Buena Vista is Spanish for "good view," and it's not hard to see how this charming town got its name. Nestled right at the base of the Continental Divide, Buena Vista boasts stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, including a number of peaks that soar more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Many people consider the town to be the American capital of whitewater rafting, but there are also plenty of opportunities to go hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. Visitors rarely leave this beautiful place feeling disappointed, but here are the absolute best things to see and do during your time here. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Browns Canyon National Monument
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Encompassing more than 21,500 acres of canyons, rivers, and woodland, the Browns Canyon National Monument was established in 2015 by President Obama. The canyon itself was carved out by the Arkansas River; it can be explored on foot or on horseback during the summer, and winter visitors can snowshoe or cross-country ski. Visitors can also experience the beauty of the canyon by taking one of the many whitewater rafting trips on offer. There are six campsites along the riverbank, including one with a small outdoor amphitheater and another with an observation deck over the water.
307 W Sackett Ave, Salida, CO 81201-1654, Phone: 719-539-7289
2.Buena Vista Heritage Museum
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Located inside the old Chaffee County courthouse, the Buena Vista Heritage Museum is run by a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the area's rich history. The family-friendly exhibits include an interactive classroom with slate boards and manual typewriters, a display of old wedding gowns donated by locals, a Golden eagle mounted in 1912, and a working model railroad that depicts 130 miles of the Arkansas River Valley. The museum is open from Memorial Day weekend through September, and during the summer season it often hosts special events like wine tastings, cemetery tours, and historical theater productions.
511 E Main St, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-8458
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3.Buena Vista Whitewater Park
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The Arkansas River is one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in the United States, and the Buena Vista Whitewater Park is a convenient way to enjoy the water no matter what your skill level. The park runs right along the river in downtown Buena Vista, and its five whitewater structures include everything from easy play waves to an advanced freestyle hole perfect for experts who want to hone their skills. Gear can be rented from nearby Colorado Kayak Sports; most visitors choose to use a tiny play boat, but kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are also welcome.
922 South Main Street, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-2408
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4.Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway
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Constructed to connect Salida to Granite, the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway stretches for 57 miles through the Collegiate Peaks wilderness area. Mountains such as Mount Princeton and Mount Yale soar more than 14,000 feet above sea level, and the road passes by plenty of fascinating historical sites like the Old Nathrop Schoolhouse and the Hutchinson Ranch. Visitors can also go fishing on the Arkansas River, stop for a hike, or relax at the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort in Nathrop. Despite the road's relatively short length, visitors are advised to allow for at least two hours of driving time.
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5.Cottonwood Hot Springs, Buena Vista, Colorado
© Cottonwood Hot Springs
Only 5.5 miles west of Buena Vista, Cottonwood Hot Springs boasts geothermally heated gravity-fed pools of therapeutic mineral water. Temperatures in the pools range from 94°F to 110°F, and there is also a dry sauna for guests to use. The hot springs are open to visitors 365 days a year, and no advance reservations are required. Anyone staying on-site is given complimentary access to the thermal pools; accommodation options include hotel rooms, creek-side cabins, and a campsite. Children under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult, and towels can be rented for an additional fee.
18999 Co Rd 306, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-6434
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6.House Rock Kitchen, Buena Vista, Colorado
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Conveniently located right on Main Street, House Rock Kitchen is a health-conscious fast food joint that prepares all of its food from scratch using fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients. A lively outdoor patio is open in the summer months, and the restaurant prides itself on the positive, welcoming atmosphere created by its friendly staff and great music. The menu includes soups, sandwiches, burgers, burritos, and bowls; customers can also choose from a variety of sides. Young customers can order from a special children's menu, and adults can enjoy alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, and mixed drinks made with kombucha.
421 E Main St, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-966-2326
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7.Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy, Buena Vista, CO
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Family owned and operated since it was first established in 2002, Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy is a goat dairy and creamery that specializes in making small batches of artisan goat cheese. The cheese is made with all-natural ingredients, and the farm is proud to prioritize the health and happiness of its goats. Right next to the dairy is a small store that offers complimentary cheese tastings and a variety of local products for sale. Guided farm tours are offered free of charge throughout the year, and special milking tours are also available between late March and the end of September.
31700 US-24, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-4646
8.Mount Princeton Hot Springs, Buena Vista, Colorado
© Mount Princeton Hot Springs
Tucked away in the mountains between Buena Vista and Salida, the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort is an upscale hotel that features rejuvenating thermal pools. The pools range in temperature from 70°F to 120°F; special features include a historical bathhouse built in 1867, a large pool with a 400-foot waterslide, and a luxurious adults-only sanctuary. Complimentary hot springs passes are given to all guests of the hotel, but day passes can be purchased by visitors staying elsewhere. Visitors are also welcome to use the sauna and steam room or enjoy a meal at one of the four on-site restaurants. Places to Visit in Colorado
15870 Co Rd 162, Nathrop, CO 81236, Phone: 719-395-2447
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9.Noah's Ark Colorado Rafting & Aerial Adventure Park
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Noah's Ark Colorado Rafting & Aerial Adventure Park is one of the largest and most experienced whitewater rafting companies in Colorado. In addition to rafting tours down the Arkansas River, the company also offers rock climbing tours, guided backpacking trips, and packages that include a trip to the Mount Princeton Hot Springs. Another highlight is the aerial adventure course, which overlooks the Browns Canyon National Monument and boasts 66 elements including ziplines, rope bridges, and a giant swing. The company only offers tours and trips between May and Labor Day weekend, and reservations are recommended.
