Spanish for “good view,” Buena Vista lives up to its name. A town built on the Arkansas River surrounded by the 14,000 foot peaks of the Collegiate and Sawatch mountain ranges, this is one summer destination that can’t be missed. Whether you’re looking to escape the crowded city, or looking for a place that offers a diverse range of outdoor activities, a weekend in Buena Vista will be the perfect getaway. Sponsored by Into the Wild Overland.

DAY ONE: BURN THOSE CALORIES

Your first glimpse of the Buena Vista landscape will be the imposing peaks that sit on the horizon as you make your way toward this beautiful mountain town. They are called the Collegiate Peaks, including mountains like Princeton and Yale.

Before you jump into your weekend activities, check in to your accommodations. We recommend an AirBnB option close to Main Street or the new, trendy South Main, or even better, bring your lodging with you, either in the form of a tent or a hitch camper like the ones built by Into the Wild Overland.

Here’s a 360° look at the inside of their camper:

If you do plan to camp, the Cottonwood Pass area offers plenty of options, including Cottonwood Lake.

Watching the sunset by Cottonwood Lake.

Once you park your gear, get ready for your first activity: hiking around some of Colorado’s highest peaks. If you’re looking to reach a summit, a few of the easier 14ers in the area include Mt. Yale, Mt. Princeton, and Mt. Elbert. However, keep in mind that any 14er climb will put strain on your body. If you’re not used to strenuous activity of this nature or are wary of weather conditions, opt for an easier local hike like the Harvard Lakes Trail or the Colorado Trail from North Cottonwood Creek to the Chalk Creek Trailhead.

Mount Princeton - OutThere Colorado
Mount Princeton, CO.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to South Main and stop at the Eddyline Restaurant. They’ve got delicious pizza, unique burgers, and great beer, perfect for refueling after a morning hike. Need an afternoon pick-me-up? There’s a charming coffee shop across the street called the Midland Stop.

If you’ve still got enough energy to get back on your feet in the afternoon, we recommend heading up to the top of Cottonwood Pass and exploring. With your starting point at over 12,000 feet, you’ll be able to enjoy some high-altitude views along massive ridgelines without having to crush much more uphill. Look around to see several iconic 14,000-foot peaks.

Into the Wild Overland camper on Cottonwood Pass.

Once you’ve got your fill at the top of Cottonwood Pass, head back down the road towards Buena Vista. You won’t be going all of the way down though. When you see Cottonwood Hot Springs, stop there.

With pool temperatures ranging from 94° to 110° Fahrenheit, this is the perfect place to soak those aching legs and relax. Note that the hot springs is family-friendly, meaning there’s no alcohol allowed and swimsuits are required at all times.

For dinner, check out Hose Rock Kitchen, guaranteed to put you in a food coma. Serving up huge portions and creative cocktails, you’re sure to plan your next visit to this restaurant before you even finish your meal.

There are tons of bars, food trucks, and even a distillery that will keep your night going. Don’t stay out too late though, you’ve got another big day in the morning.

DAY TWO: FIND YOUR RUSH

There’s a chance your legs might be a little tired from the previous day of hiking. Don’t worry, t Day Two will be just as fun, but with less mileage.

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at the Evergreen Café. One popular item on the menu that won’t let you down is the huevos rancheros. They’ve also got great breakfast scrambles, if that’s your thing. Just don’t forget to top it all with Colorado green chili.

Spend the rest of the morning on an adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting experience.Never been rafting before? Don’t worry, there are plenty of companies in the area that will happily take you down the Arkansas River. These guide companies provide all of the safety gear as well as a guide that knows how to safely navigate the rapids. Reservations recommended.

Monumental Expeditions 3 - Rafting - OutThere Colorado
Monumental Expeditions. Photo Credit, courtesy of: Monumental Expeditions.

Generally rafting trips are booked as either half-days or full-days. While a full-day can be a blast, we recommend the half-day option so that you can explore the rest of Buena Vista.

After your rafting excursion, head back to downtown Buena Vista for some lunch. One classic sandwich stop is Biggies. The “Ham Stinger” is a favorite.

Spend the rest of your time in Buena Vista exploring the surrounding area by car.

Start your first scenic drive by heading up through the historic Midland Railroad tunnels. It’s a tight fit, but they’re some of the coolest tunnels in the state.

The Midland Tunnels in Buena Vista.

Continue north along Chaffee County Road 371, and you’ll eventually cross a bridge and hop on US-24. Follow US-24 north until you spot the turn for County Road 390. This road starts at Clear Creek Reservoir and continues until you hit the ghost town of Winfield, Colorado. Though most of the road is accessible with any car, we recommend a four-wheel drive vehicle. Once you make it back to the highway, stop at K’s Old Fashioned Burgers for a bite to eat and some ice cream for the perfect end to your weekend in Buena Vista.

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