We fancy ourselves experts on the Colorado outdoors. But even we aren’t 100% sure how to pronounce every place name on the state map.
So this week, we double-checked the pronunciation of a few of the state’s more exotically-named locales. We found some cool hikes, too.
Weminuche (WEM-in-ooch) Wilderness
Named after a sub-unit of the Ute Tribe, the Weminuche is Colorado’s largest wilderness area. At almost 500,000 aces, the area contains three 14ers, and almost 30 13ers. Most of the wilderness is more than 10,000 feet above sea level.
Any Weminuche hike will offer good views, but our favorite is the moderate 11-mile roundtrip Crater Lake Trail (#623). With just 1,000 feet of elevation gain one way on a defined, heavy-use trail, the hike is doable with snowshoes. Its ultimate destination, North Twilight Lake, is a guaranteed Instagram hit.
If you go: Drive south on US 550 from Silverton for seven miles to the Andrews Lake Road, almost a mile on the left after Molas Pass. After about half a mile on paved road, you’ll reach the trailhead and parking lot at Andrews Lake.
Photo by Jimmy Thomas.
Penitente (pen-i-TEN-tey) Canyon
Penitente Canyon is named after Los Hermanos Penitentes: a reclusive catholic sect that settled the area in the late 1800s. It’s a pretty perfect place for that kind of group—the canyon is beautiful, remote, and free from snow almost all year.
Though its best known as a climbing destination, Penitente has no shortage of quality hiking. Our favorite trail is the 3-mile Penitente Canyon Trail loop, which starts at the trailhead of the same name.
If you go: From Denver, go south US 285 for about 200 miles. When you’re about 12 miles north of Del Norte, take a right on ‘G’. Follow for 7 miles until La Gartia. Drive another mile, take a left on Country Road 38. Follow the signs to the canyon. Camping is $11 per night.
Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management.
The town of Ouray (you-RAY)
Probably no pronunciation in Colorado is as debated as the name of the Switzerland of America. But the one we’ve got here is correct—it’s the name of Ute Chief Ouray, who used the area as a summer retreat long before white settlement.
The town is surrounded by winter activities, but for hikers we recommend the 2-mile Ironton Townsite Loop Snow Trail (#701) at nearby Ironton Park for a two-mile adventure in the snow. The trail tours the ruins of an old mining town, and is popular among both snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
If you go: From Ouray, drive about eight miles south on US 550, the Million Dollar Highway, until the intersection of County Road 20. Parking lot is obvious from there. After your hike, stop in to the Ourayle House and say hi to Hutch for us.
Photo and words by Anna Baldwin.