The entire present-day economy of Ouray is based on tourism. Ouray bills itself as the „Switzerland of America“ because of its setting at the narrow head of a valley, enclosed on three and a half sides by steep mountains.
Much of the town tourism is focused on ice climbing, mountain biking, hiking and off-roading in four-wheel drive (4WD) expeditions into the San Juan Mountains. 4WD vehicles can be rented from a number of outfitters downtown. Ouray has also become a popular destination for motorcyclists, as it marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway. This stretch of highway connects Ouray to its neighboring cities of Silverton and Durango. The Million Dollar Highway is frequently regarded as one of the most beautiful roads in Colorado, but is also considered one of the most dangerous due to its sharp turns, steep ledges, and lack of guard rails. Popular destinations include Yankee Boy Basin, Engineer Mountain, and Black Bear Road. Recording artist (and later Ouray mayor) C. W. McCall helped make Black Bear famous in the area. His song „Black Bear Road“ borrowed the phrase, „you don’t have to be crazy to drive this road, but it helps“, from a sign once posted somewhere at the beginning of Black Bear Pass.
There are five local developed hot springs in Ouray and nearby Ridgway. These include the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, the vapor caves of the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings, the pools at the Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs and at the naturally landscaped pools at Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgway.
There are numerous waterfalls along the road from Durango to Ouray, and within the city limits there are two waterfalls within easy reach. Cascade Falls is a short, 1/4 mile hike accessible from a parking lot on 8th Avenue. Box Canyon Falls is at the southwest edge of Ouray.