are looking for. When you drive from Denver to Ouray, would you like to take a scenic route, stop at a national park, or just get there the quickest way possible?

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Check out the routes below to find the best route from Denver to Ouray.

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Your Guide to Navigating the Denver Airport

Flying from Denver to Ouray

If you’d like to fly to the closest regional airport to Ouray, you’ll have to fly from Denver and into Telluride. From there, it’s about 1 hour to drive from Telluride to Ouray.

You can also fly into Montrose or Gunnison, usually slightly more affordable than Telluride, and drive from there.

Driving from Denver to Ouray

Most of these routes include going through Nathrop, home of Mount Princeton Hot Springs.

If you’d like to enjoy some of Colorado’s favorite hot springs, book a night at the resort to have plenty of time to relax in one of the pools or play on the waterslide (seasonal).

Book Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort

Now for some of the best routes from Denver to Ouray:

people walking through wide road with swiss-inspired buildings on the side in Vail

1. Easiest and Quickest Drive from Denver to Ouray

  • Denver-Grand Junction-Ouray
  • 333 Miles
  • 5 hours 37 minutes

One of the most direct and quickest ways to get from Denver to Ouray is to take I-70 west to Grand Junction, and then head south from there. This will take you right through the rocky mountains.

This is a beautiful drive through the mountains and takes you past towns like Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Silverthorne, Vail, and Glenwood Springs. Each of these towns has something fun to offer if you’d like to make a stop.

Idaho Springs features hikes like St. Mary’s Glacier and great Colorado-style pizza at Beau Jo’s.

Georgetown offers the Georgetown Railroad Loop if you have a few hours.

Silverthorne has shopping at the outlet stores and a few restaurants for a quick lunch break.

Vail is gorgeous year round for skiing or hiking or just hanging out in the Bavarian style village (pictured above).

After Vail, you’ll hit Glenwood Springs. This town is set in a beautiful canyon along the Colorado River. It’s also home to the largest hot springs pool in the world. The hot springs make a perfect stop.

While Glenwood offers a few hot springs in town, the main one, Glenwood Hot Springs, is best for families as it has a great toddler area and fun lazy river/waterslide combo.

From here, you’ll continue west on I-70 toward Grand Junction.

If you have a few extra hours, make sure to drive through Colorado National Monument and stop at the incredible overlooks of this geological beauty.

But if you don’t have a couple extra hours, then you’ll turn off toward Clifton on the I-70 business loop/6 West.

You’ll then head toward Delta (which is home to Sweitzer Lake State Park if you’d like a stop) and then to Montrose.

Montrose is the last big town you’ll drive through until your destination. If you need anything or forgot anything, this is a great place to stop.

If you have a few extra hours, I suggest stopping by Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which is just off the route, east of Montrose. It is beautiful and less visited than Colorado’s other national parks.

By the time you get to Montrose, you are only about 45 minutes from Ouray. The last town you go through before Ouray is Ridgway.

Ridgway is beautiful and has a state park of its own where you can get a day pass or set up a tent for the night.

After Ridgway, you’re not far from Ouray!


Scenic Routes from Denver to Ouray

things to do in summer in Breckenridge troll

Highway 9 through Breckenridge

  • Denver-Breckenridge-Nathrop-Ouray
  • 319 Miles
  • 6 hours 10 minutes

From Denver, head west on I-70. You’ll go through many of the same towns listed above (Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Silverthorne). When you get to the Frisco exit, you’ll head south toward Breckenridge.

Frisco is a fun little town to stop in. You can head to Lake Dillon Reservoir and hang out on the beach area. If you’ve brought a stand up paddle board, hop in the water and enjoy the scenic lake.

After Frisco is Breckenridge, which is full of fun activities in the summer as well as a few really great, scenic, easy hikes for the whole family. Breckenridge is one of our favorite mountain towns to hang out in during the summer.

Find the Perfect Hotel in Breckenridge

After Breckenridge, continue south through Blue River and then to Fairplay. In Fairplay, you’ll get off highway 9 and get on 285 south.

One town worth stopping along this road is Nathrop. It is home to Mount Princeton Hot Springs, one of the beautiful and nicer hot springs in Colorado.

Once you hit Poncha Springs, head west on highway 50. After a while on this road, you’ll drive right past Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a park worth seeing!

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a lesser-visited but incredibly awesome national park. It doesn’t have a million hikes and lakes and waterfalls like Rocky Mountain National Park, but it has steep cliffs that lead to the Gunnison River. The views are incredible.

After Black Canyon of the Gunnison, continue to Montrose and then head south to Ouray.

What to do in Colorado each month leadville

Highway 24 through Leadville

  • Denver-Leadville-Natrhop-Ouray
  • 318 Miles
  • 5 Hours 53 Minutes

This route parallels the route above as it heads south. You’ll still begin by heading west on I-70, but instead of exiting I-70 in Frisco, you’ll keep going and exit at Copper Mountain at highway 91.

