Writing about the nooks and crannies that are usually only stumbled upon by tourists does open the door to many more outdoor adventures. When considering that most tourism brochures only feature the top attractions, it is no wonder that overcrowding is a problem at the primary destinations. For those who seek plenty of elbow room, heading for the lesser known places is the way to go.
The Amphitheater Campground in Ouray, Colorado is a small nook and cranny destination that hundreds of cars pass by each day, yet most folks barely notice it is there. Even fewer people actually stop to check this place out, especially during the winter season when it is easy to assume the site is totally closed because the sign says that the campsites are not open. For those who do take the time to check out the Amphitheater Campground, they will find a peaceful setting and fun things to do, even when old man winter has made his presence known.
No camping does not equate to no fun at some of the Uncompahgre National Forest campgrounds that are closed for the winter. With the change of season, many of the National Forest campground access points become parking areas for those who want to do a daytime excursion into the wilderness by means of cross country skis or snowshoes. There is an extensive system of trails that run through the ring of mountains that tower over the town of Ouray. These trails are usually only promoted during the summer season, but because of the increased popularity of winter season snowshoe hiking, taking on these trails is a viable option year round.
Ouray, Colorado is famous for being a place where Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are fairly easy to be encountered. These wild animals frequent the steep slopes that surround Ouray, so those who take on the trails will have the best opportunity to view a Bighorn Sheep live in person. Capturing a breathtaking image of wild Bighorn high up in the mountains is a photographer's dream come true, so be sure to keep a good camera handy during the trek!
The benefit of checking out a summertime hot spot like the Amphitheater Campground during the winter season is some peace and quiet is guaranteed to be found. Obviously, overcrowding will not be a problem and there will be more opportunities to let the mind drift as one trudges along. Even if a visitor only hikes the access road that leads to the closed campground, the views of the snow draped town of Ouray down below will make the effort worthwhile. Doing the hike at night is just as rewarding, because the gas lamp street lights and the glow of the main street area enhances the winter wonderland experience.
Ouray is well renowned as being the “Switzerland Of America” and all it takes is one look at the classic Victorian architecture to see why. The extremely high elevation combined with a steep mountain slopes surrounding the valley confirms the nickname as being true. Ouray certainly has plenty of winter recreation sites within the boundaries of the valley floor, which include ice skating rinks, an ice climbing park and world famous hot springs. If finding some peace and quiet in the great outdoors is the primary goal, then be sure to pack crampons and snowshoes for the Uncompahgre National Forest winter trails!
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