Are you planning a trip to Salida, Colorado? Look no further! In this comprehensive visitor guide, we’ll take you through 21 fun things to do in Salida, from soaking in the natural hot springs to exploring the vibrant art scene. Discover the rich history of Salida, get insider tips on where to eat and stay, and explore the stunning day trip options nearby. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie, Salida has something for everyone. Let’s dive in and explore the best of Salida, Colorado!
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Why Visit Salida?
Salida, Colorado is a hidden gem that offers a wide range of outdoor activities and attractions. From hiking and skiing to exploring historic sites and enjoying the vibrant art scene, there’s something for everyone. With its stunning natural beauty and welcoming community, Salida is definitely worth a visit.
History of Salida
Salida, Colorado has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the late 1800s. Originally a mining town, Salida experienced a boom during the Colorado Silver Boom. The discovery of silver and gold in the nearby mountains attracted thousands of prospectors and miners, transforming Salida into a bustling hub of activity. The town quickly grew, with businesses, saloons, and hotels lining the streets. The railroad also played a significant role in Salida’s history, connecting the town to other parts of Colorado and facilitating the transportation of goods and people.
In addition to its mining and railroad heritage, Salida was also known for its agricultural industry. The fertile Arkansas River Valley provided ideal conditions for farming and ranching, and Salida became an important center for agriculture in the region. Today, remnants of Salida’s past can still be seen in the well-preserved historic downtown area, with its charming Victorian-era buildings and architecture.
Salida Weather and Climate
Salida, Colorado experiences a semi-arid climate with four distinct seasons. The weather in Salida is generally characterized by mild winters and warm summers.
During the winter months, temperatures can drop below freezing, and snowfall is common, making it a great destination for winter sports enthusiasts. In contrast, summers in Salida are warm and sunny, with temperatures ranging from the 70s to the 90s Fahrenheit (20s to 30s Celsius).
The dry climate and abundance of sunshine make it ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and rafting. It’s important to note that weather conditions can vary, so it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before planning your visit to Salida, Colorado.
High and Low Temperatures in Salida, CO
Monthly Rainfall in Salida, CO
Monthly Snowfall in Salida, CO
For exploring Salida itself, walking or biking is a great way to navigate the charming downtown area. The town is compact and pedestrian-friendly, allowing visitors to easily stroll from one attraction to another. Bicycles are also available for rent, providing a fun and eco-friendly way to explore the town and its surroundings.
If you prefer motorized transportation, renting a car is a popular option. Having a car gives you the flexibility to venture beyond Salida and explore the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding area. From the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the breathtaking canyons and rivers, there is much to discover just a short drive away from Salida.
21 Things To Do in Salida, Colorado
There are hundreds of things to do in Salida and the Arkansas River Valley, but that’s too many to fit on one page. I narrowed it down to my favorite 21 ideas below, spread across all four seasons.
1. Soak it Up at the Hot Springs
2. Check out the Arkansas River
3. Climb a Colorado 14er
4. Hike to an Alpine Lake
5. Ski or Snowboard at Monarch Mountain
6. Sample Local Brews
Explore the vibrant craft beer scene in Salida and indulge in some delicious local brews. Visit the various breweries in town and get a taste of the unique and creative flavors that Salida has to offer. From hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, there’s a beer for every palate. I recommend Soulcraft Brewing, my favorite.
7. Relax at Riverside Park
Take a break from your adventures and unwind at Riverside Park. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the river, have a picnic on the grassy banks, or simply sit back and soak in the beautiful views. With its peaceful atmosphere and scenic surroundings, Riverside Park is the perfect spot to relax and rejuvenate.
8. Explore the Vibrant Art Scene
Immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene of Salida. Visit the numerous art galleries and studios scattered throughout the town and discover the works of talented local artists. From paintings and sculptures to ceramics and jewelry, there’s a diverse range of artistic expressions to admire and take home as a unique souvenir.
9. Try Mountain Biking
Explore the stunning landscapes around Salida on a thrilling mountain biking adventure. With its diverse trails and breathtaking scenery, Salida is a paradise for mountain biking enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a leisurely ride or an experienced rider seeking an adrenaline-pumping challenge, Salida has trails to suit every preference.
