Buena Vista, Colorado

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Friday, February 26th, 2010

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At the foot of the Continental Divide, Buena Vista is a small, hardworking town with excellent whitewater rafting. Other Buena Vista attractions include cross-country skiing, hiking, mountain biking and visiting nearby hot springs. Stay for a few days in one of the cozy Buena Vista lodging options to really get a feel for what the area is all about.

Buena Vista sits at the base of the Collegiate Peaks. (Colorado Tourism Office)

The town was incorporated in 1879 and functioned as a railroad town servicing the local silver, gold and lead mining industries. Three rail lines once ran in Buena Vista- the Denver & Rio Grande, South Park & Pacific, and the Colorado Midland Railroad.

Spanish for “Good View,” Buena Vista has the privaladge of being close to several “14ers,” what locals call the 14,000-foot peaks in the area. Mount Princeton, Mount Yale, Mount Harvard, Mount Colombia are four of the ten in the area. Drive the newly designated “Collegiate Peaks Colorado Scenic Byway” along Highway 24 to take in the towering summits.

By many, Buena Vista is considered to be the capital of whitewater rafting in the United States, with the Upper Arkansas River Valley on the east side of town. The South Main River Park will soon expand to be the longest whitewater park of its kind in the country.

With all the flowing water, fly-fishing is obviously another popular activity in the area. Other excursions include ATV tours of the historic mining and railroad sites.

St. Elmo, one of the best-preserved ghost towns about 30 minutes from Buena Vista is a fun day trip if you’re staying in Buena Vista. Stop along the way to hike, swim and fish in the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs.

Over 100 miles of groomed snowmobile trails are available west of town on Cottonwood Pass and there is plenty of great cross-country skiing opportunities come winter.

Ice fishing is also popular because the valley has relatively mild temperatures- and, of course, because the catching’s good! The higher winter temperatures have earned the area between Buena Vista and Salida the name “The Banana Belt.”

Another hot spring to check out is the Cottonwood Hot Springs, right in the mountains.

This area of Colorado has a lot of wildlife. In fact, if you’re driving in the early morning, you just might come across herd of elk, bighorn sheep and deer, especially in the winter.

Buena Vista festivals include the Gold Rush Days in August or the Triple Crown Burro Race. Festivals take locals and visitors back in time with burro riding, gunfighters, gold panning and melodramas, while also providing more modern-day festival standards such as over 100 vendors and constant entertainment.

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