Getting off the beaten path in Colorado holds many pleasant surprises. Most tourists will either miss Buena Vista completely or drive through without stopping. It would be a mistake not to put this authentic Colorado high-country town on your list.
Not too high
The elevation 7,965 feet (2,427.7 meters) is not too high for most visitors. This lower elevation makes strenuous activities like mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and rafting more enjoyable. Yet, within minutes of Buena Vista, visitors have easy access to Colorado’s stunningly beautiful mountains.
The Town of Buena Vista, like most towns of the 1880s, was impacted by the gold and silver days. Not much mining took place in the Buena Vista area but provided a place to raise livestock and produce for thriving Leadville. A remnant of the old stage road to Leadville is still visible driving along US 24.
Modern-day travelers have it much more comfortable than those heading to Buena Vista from Leadville on the old stage line. It’s easy to get lost in thought as you gaze at the stage road driving by in your comfortable car.
Coffee and Scones Downtown
Once you arrive in Buena Vista, head to the historic downtown and check out one of three Main Street coffee shops. A local favorite for baked goods and coffee is Buena Vista Roastery. Pull up a chair and watch the world go by while sipping your jo and nibbling on a scone. Try their breakfast burritos or sandwiches if you need a real meal.
Across the street from the Roastery is Loback’s Bakery serving fresh-baked goods and coffee since 1936. Try one of their several varieties of cookies to go with your coffee or hot chocolate. It’s rare to have a bakery still in business for this many years and good to see them still thriving.
In the summer, most visitors come to Buena Vista for rafting the world famous Arkansas River. On the west end of downtown be sure and check out the Buena Vista River Park. Take a hike on one of several trails, like the one accessed by crossing over the pedestrian/bike bridge, or alongside the river. Enjoy fishing, kayaking, wading, and photography at this excellent town park. Dog owners love bringing Fido here for hiking, swimming, and wading in the fresh mountain water.
Another park worth noting is McPhelemy Park. This lovely town park was donated in 1880 for the enjoyment of all. Bring a picnic and the whole family and check out the pond, playground, and old caboose from the railroad days. Located on Highway US 24 right in the middle of town this is a great place to relax.
Eat at the Rock
House Rock is a well-known feature that rafters float by each year and also the name of one of the most popular eateries in town. Great for lunch or dinner, enjoy House Rock Kitchen and Bar for their delicious bowls, salads, burritos, burgers, and sandwiches. Try their mixed drinks made with kombucha for something delightfully different or a craft beer from local Colorado breweries.
As mentioned above, the Roastery is a favorite spot for breakfast and lunch. For brew-pub fans, try Eddyline Brewery and Taproom for wood-fired pizzas, calzones, burgers, and sandwiches to pair with their beer. Pancho’s is the place to go for Mexican food. Find vegetarian-friendly and meaty options at this eatery on US Highway 24 in town.
A good angling destination
One of the desirable features of staying in Buena Vista is being close to so much of Colorado’s best places. Once the road construction is finished on Cottonwood Pass in 2019, take a drive up and over to Taylor Park Reservoir for fishing, camping, and hiking. For anglers, the Arkansas River is one of the best trout fishing rivers in Colorado. Stop in at Arkansas Angler’s fly shop for current fishing conditions, gear, and advice on where to go.
The experts at Arkansas Angler’s might also recommend O’Haver Lake. This scenic lake is one of the prettiest in all of Colorado and features camping, fishing, and hiking for just 8 USD. The campsites fill up on summer weekends, but you can usually find a place to park. Boats that are human-powered are welcomed here if you have a canoe, kayak, or float tube. Located just 25-minutes-drive from Buena Vista, this is worth a side-trip.
Mountain climbers love getting to the top of the “Fourteeners” as they call mountains over 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) elevation in Colorado. The Collegiate Range has several of these towering Fourteeners to challenge you if you feel up to it. Climbing boulders is also popular, and several excellent bouldering places are close to town.
Choose your room
Several cabin rentals are available, mostly along County Road 306. These cabins are often close enough to hear Cottonwood Creek babbling outside your room helping you drift off to sleep. Further up County Road 306 find Cottonwood Hot Springs offering lodge-rooms and cabins for rent. Both cabins and lodge rooms come with hot springs access in one of Colorado’s best. AirBnB rentals are numerous.
Hotels are found in-and-around Buena Vista. The newest is the Surf Hotel right next to the Arkansas River. This fairly luxurious hotel has a full bar, restaurant, and a splendid terrace overlooking the river. In summer watch the kayakers and rafters go by riding the whitewater. Liars Lodge is a grand lodge on the north end of town also on the river. Liars’ Lodge is a bed and breakfast type hotel and offers rustic but very comfortable lodging.
Find your own spot
I’ve just touched on some of Buena Vista’s best stops. Plan on staying two days or more and find your own fun spots in this Colorado mountain playground.
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