10. Tour the Mt. Shavano Fish Hatchery
11. Visit the Salida Farmer’s Market
12. Catch a Show at the SteamPlant Theater
13. Step into the Past at the Salida History Museum
14. See the Views from Spiral Drive
15. Spend Time with Alpacas
16. Learn How To Snowshoe
17. Try a Wine Tasting
18. Whitewater Rafting
19. Go Zip-lining
20. Play at the Salida Arcade
21. Make Your Own Pottery
Unleash your creativity and learn the art of pottery making in Salida. Take a pottery class and get hands-on experience in shaping clay into beautiful and unique pieces. Whether you’re a beginner or have some experience, this activity is a great way to relax, express yourself, and create something truly special.
Leave No Trace in Salida
With thousands of people visiting the Salida region, it is critically important to practice Leave No Trace outdoor ethics during your stay. Here are seven principles to keep in mind during your trip.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Before embarking on your outdoor adventures in Salida, make sure to plan ahead and prepare. Research the trails and activities you want to do, check the weather forecast, and pack accordingly. This will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in the beautiful Colorado wilderness.
2. Stick to the Trails
When exploring the natural beauty of Salida, it’s important to stick to the designated trails. This helps preserve the fragile ecosystem and prevent unnecessary damage to the environment. Respect any signs or closures and stay on the marked paths.
3. Pack out Trash
Leave no trace behind by packing out any trash you bring with you. Keep Salida clean and pristine by disposing of your garbage properly. Leave the trails and natural areas as you found them, or even better, cleaner.
4. Leave What You Find
When exploring the natural beauty of Salida, it’s important to leave what you find. Avoid picking flowers, taking rocks, or disturbing any natural elements. By leaving things as you found them, you help preserve the natural environment for others to enjoy.
5. Be Careful with Fire
If you decide to have a campfire or use a stove, be cautious and follow all fire safety guidelines. Make sure you are in a designated area for fires, and never leave a fire unattended. Fully extinguish the fire before leaving the area. Fire safety is crucial to prevent wildfires and preserve the beauty of Salida.
6. Respect Wildlife
When encountering wildlife in Salida, it’s important to observe from a safe distance and avoid disturbing or feeding them. Respect their natural habitat and keep in mind that they are wild animals. Admire them from afar and do not approach or try to interact with them.
7. Be Courteous to Others Outdoors
As you enjoy the outdoor activities in Salida, remember to be courteous to others. Yield to hikers and bikers, keep noise levels down, and clean up after yourself. Respect the peacefulness of the surroundings and ensure that everyone can enjoy their time in nature.
Day Trips Near Salida
The area around Salida has multiple options for day trips to add more adventure to your visit. Here are six ideas to get started with.
1. Great Sand Dunes National Park - 2 Hours Away
2. Monarch Crest Tramway - 40 Minutes Away
3. Leadville, Colorado - 1 Hour, 10 Minutes Away
Take a day trip to Leadville, a historic mining town located just over an hour away from Salida. Explore the well-preserved Victorian architecture, visit the National Mining Hall of Fame, and learn about the town’s rich mining heritage. Don’t forget to stop by one of the local eateries for a delicious meal.
4. St. Elmo Ghost Town - 1 Hour Away
5. Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area - 40 Minutes Away
6. Independence Pass - 1 Hour, 30 Minutes Away
Embark on a scenic drive to Independence Pass, located just an hour and a half away from Salida. Take in the breathtaking views as you wind through the mountains and reach the summit at over 12,000 feet. Explore the hiking trails and enjoy the stunning alpine scenery. It’s a perfect day trip for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Where to Eat in Salida, Colorado
When it comes to dining in Salida, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Here are a few recommendations to satisfy your taste buds:
1. Little Red Hen Bakery - Best Breakfast
Start your day with a delicious breakfast at Little Red Hen Bakery. Indulge in freshly baked pastries, hearty sandwiches, and artisanal bread. With its cozy atmosphere and friendly staff, it’s the perfect spot to fuel up for a day of adventure.
2. Soulcraft Brewery - Best Brewpub
For craft beer enthusiasts, a visit to Soulcraft Brewery is a must. Sample a wide selection of handcrafted beers, ranging from hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts. Pair your brew with tasty pub fare and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of this local favorite.
3. The Fritz - Best Fine Dining
For an upscale dining experience, head to The Fritz. This gourmet restaurant offers a menu featuring locally sourced ingredients and creative culinary creations. From mouthwatering steaks to innovative vegetarian dishes, The Fritz delivers a memorable dining experience.
4. Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop - Best Sandwiches
If you’re in the mood for a tasty sandwich, look no further than Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop. Choose from a variety of freshly made sandwiches, wraps, and salads. With generous portions and flavorful ingredients, it’s the perfect spot for a quick and satisfying meal.
5. Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub - Best Pizza
Craving pizza? Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub has you covered. With its thin crust, fresh toppings, and creative flavor combinations, their pizzas are a hit among locals and visitors alike. Pair your slice with a local craft beer for the ultimate dining experience.
6. Chill Salida - Best Ice Cream
Indulge your sweet tooth at Chill Salida, where you’ll find a wide selection of delicious ice cream flavors. From classic favorites to unique creations, there’s something for everyone. Treat yourself to a scoop or two and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of this popular ice cream shop.
Where to Stay in Salida, CO
For a comfortable and convenient stay in Salida, consider these options:
1. Silver Ridge Lodge
Silver Ridge Lodge offers a quintessential mountain getaway experience with spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. Ideal for families and outdoor enthusiasts, this lodge features rustic yet modern interiors and a serene atmosphere. If you value tradition and are looking for a cozy base to explore Salida’s hiking and fishing spots, this is the place for you.
2. Browns Canyon Inn
Located near the famous Browns Canyon National Monument, Browns Canyon Inn is a haven for adventurers. The inn offers straightforward, comfortable accommodations and is pet-friendly. It’s perfect for rafters, kayakers, and anyone wanting to explore the Arkansas River or take a dip in the nearby hot springs.
3. Amigo Motor Lodge
Amigo Motor Lodge redefines the traditional motel experience with its sleek, minimalist design and modern amenities. The lodge includes a communal fire pit and a teepee for socializing. Ideal for young travelers and couples seeking a stylish yet affordable option, it’s within walking distance of Salida’s downtown shops and eateries.
4. Loyal Duke Lodge
Loyal Duke Lodge brings a touch of nostalgia with its retro-inspired decor and classic Americana vibe. Featuring a large pool and outdoor recreational area, this lodge is best suited for families and groups. If you’re after an affordable stay without sacrificing fun, Loyal Duke Lodge might just be the ticket.
5. The Salida Inn and Hostel
Perfect for budget travelers and solo adventurers, Salida Inn and Hostel offers a variety of accommodation options from private rooms to dormitory-style lodging. The hostel is noted for its welcoming atmosphere and communal spaces, including a fully equipped kitchen and lounge area. It’s a great choice if you’re looking to meet like-minded individuals and enjoy a communal living experience.
Dispersed Camping Near Salida:
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature and camp under the stars, consider these free dispersed camping areas near Salida:
1. Mt Shavano Trailhead Area
Explore the beauty of the Mt Shavano Trailhead Area and find a secluded spot to set up camp. Enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding wilderness and take advantage of the nearby hiking trails. There are sites located along the road leading to the trailhead, with more spots available if you continue driving past the trailhead.
2. Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
Experience the beauty of the Arkansas River at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. Camp along the riverbanks and enjoy activities such as fishing, boating, and hiking. Campsites here are designated, but still first-come, first-serve, and free to use.
3. Marshall Pass Area
Discover the Marshall Pass Area and find a peaceful spot to pitch your tent. Enjoy the serenity of the forested surroundings and explore the nearby trails or climb Mount Ouray, a Centennial 13er that can be summited from the pass. There are few services and little traffic in this remote area: Be prepared to take care of yourself.
Developed Campgrounds Near Salida
If you want a more family-friendly camping option with amenities like drinking water, bathrooms, showers, and picnic tables, consider staying at one of these developed campgrounds in the area.