This route will take you through Leadville instead of Breckenridge. Leadville is the highest (incorporated) town in America. The elevation is 10,158 feet above sea level, so you’ll feel it if you haven’t adjusted yet.

Leadville is another of Colorado’s mining towns and has a history of wild west outlaws to go with it.

Learn about the history, do some hiking, or ride the Leadville Railroad while you stop.

Want to Stay the Night?

Check out The Delaware, the Top rated, historic hotel in Leadville.

Continue south on highway 24 and you’ll end up in Nathrop, just like above. Head west when you get to Poncha Springs onto highway 50.

Like the route above, this will bring you to Black Canyon of the Gunnison and then to Montrose. Head south on highway 550 until you get to Ouray.

big red rock wall on a blue sky day

Denver to Ouray through Colorado Springs

  • Denver-Colorado Springs-Buena Vista-Ouray
  • 342 Miles
  • 6 Hours 17 Minutes

This is the southern route to get from Denver to Ouray and it’s filled with fun if you’d like a fun stop on the way.

To begin this route, you’ll head out of Denver by going south on I-25. This will take you all the way to Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs is one of the major cities in Colorado. It is filled with city-entertainment like a zoo, the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, theater, and restaurants. It’s also packed with outdoor adventures like Garden of the Gods for incredible red rock formations or North Cheyenne Canyon for hiking and waterfalls.

It’s home to the famous Broadmoor hotel, which also owns the Cog Railway up Pike’s Peak and 7 Falls attraction.

The Broadmoor is pretty nice, so if you want something more relaxed and exciting, you’ll definitely want to stay at Great Wolf Lodge with a HUGE indoor waterpark.

There are so many things to do in Colorado Springs that it’s hard to list them all here, but know that there are lots of options. Even if you visit in winter, you’ll have plenty to stay busy!

Finish the trip from Colorado Springs to Ouray:

After you finish exploring Colorado Springs, you’ll head west on US-24. This will take you through a cool area past Manitou Springs (look for the famous incline/staircase going straight up the mountain) with nice, easy roads with rock on both sides.

You’ll drive through the beautiful town of Woodland Park and on to Buena Vista.

Buena Vista is beautiful. Many people like to try rafting here or visit the Buena Vista Boulder Garden where you can try your hand at climbing up the various boulders.

If you’d like to stay the night in Buena Vista,

try the highly rated Best Western in town.

After Buena Vista, you’ll continue the route as many of the routes above. Head south on 285 until Poncha Springs, where you’ll head west on highway 50.

You’ll again have the option to stop at Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Then head south in Montrose onto highway 550. This will bring you into Ouray.

Which Route Should I Choose?

If you want to get there as quickly as possible, choose the first route that takes you to Grand Junction, and then south.

If you’d like to visit some mountain towns, the Breckenridge route or the Leadville route are great. They will both be scenic, though I think Breckenridge has more to do if you are wanting to stop and enjoy some activities.

If you don’t need extra mountain time, definitely take the south route through Colorado Springs. This city has SO much to offer and is worth a stop if you have an extra night or two.

How Long do you have to get from Denver to Ouray?

One Day

If you only have one day, then go the Grand Junction route. If you get an early start, stop at Colorado National Monument on the way. It will be a great stopping point to get out and really is worth the magnificent beauty in the landscapes.

Related: Perfect Weekend Getaways from Denver

Two Days

If you have two days to drive from Denver to Ouray, I would take one of the two following routes.

Option 1: take the Breckenridge route. Stay the night in Breckenridge and enjoy one of the many activities (see the troll, take a hike, enjoy downtown, ride the gondola…there’s so much. Read this Breckenridge post to see my top 10.)

Option 2: Take the south route through Colorado Springs. Again, three are so, so many things to do here. Check out this Colorado Springs post to choose a few.

FAQ about Driving from Denver to Ouray

What is the distance from Denver to Ouray?

The distance from Denver to Ouray depends on which route you take. The shortest route is 318 miles, but it is not the quickest. The quickest route is 5 hours and 37 minutes at 333 miles.

What is there to do between Denver and Ouray?

There are so many things to do between Denver and Ouray. Stop in one of the many mountain towns you go through, go hiking, stop at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, or spend a day in Colorado Springs.

What is Ouray known as?

Ouray is known as the Switzerland of America because of its steep, tall mountains that surround the town.

How long does it take to get from Denver to Ouray?

It depends which route you take, but it takes roughly 6 hours overall to get from Denver to Ouray.

Final Thoughts on driving from Denver to Ouray

As you can see, there are quite a few options for getting from Denver to Ouray. No matter which route you choose, you’ll have great options for stopping and exploring a little more of Colorado. It’s all worth seeing!

Enjoy your trip from Denver to Ouray. Make sure to check out the awesome waterfalls in Ouray and, of course, the hot springs around Ouray.

If you are traveling with kids, there are so many fun things to do in Ouray with kids!

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