About Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon Falls (or Box CaÃ±on Falls) was the featured waterfall within the aptly-named Box Canyon Park right in the southern end of the town of Ouray, Colorado (aka the “Switzerland of America” apparently due to the cold here).
As the name suggested, the claustrophic canyon seemed to box itself into a narrow slot canyon headed by the 85ft waterfall tumbling loudly and mostly hidden before revealing its very bottom.
Rather than being on a typical hiking trail, the forbidding nature of Box Canyon meant that we had to walk on ledge-hugging developed footpaths and catwalks.
Due to the popularity of this place, it also meant that social distancing was definitely tricky, especially with seemingly more than half the visitors defying the mask-wearing signs at the entrance area during our visit.
Experiencing Box Canyon
We began our visit by passing through a gate and checking in at the adjacent office where we surrendered payment and got a colored wristband as proof of payment.
As of our late July 2020 visit, we paid $13 total ($5 per adult and $3 per child). They were open from 8am to 8pm on that Summer visit, but when we attempted to re-visit in mid-October later that year, the hours changed to 9am to 5pm.
After leaving the office and waiting area (featuring benches and some picnic tables), we then noticed a bunch of small squirrels feeding from some kind of dispenser.
Immediately afterwards, we encountered a fork where we could have gone left up steps to climb 200ft to the High Bridge Trail, or we could have kept right to continue to the Box Canyon Falls.
Given the number of people visiting the park, we only went to the Box Canyon Falls and didn’t bother with the High Bridge Trail.
So as much as that upper path piqued my interest, we noticed that the trail was so named because it spanned the top of the Box Canyon’s narrow gorge.
In less than a quarter-mile, we walked onto a ledge-hugging catwalk that clung high above the Canyon Creek into the narrow canyon, where the path went past a series of interpretive signs towards a squared-spiral staircase.
This staircase provided the best view of the Box Canyon Falls before ending at the bottom of a tall, secluded alcove where people were waiting to take people shots besides the rushing Canyon Creek.
That said, we never really got a clean look at the falls from the canyon floor, which was why we spent more of our time on the steps than at the bottom.
After having gone back the way we came, we ended up back at the parking lot in about 45 minutes encompassing about 1000ft (less than a quarter-mile) round-trip.
Had we gone up to the High Bridge Trail, I’d imagine that would have added an additional mile round-trip.
Due to the popularity and confined quarters of the Box Canyon Park, we definitely made sure to keep our mask on while we tried to avoid touching the railings, especially on the spiral steps.
We also made sure to sanitize our hands when we finished our visit in the off-chance that we might have picked up germs or inadvertently touched rocks or surfaces that may not be exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Box Canyon Falls resides in the town of Ouray in Ouray County, Colorado. It is administered by the City of Ouray. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Box Canyon Park resides right on the southern end of Ouray. You can easily get directions to this town using your routing app or software of choice.
However, once in the town of Ouray, finding Box Canyon Park can be tricky because it involves driving a one-way road. I recalled that our turn-by-turn directions on our Garmin device actually tried to take us to the parking lot by making us go the wrong way from the exit!
Anyways, the way we ended up driving to Box Canyon from the main drag through Ouray (Main Street / Hwy 550) was by taking it south to the end of town, then starting to climb up the Million Dollar Highway (Hwy 550).
However, barely 0.4-mile south of 3rd Ave (which was the street that Box Canyon Road exited onto) and Main Street, we turned right onto the signposted turnoff for Camp Bird Road (Road 361).
Then, we continued to follow the signs for Box Canyon, which had us turn right at the first fork, then turn right again on the next fork.
Eventually 0.4-mile after leaving Hwy 550, the narrow road deposited us into the fairly spacious and busy parking lot for Box Canyon Park.
When, we were done with our visit, we took the one-way road about a quarter-mile to the exit onto 3rd Ave, where we then turned right and followed that street back to Main St (Hwy 550).
For context, Ouray was about 50 miles (a little over an hour’s drive) northeast of Telluride (though it was far less distance as the crow flies). Ouray was also 71 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Durango, 97 miles (about 2 hours drive) southeast of Grand Junction, 301 miles (under 6 hours drive) southwest of Denver, 150 miles (about 3 hours drive) east of Moab, Utah, and 286 miles (over 5 hours drive) northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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