1. O’Haver Lake Campground
Located about 14 miles west of Salida, O’Haver Lake Campground offers a tranquil escape by a picturesque lake. Known for its fishing and non-motorized boating opportunities, it’s an angler’s paradise, located at 9,200 feet elevation. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and vault toilets. The campground operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, so early arrival is recommended, especially during peak season. However, there are a handful of sites with reservations available. Learn More
2. Salida/Mt Shavano KOA Campground
Just a 10-minute drive from Salida, this KOA campground is perfect for those who want to be near town but still enjoy a natural setting. Known for its excellent RV facilities and family-friendly amenities like a swimming pool and playground, this campground is reservation-based. It’s privately owned and right off the highway, trading privacy and ruggedness for amenities and easy access. Learn More
3. Point Barr Campground
About 16 miles northwest of Salida, Point Barr Campground is ideal for gold panning and riverside camping. The campground is rather basic but includes essential amenities like fire rings and picnic tables. The area operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, and it’s a good pick for those seeking a more rustic experience close to the river. Learn More
4. Salida East Campground
Located just 5 miles east of Salida, this campground is the closest to town and is best known for its easy access to the Arkansas River, making it popular among rafters and kayakers. Amenities are basic, including vault toilets and fire rings. This is a CPW campground and operates on a reservation-only basis. Learn More
5. Hecla Junction Campground
Situated around 15 miles south of Salida near the Browns Canyon National Monument, Hecla Junction Campground is a hotspot for whitewater rafters. The campground offers amenities like grills, picnic tables, and vault toilets. While it is primarily first-come, first-serve, a limited number of sites can be reserved in advance, making it a versatile option for both planners and spontaneous adventurers. Learn More
Things To Do in Salida, Colorado: Now You Know!
As you can see, Salida has something for everyone to enjoy. From its whitewater rapids, ziplining, and 14ers, to relaxing hot springs, trendy art studios, and historic Riverside Park, this small mountain community is a great place to visit and stay.
Have you visited Salida? What did you do during your stay? What were some of your favorite things to do in Salida while you were there? Leave a comment below to share your experiences with our community too. Safe travels on the trails!
Frequently Asked Questions
Check our our answers to some frequently asked questions about the many things to do in Salida, Colorado. If you don’t see an answer to your question, leave a comment below and we will get you more info as soon as possible.
Q: Is Salida Colorado worth visiting?
A: Absolutely, Salida is a gem of a town nestled in the Rocky Mountains and offers a plethora of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, from rafting and kayaking in the Arkansas River to hiking and biking the surrounding trails. It also has a vibrant arts scene, historic downtown, and several hot springs, making it a well-rounded destination for all types of visitors.
Q: What is special about Salida Colorado?
A: Salida is unique for its stunning natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and artsy vibe. Known as the “Heart of the Rockies,” it’s surrounded by several mountain ranges providing ample hiking, mountain biking, and winter sports options. The Arkansas River runs through the town, which is also a hub for whitewater rafting. Furthermore, Salida has a thriving arts community with galleries, live music, and festivals that enrich the local culture.
Q: Can you swim in the Arkansas River in Salida?
A: While the Arkansas River is more popular for rafting and kayaking, swimming is also possible in designated areas. However, it’s crucial to note that the river can have strong currents and variable water levels, depending on the season. Always exercise caution and consider water conditions before diving in.
Q: Is Salida bigger than Buena Vista?
A: Yes, Salida is larger both in terms of population and geographic area compared to Buena Vista. It also offers a wider variety of amenities, including more dining and lodging options, which might be more appealing to visitors looking for a range of activities and amenities.
Q: Is Salida a mountain town?
A: Yes, Salida is quintessentially a mountain town. Located in the Rocky Mountains, it sits at an elevation of about 7,083 feet and is surrounded by peaks, forests, and the Arkansas River. Its mountain-town charm is evident in its architecture, local businesses, and outdoor recreational activities.
Q: What mountain ranges are near Salida CO?
A: Salida is surrounded by several mountain ranges, including the Sawatch Range, which contains numerous 14,000-foot peaks, and the Sangre de Cristo Range, known for its dramatic, rugged peaks. These mountain ranges provide a scenic backdrop and are the primary playground for outdoor activities.
Q: Is it better to stay in Salida or Buena Vista?
A: The “better” place to stay depends on your interests. Salida offers more variety in terms of dining, lodging, and arts, while Buena Vista is a smaller town that provides quicker access to some outdoor activities like rafting in Browns Canyon. Both towns have their own charm and are close enough that you could easily visit both during your trip.
Q: How many 14ers are near Salida?
A: Salida is close to numerous 14ers, especially those in the Sawatch Range. Within about an hour’s drive, you can access at least fifteen 14,000-foot peaks, including Mt. Princeton, Mt. Antero, and Mt. Shavano. These offer a variety of hiking and climbing challenges suitable for various skill levels, making Salida a basecamp dream for peak baggers.