One must-do activity on any Colorado summer road trip is the jeep ride into Yankee Boy Basin from Ouray, to photograph the wildflowers and view the spectacular mountain vistas. Sadly, we arrived too late in the day to take one of the many great jeep tours available in Ouray. But the friendly staff at the San Juan Jeep Tours in the Western Hotel gave me encouragement to drive my 4WD Suburban up to find the flowers.
The first order of business was to get Mom checked into accommodations with a refreshing hot-spring pool while I went 4-wheeling. We found a warm welcome at the BEST WESTERN Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs, painted with “Switzerland of America.” It is a family-run full-service hotel offering a naturally heated outdoor swimming pool, indoor and outdoor natural hot springs hot tubs and a buffet type breakfast with made to order omelets.
With Mom safely tucked away in our delightful room, I headed up to Yankee Boy Basin on a moderately difficult trail with my camera in hand. Yankee Boy Basin is an ideal drive for first timers to this area and perfect for viewing vast meadows of wildflowers in mid to late summer depending on the year’s snowfall.
Travel Tip #1: Directions – Follow the Camp Bird Road southwest of Ouray past the mine 10 miles up on the left. Continue on the four-wheel drive road past the mining trail, through the remains of the old Sneffels township. Take the right fork past Twin Falls to the end of this road into the basin just below the 14,000 foot peek of Mt. Sneffels. The last two miles gets very steep and rough, so you may want to park and hike the remaining distance, which is what I did. Click for Map here
• Scout ahead on foot, if you are feeling unsure, rather than driving into an unknown situation.
• Stay on established roads and NEVER go off cross-country. The tundra is extremely fragile.
• On steep grades, gear down and proceed slowly. Use your gears, not your breaks.
• As a reminder, the uphill driver has the right-of-way. Yield if you are going downhill!
• Take only photographs and leave only footprints.
Travel Tip #2: This is a steep and narrow drive, not for the faint of heart or the wrong vehicle. Remember the air is very thin here and take water along, especially if you plan to hike.
For more information and a slideshow of photographs see my Examiner article American Dream Vacation http://www.examiner.com/cross-country-travel-in-national/american-dream-vacation-colorado-s-mountain-west-ouray
Afterward, we had to choose from a list of great places to eat back in town. My choice was the Western Hotel where I located the San Juan Jeep Tour; they had Colorado Trout with all the fixings on the menu. It was a wonderful dinner and with the whole family working, they showed us a good time. The cafe is located down 7th avenue inside the old Western Hotel under the old western veranda spanning the sidewalk.
If you liked this article don’t forget to subscribe for future travel tips and personal insights from across the United States.