23910 US Hwy 285, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-2158
10.South Main Adventure Hub, Buena Vista, Colorado
© South Main Adventure Hub
Situated right on the banks of the Arkansas River, the South Main Adventure Hub is located in a unique neighborhood designed by kayakers, for kayakers. One of the biggest draws here is the whitewater park, but this is the place to head if you're interested in booking any adventure activity in or around Buena Vista; options include trail rides, zipline tours, and off-road vehicle tours and rentals. There are also plenty of things to keep visitors occupied before or after their tours, including a food truck, a clothing boutique, draft beers, and delicious hand-crafted cocktails.
801 Front Loop, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-581-7550
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11.St. Elmo Ghost Town, Buena Vista, Colorado
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Often referred to as one of the best-preserved ghost towns in Colorado, St. Elmo Ghost Town was founded in 1880 and abandoned in the early 1950s. The town reached its peak in the late 1890s; there were 150 patented mine claims in the area, and town amenities included a telegraph office, a general store, five hotels, and several saloons and dancing halls. Many of the buildings are still intact, but some are being restored to their original state. The general store is open in the summer to sell souvenirs and rent four-wheelers to tourists, and the creek that runs through the town offers excellent fishing.
Alimento, 1710 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026, Phone: 719-395-2117
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12.The Trailhead, Buena Vista, Colorado
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Established in 1972, the Trailhead is one of the best outdoor specialty retailers in Colorado. The shop sells equipment for every season and almost every outdoor activity possible, including rock climbing gear, bicycles, and ski and snowshoe equipment. Gear can also be rented by the day; supplies are limited, especially on weekends, so customers are advised to reserve their equipment in advance. The staff are extremely knowledgeable about both the equipment and the backcountry around Buena Vista, and are happy to provide route directions and helpful tips for enjoying the local hiking, camping, and skiing.
402 E Main St, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-8001
13.Buena Vista Roastery Cafe
© Buena Vista Roastery Cafe
Offering affordable, locally roasted coffee, the Buena Vista Roastery Cafe specializes in coffee drinks made with beans roasted right down the street at their very own roastery. The business makes a great effort to support fair trade and organic coffee growers, and they're proud to follow environmentally friendly practices like using coffee cups and lids made from recycled materials. A wide range of sweet and savory baked goods are made by hand every morning, including scones, cookies, and quiches, and customers who come in the morning can enjoy one of the signature bacon, chorizo, or veggie breakfast burritos.
409 E Main St, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-966-5500
14.Colorado Kayak, Buena Vista, Colorado
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Kayaking and canoeing are two of the best reasons to visit Buena Vista, and Colorado Kayak is the largest paddle sports retailer in the Rocky Mountains. In addition to a large selection of kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, the store sells everything from safety equipment to special canine accessories for people who want to bring their dogs out on the water. They also offer a range of clothing that includes both casual and technical wear as well as shoes, hats, and gloves. Gift cards are available for purchase, and the company has an excellent 30-day return policy. Fun Things to Do in Colorado
327 E Main St, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-9206
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15.ArkAnglers, Buena Vista, Colorado
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ArkAnglers offers guided fly fishing trips as well as a full-service fly shop, and it prides itself on providing the best possible customer service. There is a wide selection of half and full-day trips for guests to choose from; the company also offers rowing courses and classroom-based fly fishing courses. Most trips bring guests to the famed Arkansas River, but some also go to the South Platte River or nearby high-altitude alpine lakes that can only be accessed by hiking in. There is also a shuttle service available to anyone with enough experience to go fishing on their own.
517 US-24, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-1796
16.BV Jeeps Mountain Adventure Rentals
© BV Jeeps Mountain Adventure Rentals
One of the best way to explore the Rocky Mountains is by Jeep or by ATV, and BV Jeeps Mountain Adventure Rentals has been in the business for more than 35 years. Popular destinations like Mosquito Pass and Hancock Pass are within easy driving distance of the store, and staff are happy to assist with trip planning. Jeeps can only be rented by people 25 years of age or older, but the minimum age for ATV rentals is 21. The company is open for business every day of the week during the summer months, and vehicles can be rented by the hour, day, or week.
