The Arkansas River is the main draw in Buena Vista, though the hot springs, world-class whitewater rafting, and 14,000 peaks are also major draws. The Arkansas River is one of the most rafted in the nation, with rafters by the tens of thousands running “The Numbers” water above town and the calmer (but more beautiful!) Browns Canyon below town. People also come to play at the Buena Vista River Park in town. The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area offers camping very close to town along the river. More remote campground and dispersed camping can be found along Cottonwood Pass west of town. If rafting doesn’t float your boat, the Arkansas through here is considered a Gold Medal trout fishery, so don’t forget the rod and tackle box.
It isn’t just river rats who enjoy Buena Vista in summer. Some of the most popular fourteeners loom above town. Mount Princeton, Mount Yale, Mount Harvard, Mount Columbia – all the Collegiate Peaks offer thrilling alpine hiking experiences for those in decent shape. Or just drive to the top of Cottonwood Pass, where you can wander around the tundra and enjoy 360-degree views of the Sawatch, San Juan, and Elk ranges. The pass closes when the snow begins to fall. There are two commercial hot springs, Mount Princeton and Cottonwood, for relaxing after your adventure.