Colorado Mountain Tours: The Collegiates

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

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One of the best-known features of a Colorado vacation are the “Fourteeners” the mountains in this part of the Rockies that reach 14,000 ft and beyond. They offer beautiful, majestic views from below and on top, and fascinating terrain between. The Collegiates are particularly awesome a group of Fourteeners you’ll find in southern Colorado.

A couple plans their next adventure on a camping trip near a high-mountain lake in southwest Colorado. (Colorado Tourism Office)

Traveling from one beautiful Colorado town to another is a great way to catch all of the great Fourteeners that make up the Collegiates. Below you’ll find a town by town guide to them.

Salida, Colorado

Situated along the Arkansas River, Salida is an important place for kayak, whitewater rafting and fishing adventures. In the spring and summer, when Arkansas River is at its highest and the temperatures are at their warmest, you’ll find happy rafters populating the town, looking for their adrenaline buzz. All year-round the area around Salida, and the Collegiates in general, is known for excellent fishing. If you want to be sure to hook something, head east of town to find the area’s Gold Metal waters.

Poncha Springs

This little Colorado town was an important one for Zebulon Pike (for which Pikes Peak is named), one of Colorado’s early pioneers. During the winter of 1806, Zebulon and his fellow pioneers had to hole up here until the heavy winter snows passed. The town remembers Pike’s respite from exploration with a historical marker. These days, Poncha Springs is known as a great place to seek shelter if you love Colorado outdoor recreation. Hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing,rafting, kayaking, hot spring dipping, golfing and any other activity you can think of can be done in and around town.


Back in the 1800s, visitors to the town of Nathrop took the train directly to town to soak in the towns beautiful hot springs. You can still do the same at the Mount Princeton Hot Springs, albeit without the elaborate outfits people wore for these types of activities 200 years ago. Still worth doing, especially after some time spend enjoying Rockies adventure activities.

Buena Vista

“Buena Vista” means good view in Spanish, and aptly describes this amazing Colorado town. Buena Vista is another Colorado whitewater rafting hotspot during spring and summer, when snow melt starts feeding the nearby Arkansas River. You’ll also find Colorado’s most famous rapids nearby in Brown’s Canyon. Also a great place to do some fishing.

Buena Vista has its roots as an 1800s mining town, it then morphed into a railroad town for the Denver & Rio Grande, South Park & Pacific and Colorado Midland Railroads. These days, you’ll still find the good old the Union Pacific Railroad riding along the tracks.

Quick Facts and FAQ about Vacationing in Colorado’s Collegiates:

Landmarks: Arkansas River, Arkansas Headwaters State Park, Union Pacific Railroad line, Mount Shavano, Mount Antero,

Tabeguache Mountain, Mount Princeton, Mount Princeton Hot Springs

Distance from first town to last: 57 miles; Allow 2 hours

Four-wheel drive required? No

Portions closed in winter? No

Colorado Travel Guide

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