DETAILS Ouray, Colo.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

GETTING THERE: The closest airport to Ouray is in Montrose, Colo., about 35 miles away. Several airlines, including United and US Airways, offer connecting service; round-trip fares begin at about $350, with restrictions, from the Washington area. If you're planning on renting a Jeep for your whole stay, it might be cheapest to take a taxi to Ouray (there's no shuttle) and get your vehicle upon arrival. If not, rent a car to get to Ouray, then rent a (more expensive) Jeep there.

JEEPING: Guided tours (with a driver) and rentals are available from several companies. A good choice is Switzerland of America Tours (226 Seventh Ave., 800-432-5337, http://www.soajeep.com/ ). Also reputable is Colorado West Jeep Rentals and Tours (701 Main St., 800-648-5337, http://www.coloradowesttours.com/ ). Both companies charge $130 for a 24-hour rental. They also offer guided tours -- generally $50 for a half-day, $100 for a full day. Almost all rentals are stick shift.

WHAT ELSE TO DO: Ouray is surrounded by Uncompahgre National Forest and is near two of its protected wilderness areas: Mount Sneffels and Uncompahgre. Hiking Trails of Ouray County is an excellent fold-out map with trail descriptions. Details: http://www.ouraytrails.org/ . Info is also available from the Ouray Ranger District (970-240-5300).

Ouray's family-friendly Ho t Springs Pool and Fitness Center (1220 Main St., 970-325-7073; $8) has a water slide and a diving board. For more luxury and privacy, check out the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings (see below), which has one pool in a cave and two outdoors. Three hours' access to everything but one of the outdoor pools, which is private, costs $15, a steal.

WHERE TO STAY: By far my favorite place in town is the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings (625 Fifth St., 888-846-5191, http://www.wiesbadenhotsprings.com/ ), with its sunroom-style lobby. Rooms begin at $120 per night double, including access to all the natural waters except for the private Lorelei pool, which costs an extra $35 per hour for two people ($70 for two if you're not staying there).

Lovers of Victorian architecture and decor should investigate the Beaumont Hotel (505 Main St., 888-447-3255, http://www.beaumonthotel.com/ ). Equipped with its own fine dining restaurant and a separate bistro, the Beaumont was closed for more than 35 years until it was restored from 1998 to 2003. The cheapest accommodations -- called "luxury rooms" -- begin at $180.

Ouray has several good B&Bs, including the Manor Bed and Breakfast (317 Second St., 800-628-6946, http://www.ouraymanor.com/ ), a 115-year-old home featuring the lovely paintings of co-innkeeper Susan Snodgrass. Rooms begin at $90, $70 from Oct. 20 to May 15.

I chose the best deal in town: Amphitheater Campground, in the woods just above town. The campground charges $16 for a tent site. They go fast, and the ones with the best views are reserved weeks in advance. Reservations (for an extra $9 fee): 877-444-6777.

WHERE TO EAT: Locals love the Bon Ton Restaurant (426 Main St., 970-325-4951, http://www.stelmohotel.com/ouray-co-restaurant-bonton.html ), an Italian-accented spot with a good wine list and a cozy dining area beneath the St. Elmo Hotel. Entrees $11-$33.

With its own chef, the Beaumont Hotel's Tundra Restaurant offers upscale dining in a Victorian atmosphere. Dinner entrees $18-$35. To try the handiwork of the same chef for less, go to Bulow's Bistro, in the hotel courtyard. Dinner entrees $14-$19, with a selection of tapas, sandwiches and soups for a bit less.

For steaks, seafood and a rollicking Old West flair -- one of John Wayne's cowboy hats is behind the bar -- try the Outlaw Restaurant (610 Main St., 970-325-4366, http://www.outlawrestaurant.com/ ). Entrees $15-$25.

INFORMATION: Ouray Chamber Resort Association, 800-228-1876, http://www.ouraycolorado.com/ . -- Ben Brazil


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