222 US-24, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-4418
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17.Deerhammer Distilling Company, Buena Vista, Colorado
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Nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountain's Collegiate Peaks, the Deerhammer Distilling Company is a family-owned micro-distillery that specializes in American-style whiskey. All spirits are carefully hand-crafted in small batches and bottles are filled and labelled two at a time; the company also prides itself on using pristine glacial water that runs down from the Continental Divide and locally grown and malted grains. The distillery is best known for its signature single-malt whiskey, but it also produces a Dutch-style gin and limited edition or seasonal beverages such as port cask finish whiskey and twice-distilled brandy. Romantic weekend getaways in Colorado
321 E Main St, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-395-9464
18.Eddyline Brewery and Taproom, Buena Vista, Colorado
© Eddyline Brewery and Taproom
Eddyline Brewery and Taproom has been brewing high-quality ales and lagers since 2009, and the taproom is a popular place for outdoor enthusiasts to gather and swap tales about their adventures. An excellent selection of craft beers is available on tap, including both signature and seasonal options, and 16-ounce six-packs of beer can be purchased to enjoy elsewhere. The taproom also offers a food menu that includes traditional pub appetizers, wood-fired pizzas, soups, salads, tacos, and burritos. Tours of the brewery can be arranged upon request, and special Eddyline merchandise is available for sale in the taproom.
102 Linderman Ave, Buena Vista, CO 81211, Phone: 719-966-6017
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19 Best Things To Do in Buena Vista, Colorado
- Browns Canyon National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of cbdusty - Fotolia.com
- Buena Vista Heritage Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Shelley - Fotolia.com
- Buena Vista Whitewater Park, Photo: Courtesy of sportstock - Fotolia.com
- Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway, Photo: Courtesy of robert cicchetti - Fotolia.com
- Cottonwood Hot Springs, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: Cottonwood Hot Springs
- House Rock Kitchen, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: House Rock Kitchen
- Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy, Buena Vista, CO, Photo: Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy
- Mount Princeton Hot Springs, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: Mount Princeton Hot Springs
- Noah's Ark Colorado Rafting & Aerial Adventure Park, Photo: Courtesy of sportstock - Fotolia.com
- South Main Adventure Hub, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: South Main Adventure Hub
- St. Elmo Ghost Town, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: Courtesy of teesixb - Fotolia.com
- The Trailhead, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: The Trailhead
- Buena Vista Roastery Cafe, Photo: Buena Vista Roastery Cafe
- Colorado Kayak, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: Courtesy of steheap - Fotolia.com
- ArkAnglers, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: Courtesy of Piotr Wawrzyniuk - Fotolia.com
- BV Jeeps Mountain Adventure Rentals, Photo: BV Jeeps Mountain Adventure Rentals
- Deerhammer Distilling Company, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: Deerhammer Distilling Company
- Eddyline Brewery and Taproom, Buena Vista, Colorado, Photo: Eddyline Brewery and Taproom
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Shelley - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Buena Vista Heritage Museum
Constructed in the year 1882, the Old Chaffee County Courthouse in Buena Vista, Colorado is now the home of the Buena Vista Heritage Museum. Among the numerous exhibits at the museum are several newer exhibits. These include a kayaking and rafting exhibit, a display of tokens and coins, a display of an antique pharmacy, and a mining exhibit among others.
The Fashion Room at the Buena Vista Heritage Museum features several different interesting items of clothing. Among the various clothing items are a number of wedding dresses, hats, petticoats, shoes, children’s clothing, and men’s clothing. Two quite rare examples of a petticoat represent the lost “netting” art. There is also a pair of boots from the 1920’s that Byrd Fuqua wore while roping a cougar.
The black wedding dress on display at the museum once belonged to a woman by the name of Colorado Condrell Hewitt Waible. According to her family, Colorado Deborah Condrell was born en route to America aboard the U.S.S. Colorado. Her mother unfortunately died not too long after giving birth, so the captain was the one to give her a name and chose to name the orphaned girl after the ship.
In the Industry and Commerce Room of the Buena Vista Heritage Museum the amazing collections of various rocks, semi-precious gemstones, and minerals of Stan Noga are on display. Samples, equipment, and ledger books from many mines in the local area represent the significance of the mining industry in Buena Vista. The industries of recreation and tourism are also shown through the museum’s animal mounts found throughout the exhibit room. Artifacts representing other industries of importance to life within the Upper Arkansas Valley are also displayed, including farming and ranching. The spittoons and oak cabinet were originally used in the actual courthouse.
The showcases at the Buena Vista Heritage Museum feature an array of miscellaneous objects, including items from a time capsule buried by the school children. The schoolroom is a favorite among visitors of all ages due to the many pictures of the town’s graduating classes. Examples of school newspapers, as well as old raised maps can also be seen. Visitors can sit down for a moment at one of the old wooden desks and flip through old scrapbooks and catalogs of the Montgomery Ward. A primitive examining table once used by a local doctor, as well as other various medical objects, are also displayed in the room.
The expansive room located upstairs in the Buena Vista Heritage Museum was once the old building’s heart, a courtroom that saw several exciting cases. One such case was that of Nicolo Ferminello, an Italian man accused of murdering a man by stabbing. He was sentenced to death for the crime. His death was the only “legal” hanging in Chaffee County. Ferminello was hung behind the county’s jail complex.
The room still has the original chair and bench of the judge. The historical, extensive model train display at the Buena Vista Heritage Museum is reflective of the one hundred and thirty miles of railroads of the Upper Arkansas River Valley is upstairs as well. The display illustrates the area when railroading and mining were popular industries in the region.
506 East Main Street, Buena Vista, Colorado, Phone: 719-395-8458
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