Touring Buena Vista Colorado

It rained off and on all night and when we woke on Tuesday morning (8/30) as the sun was coming up we could see some fresh snow on the surrounding mountains that was not there when we arrived yesterday.


 The snow was pretty to look at but it can just stay up there and not drop down here and we will be just fine with that.

A little snow fell in the surrounding mountains the first night we were in town. The mountain top you see is 14,000ft.

A little snow fell in the surrounding mountains the first night we were in town. The mountain top you see is 14,000ft.

 While I was standing outside having coffee a couple fellow campers walked by and mentioned coffee & donuts down in the clubhouse so I grabbed Diane and away we went, not so much for the coffee & donuts but we were curious to meet some of the people that where now our neighbors.

 Here must have been close to 30 people sitting and standing around when we walked in and everyone we met was very friendly and informative. Some of the people had been coming to the park every summer for 8, 10 and even one couple for 35 years!! The owners have owned the park for 39 years if I remember correctly and managed it a number of years before buying it so they must be doing something right.

 After coffee we headed home, jumped in the truck and headed downtown to do a walking tour.

Another sitting area along the river

Another sitting area along the river


  Buena Vista was first settled in 1864 by settlers drawn to the area by the plentiful water which made the land suitable for farming. And by 1894 Buena Vista had electricity, telephone service, street lights, parks, cemeteries, and schools. Travelers, speculators, and miners traveling up the Arkansas Valley towards Leadville made Buena Vista a popular stagecoach stop, and railroad depot following the 1890s. While certainly experiencing economic ups and downs, the valley’s agricultural economy has made the area more resistant to the ‘boom, bust’ cycle of mining towns.

Buena Vista is located in central Colorado roughly midway between Salida and Leadville in the Upper Arkansas River Valley at an elevation of 7,965 feet and many of the existing buildings date back to the 1880s and 1890s. The name “Buena Vista” is Spanish for “Beautiful View”.

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 The town is surrounded by mountains, some are over 14,000ft which really adds to the beauty of the area. Mount Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Columbia are located directly west of Buena Vista. This impressive collection of “fourteeners” (as locals call them), inspired the name for the newly designated Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway that runs along Hwy 24 right through town.

 And Buena Vista is considered by many to be the capital of whitewater rafting for the United States. The Arkansas River flows at the edge of town and they have created many “play areas” for kayakers and rafters and we say a number of people fishing as well.

 There are over a dozen rafting companies in town so that alone tells you how much activity the river gets during the summer months, not so much during our visit so far but it must be something to watch (or experience) earlier in the summer.

 We were told that the rivers volume is dictated by a reservoir up river and there is a guaranteed volume of water until August 15th for thrill seekers.

 We are not water people (well Diane likes the water but I don’t) so the real draw for us to check out the area was #1 the size, Buena Vista has a population of just under 3000 but feels bigger because of the tourist population and #2 the altitude, at 7965ft it promises lower temps during the summer months which is something we are looking for during the months of July and August. The average temp in June, July and August are 77, 82 & 79 and the average lows for the same months are 44, 49 & 48. And #3 activities, there are plenty of hiking trails and off-road areas to keep a person busy and I found a ATV group in the area that seems pretty active in case we buy the ATV we have been thinking about. And it seems there is a good venue of live music during the summer months as well as plenty of decent restaurants, breweries & pubs.  

 We have mentioned before that we are starting to look for maybe 2 or 3 places to hunker down for a month each during the warmer summer months and Buena Vista has made the short list so far.

 After walking the streets, popping in and out of various shops we decided to head to the river walk.

There is a ice trail that runs along the river that we walked from one end to the other.

There is a ice trail that runs along the river that we walked from one end to the other.

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 There is a nice path along the river that provides some great scenic views. There are a number of benches you can park yourself on to watch the activities going on in the river but as we mentioned before there wasn’t much going on during our visit.

At one end you can cross the river and continue on the Barbra Whipple Trail System but we were not prepared for that so hopefully we can squeeze that in one day before leaving the area.

Arkansas River runs right through Buena Vista

Arkansas River runs right through Buena Vista

The town did man made rapids a number of places along the river and call them play holes for rafters & kayakers

The town did man made rapids a number of places along the river and call them play holes for rafters & kayakers.

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 After walking the trail from one end to the other we headed to the Lariat Saloon for an adult beverage and lunch. I had the best Pork Burrito I have had in my entire life and Diane had a burger that was pretty good as well.

We ate lunch at the Lariat Saloon.

We ate lunch at the Lariat Saloon.

 After lunch we headed to the Visitor Center to mill around a bit before realizing we had a lot of the afternoon left so we decided to jump in the truck and head toward Leadville.

 Leadville was only 35 miles up the road and was a place we wanted to tour but had no intention of camping there so a road trip seemed right.

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 Once in Leadville we did a driving tour and then parked in Historic Downtown and did a walking tour.

 Leadville sits at an elevation of 10,200 feet and was first settled in 1859, then founded in 1877 by mine owners Horace Tabor and August Meyer at the start of the Colorado Silver Boom so there is a lot of history in the area.

By 1880, three years after the town was founded, Leadville was one of the world’s largest and richest silver camps, with a population of more than 15,000 people. Today the population is about 2600.


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There were a lot of old building in town that were fun to look at and a couple old hotels that we are sure were spectacular back in the day but because we were at over 10,000ft and the rain was coming in we cut our visit a little short but felt we saw what we needed to in order to get a good flavor of the town before heading back home for the evening. A pretty good day of touring and we liked Buena Vista even more after our day was over.    

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4 Responses to Touring Buena Vista Colorado

  1. Roger Rempe says:

    Went to Buena Vista (during daughter’s wedding) for a loaf of bread. Boy, did we miss stuff…LOL. Did get to spend a little time in Salida, along the riverfront…very nice too!

    • Dave & Diane says:

      LOL, well maybe next time through. We went so Salida one day to check it out, have not done an update on the day yet but you are right, the riverfront was nice and historic downtown wasn’t bad either.

  2. Ed STANFORD says:

    If you haven’t already, you should check out Cottonwood Hotsprings up the valley from Buena Vista.

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