Things to do in Buena Vista Colorado – Hot Springs & Hiking in Buena Vista
The town of Buena Vista, Colorado or as the locals call it “BV” is the place to go if you’re an adventure seeker. This small town in central Colorado is located in Chaffee County and surrounded with gorgeous mountains all around. No matter what time of the year you visit, you will never run out of things to do in Buena Vista.
Located under 2 hours from Aspen, Breckenridge, Denver and Colorado Springs it lies in in the heart of the rockies. Mount Elbert, which is the tallest peak in Colorado at 14,440 feet, is only a 1 hour drive from the town of Buena Vista.
The reason we originally stopped in Buena Vista was to get our Solar system installed on our Class A motorhome. We had never planned to visit the area, but absolutely fell in love! There is endless outdoor activity, amazing drinks, Mexican food, off-roading, hiking and so much more!
Best Hiking Trails in Buena Vista Colorado –
Buena vista offers a variety of hiking trails from beginner hikes for you and your family , to advanced trails for the more experienced hikers. Something to keep in mind while hiking in Buena Vista is the high altitude. It can cause you to feel out of breath a lot quicker than your used to (speaking from experience). That being said start out with some shorter hikes to get yourself used to the altitude before you try doing a 12 mile hike or climb a 14er.
Midland Hill Trail – 4.5 Miles
Arguable to best “starter” hike in Buena Vista to get acclimated to the altitude and heat if visiting in summer. It gains approximately 1,500 feet but doesn’t go over 10,000 feet which is good for a starter! We originally jumped right into a 14,000 foot hike having never been to Colorado, which was a mistake. This hike is right outside of BV and overlooks the town from the top of the hike.
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area – Kroenke Lake Trail 9.3 Miles
An absolutely gorgeous hike which climbs 1600 feet over the 4.65 mile hike each way. The hike might seem intimidating but over such a long distance its not that difficult. The views from the top are incredible the lake is completely worth the hike. If you have time consider hiking Birthday Peak also the same day or another day!
Mount Belford – 7.0 Miles
A-lot of the locals consider this the be the easiest 14er in the area at only 7 miles and 4,500 feet of elevation gain. The hike itself starts at around 9,600 feet and ends at 14,144. We “stupidly” made this our first hike in Buena Vista and quickly regretted it. After hiking the first 3/4 of switchbacks and having trouble breathing we were already debating turning back. We had only been in Colorado a few days and didn’t realize how much harder it would be to breath. After finally going about 2.5 miles in, our pace had slowed so much we needed to turn around. Even if we made it to the top, it would have been getting dark.
Paddle-boarding & Kayaking near Buena Vista –
With tons of lakes and rapids nearby, Buena Vista is an awesome place to get on the water. If you don’t have your own SUP or Kayak don’t worry! There are a few places you can rent them for the day that won’t break the bank in Buena Vista or Salida.
A few good spots include Buena Vista River park, Twin Lakes, and Cottonwood Lake. They’re all within about 30 mins from BV.
Cottonwood Lake –
The locals warned us that this is the “tourist” lake that people visit. Don’t be turned off as it is for good reason, this lake is beautiful. It is located west of BV on route 306 in the mountains. There is fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding hiking trails and even off-roaders up here. Get here early in the summer time before it gets to crowded and you cant find a parking spot!
Clear Creek Resevoir / Twin Lakes –
These are both located around 30 minutes north of Buena Vista and are much larger than Cottonwood Lake. Twin Lakes boast amazing mountains in the background as it is along route 82 mountain pass. The water is very calm at both of these spots and there is plenty of beach to hangout and relax at. Clear Creek has its own free campground directly behind it, incase you want to spend a weekend or longer!
Cottonwood Hot Springs – Buena Vista Hot Springs
One of the more relaxing things to do in Buena Vista is to go to the local hot springs. Cottonwood Hot Springs is the one we went to over a couple different options. It is located 5.5 miles away from BV and attached to a small motel. They say this hot spring has the purist mineral waters, which are used for medicinal and therapeutic value. It is $20 per adult and $18 for children under the age of 16.
All the hot springs range in temperature ever so slightly, which had us hoping around every 20 minutes or so if we got to hot or to cold. There are also showers and lockers to keep your stuff in!
Rock Climbing near Buena Vista –
Buena Vista is an incredible rock climbing destination. You can do this alone or with a guide if you have little to none experience. Some of the best spots to climb, according to the visitor center include Bob’s Rock, Davis Face, Almost a Tunnel, Transmitter Tower, Elephant Rock, Turtle Rock and the man-made Buena Vista Boulder Garden.
