At nearly 6000 feet, the air in Montrose is a little thin. So you might want to take a few days to get acclimated. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you have to wait to hike. By hiking just a few hundred yards from the center of nearby Ouray, you can stand below the spray and majesty of the 100-foot Cascade Falls. Drive across town or hike around it on the Perimeter Loop and you’ll be standing a few hundred feet from Box Canyon Falls–the natural wonder of Ouray. Montrose locals looking for shorter hikes like to take the “hidden” entrance into the lower part of Black Canyon National Park through the Gunnison Gorge on hikes like the 2.2 mile Chukar Trail.
After you’ve caught your breath, you’ll be ready for some of the longer hikes in the area. Locals love to escape to breathtaking beauty and the vertical rocks of the nearby Cimmaron Mountains. Be prepared to see amazing views, aspen, wildlife, mountain streams, and sheer-rock faces. Courthouse and Owl Creek Pass offer must-see hiking scenery. The Bear Creek National Trail offers the only route to the Yellow Jacket Mine on cliff-bound shelves overlooking spectacular waterfalls. Grab a local guide book or stop by the BLM or Forest Service in Montrose to find more hiking options than you can possibly imagine.
If you want an unforgettable hiking challenge, Montrose is the place to start. There are a number of peaks in the area that are over 14,000 feet. Mount Sneffels is the most accessible with the shortest hike. However, it’s steep and the air is thin. Make sure you plan for dramatic changes in weather, pack plenty of water, and do your research on high-altitude safety. Backpacking options also abound. Unlike the mountains near Denver, it’s not difficult at all to find overgrown trails and real deep-woods country. So always make sure you have a topographical map and compass, the proper back-country equipment, and serious backpacking expertise.