9 OF THE VERY BEST THINGS TO DO IN BUENA VISTA CO

Buena Vista CO is located at the base of Colorado’s Collegiate peaks, along the Arkansas River. It’s a perfect central Colorado base for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, plus they have great restaurants, charming shops and you’ll find tons of things to do in Buena Vista Co no matter the time of year.

BUENA VISTA CO
Downtown Buena Vista, CO (photo by Scott Peterson)

The summer months are high season in Buena Vista and Salida, a nearby town in Chaffee County you’ll also want to explore. We visited in winter though, mostly to go skiing at nearby Monarch Mountain.

Our initial introduction to Buena Vista was merely for the restaurants. But after experiencing the pride and excitement of locals – one who invited us to stay with him and his wife the next time we were in town – I’m captivated by this friendly gem tucked in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. 

THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN BUENA VISTA CO

Ok, I don’t know if these are the best, but I do know we enjoyed them so much that we went back again during our short trip.

Simple Eatery & Spoon It Up is a little of everything. Simple is a bakery and frozen yogurt shop that offers fresh salads, warming soups, sandwiches, and some interesting and delicious main dishes. Plus you can relax with a glass of wine or craft beer.

My son had the Bison Ravioli on our first trip, a solid choice, but we went back for the steak stroganoff that was a clear menu highlight. 

DO NOT MISS. I’ll repeat. Do not miss locally owned Loback’s for applesauce donuts. This historic bakery sells these oh so moist sugary bites from heaven only on Saturdays – so get there early before they are gone.

HOTELS IN BUENA VISTA CO

Mount Princeton Hot Springs
Mount Princeton Hot Springs

During our stay we based out of the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs about 15 minutes from downtown Buena Vista, CO. Another hot springs option is Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn and Spa. There are several chain lodging options closer to town.

For a luxurious, local experience, the Surf Hotel & Chateau, which is part of the new South Main Street development and located right on the Arkansas River, is the obvious choice.

This section of Buena Vista reminds me of Serenbe in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Hill Country.  High-end, high-density housing nestled within a walkable downtown with restaurants, shops, parks and even a band shell.  For longer visits, you may want to consider renting a home.  

CAMPING NEAR BUENA VISTA CO

9 OF THE VERY BEST THINGS TO DO IN BUENA VISTA CO
Sawatch Mountains, Buena Vista (photo by Scott Peterson)

Another popular lodging option in the area is tent and RV camping. Eighty percent of Chaffee County is managed by Federal and State agencies, so there is no shortage of places to escape to nature.

Choose between locally run campgrounds, KOA and RV parks, as well as ranger district recreation areas. 

THINGS TO DO IN BUENA VISTA CO

9 OF THE VERY BEST THINGS TO DO IN BUENA VISTA CO
Photo by Scott Peterson

We discovered Buena Vista on a ski trip, but there is so much to do in this area of central Colorado. Here are a few highlights.

MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS

Buena Vista is a perfect hub for mountain bikers. There are 832 miles of trails, most are intermediate to difficult, but there are some easy trails.

Downtown Buena Vista has a pump track at the end of Main Street on the Arkansas River to help get your legs before hitting the trails.

BUENA VISTA WHITE WATER PARK

Buena Vista River Park stretches from the end of Main Street in the historic district to the South Main section of town and offers any number of outdoor activities.

Try kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding or whitewater rafting. Visit during Memorial Day weekend for the annual CKS Paddlefest.

It is also a popular area for locals to walk and bike along the Arkansas. A stunning loop takes you over the river via two bridges. Bring a camera, there are lots of instagramable spots.

FLY FISHING

Buena Vista is best known for it’s whitewater and endless mountain biking, but it is also a fly fishing mecca. Cast a line in the ‘Ark’ or book a guided trip with one of the many local guides.

BUENA VISTA HERITAGE MUSEUM

I’m a sucker for local history, and Buena Vista has some colorful tales. You can learn all about it at one of the Buena Vista Heritage sites. The main museum is located in the 1882 Historic Chaffee County Courthouse.

Learn more about the areas agrarian past at the Historic Turner Farm and Apple Orchard. During the summer months check out the Friday and the Farm concert series.

The railroad and stagecoach had a huge impact on Buena Vista. Check out the deets at the Buena Vista Depot & Transportation Museum.

Note: These museums are mostly staffed by volunteers and close seasonally so check the website before planning your visit.

ST ELMO GHOST TOWN

I am so mad at myself for missing this during our trip. I saw the signs but thought it was just some broken down buildings. But then I saw pictures.

St Elmo is one of the well-preserved ghost towns with 43 buildings including a saloon, courthouse, and general store. The general store is actually open for business in the summer months!

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING

Close to Buena Vista is the downhill ski resort Monarch Mountain. But there is also good cross country skiing in the area.

A favorite local trail is at the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Campground. There is a main ski loop suitable for beginners. Don’t have cross country skis? You can rent them at The Trail Head in downtown Buena Vista.

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