Off-roading and Jeep Trails in Colorado – Tincup Pass
One of our favorite parts of Buena Vista was all of the off-road trails it had to offer. You can spend a whole day just exploring the mountains in a Jeep or UTV. Stop by one of the local off road rental shops and they’ll give you a map with all the trails. The trails are open year round ranging from easy SUV trails to extreme 4×4 rock crawling trails.
Our favorite trail we did was St. Elmo to Tincup pass. It’s a 12 mile lightly trafficked trail that’s rated moderate – difficult. This all depends on what off-road rig you have. If you have a jeep it is going to be a little harder in certain spots compared to if you had a dirt bike or UTV.
Be sure to have a full tank of gas when attempting this trail or any off-road trail, as there are no gas stations anywhere near Tincup. One of our favorite things to do in Buena Vista was to off-road, and there were trails everywhere!
White Water Rafting Adventures – Things to do in Buena Vista
While driving into Buena Vista you will start to see signs and business everywhere for White Water Adventures. The Arkansas River in Colorado is one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in Colorado. There are some calmer sections where people were paddle boarding and kayaking down.
If you are a thrill seeker, you can even kayak down the rapids instead of going in a raft. This is obviously more dangerous but you’d be surprised at how many people were doing it. Right outside of the town we also saw people “surfing” in the waves that were naturally formed from the rocks in the river.
Skiing near Buena Vista and Salida
If you are planning a trip to Buena Vista in the winter, Skiing is a very popular sport come winter season. Within San Isabel National Forest, there are miles and mile of trails. You can go alpine skiing, Backcountry skiing, cross country skiing, and even snowshoeing! If you don’t have any ski equipment of your own, or just want to try it before you buy your own gear. You can rent equipment at The Trailhead with rates from $10 – $45 a day depending on the gear you need.
Camping & Boondocking in Buena Vista Colorado
Camping is incredibly popular in Colorado, and there are so many options and around Buena Vista. Whether you’re looking for free dispersed options or a campsite for the family, BV has it all. When you drive through town you will pass Mt Princeton RV Park, Snowy Peaks RV Park and Arrowhead Point further to the north with electric, sewer, water hookups, showers, laundry, etc.
We ended up staying at Arrowhead Point Camping Resort for two weeks while our Solar System was installed. We stayed in the far corner of the resort, which gave us plenty of room compare to the normal campground. If you’re looking for free camping you’ll need go a few miles outside of town as there is a bunch of blm land to camp. Check out Midland Hill dispersed camping and Elephant Rock for some great camping close to BV.
If you want to get a western expierence while in Colorado, Horse back riding is a must! Horse back riding is one of the best ways to explore the mountains. Mount Princeton has year round tours and offer two different tours. The half day tour, where you get to pass through sage and cactus, cross over meadows and ride past creeks and trout ponds. If you can, choose the full day tour which takes you on that same route but you get to go farther up into the mountains and end the trip with a waterfall.
Downtown Buena Vista
If you’re all adventured out, Buena Vista is a cute little town that you can walk around for the night. They have a bunch of good restaurants, brewery’s, ice cream parlors, souvenir shops and more. If you are still looking for things to do in buena vista, check out our favorite restaurants and outdoor stores!
Casa Sanchez – Mexican Food
You can never go wrong with Mexican food, and a local welder we met told us to hit up Casa Sanchez. There chicken fajitas were amazing and the Margaritas are huge! They also have great outdoor seating with huge tables if your traveling with friends.
Eddyline – Bar
For typical American food, beer and an amazing chocolate cookie skillet for desert check out Eddyline in BV. You can go wrong with a place like this and everyone will be able to find something they like.
The Trailhead – Outdoors Store
Located in the heart of BV, the trailhead is the local outdoor and hiking store. They have everything from Patagonia, camelbacks, camping gear and more. Everything seemed to be a little pricier than normal, but there aren’t any big chain stores or Walmarts around.
CKS on Main – Outdoor Rentals
If you are on vacation and looking to rent kayaks, paddle boards this is the best spot. They also have fly fishing gear, rafts and disc golf items. The are also located in the heart of BV only a block from the Trailhead.
Buena Vista Colorado Guide –
The town of Buena Vista and the surrounding area is geared so much toward outdoor lovers. There truly is endless activities in the area and you will never be bored wondering what to do. The hardest part is just choosing what to do with your limited time.