Formerly known as South Arkansas, Salida was given its current name at its incorporation in 1880. Like many small Colorado towns, mining and the Denver & Rio Grande railroad company played a big part in both the birth and longevity of Salida. Salida sits on the Arkansas River, has around a dozen 14ers within 60 miles or so, and is just over seven miles from Browns Canyon National Monument, an area of 21,586 acres of pristine canyons, rivers, and backcountry forest. Read on for two days of river activities, hot springs, and ziplining in historic Salida, Colorado.
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Day 1 – Explore the Town of Salida
Salida has one of Colorado’s largest historic districts with over 100 buildings and is on the National Register of Historic Places. A tour of downtown, either on foot or on a bicycle, of the preserved buildings is a good way to learn a little bit about the area. The Greater Arkansas Rural River Nature Association occasionally offers tours, and the Historic Chaffee County Guide, which can be picked up at the Salida Chamber of Commerce / Visitors Center or the offices of the Mountain Mail, contains a self-guided downtown Salida tour.
To really get your fill of the area’s history, the Salida Museum has a range of artifacts from the region that bring the area’s history to life.
There is plenty more to see on foot after the historic district, including the certified Creative District, which has dozens of artist-owned galleries and studios of every genre. For more art, visit in June when the town hosts the Salida Artwalk. In its 25th year, the event features local and regional artists, musicians, and street performers. Salida made national news earlier this year when Bulgarian-born artist Christo cancelled his decades-long plan to drape nearly six miles of the Arkansas River with shimmering cloth.
Also like several other Colorado towns, Salida has hot springs. While the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center sounds and indeed looks fairly modern, it was used, as were the other hot springs in the state, by the native Ute Indians. The current facility dates back to 1937 when five miles of underground hot water transmission lines were installed, bringing the water from underground springs eight miles up in the Rocky Mountains. Today, the facility is the largest indoor hot springs facility in the country. Private soaking tubs can be reserved in advance.
Day 2 – Out of Town
Start a second, more active day in Salida with some coffee and a stroll along the Arkansas River (see map here) before heading a little further down the river (about seven miles) to Browns Canyon National Monument.
For something closer but no less exciting, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is right in town. As the most commercially rafted river in the United States, there is also world class fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking, wildlife watching, mountain biking, rock climbing, and even gold panning available along the river’s shores.
Another idea for a jaunt out of town is a visit to one of the area’s ghost towns, including St. Elmo, Turret, Winfield, and Vicksburg.
Cap off an active day in the great outdoors by careening through it on a zipline. Captain Zipline offers zipline tours, canyon aerial course tours, and via ferrata tours.
Eat, Drink, Be merry
As for what to eat in Salida, there are plenty of choices. Coloradans love pizza (but then who doesn’t?) and in Salida there is Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub that offers bar staples like wings, sandwiches and salads in addition to good pizzas. Visit on Monday and you can participate in Moonlight Monday, which sees the semi-benevolent restaurant donate 10% of daily sales to community organizations.
Salida is the seventh and final host town for the 32nd installment of Ride the Rockies, the seven-day, 450- mile endurance ride across Colorado, June 10-17, 2017. Click here to explore all of the Ride the Rockies host towns!