Ever fanaticized what it would be like to take a trip to the Wild West? To journey to a place where cottonwood trees grow like massive arms from the banks of the Arkansas River and the snow-covered peaks of the Sawatch Range highlight the arid landscape? Take a drive down Main Street in Buena Vista (or BV) one time and you’ll get all of this. The San Isabel National Forest and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area surround BV, so you’ll need to bring your bike, boat, and running stuff, because this place has it all.
The Numbers section of the Arkansas River is deemed the best Class IV run in the state of Colorado, and arguably the country. This big wave, hole dodging, thrill ride will weave you through a stunning western landscape at the foot of the Collegiate Range. Take HWY 24 from Buena Vista towards Leadville for approximately 14 miles to access the put-in. You can also slide into the river one mile below the AVA’s Rafting Post in Granite. Either park a car at the Railroad Bridge, six miles downstream, or just float the 11 miles back to Buena Vista hitting the Class III Fraction’s section as well. Tight channels, steep drops, and quick moves make this a classic summertime run.
The outstanding scenery, clear skies, and “Wild West” feel beg for a night spent under the stars. BLM land surrounds the town making the possibilities for a (free)backcountry camping endless. Look up CO 304 when you go. You can find small primitive car camping spots dispersed along the length of the road. The camp spots are situated above the town and stare at Mount Princeton. You won’t even need to drive your vehicle into town the next day because singletrack connects downtown to CO 304.
The eateries are plentiful in Buena Vista. Start the morning with a coffee from Buena Vista Coffee Roasters. The WiFi connection is strong so you can work here all day if need be. The breakfast burritos are a town favorite, especially right before a ride or paddle. When you are finished running around for the day head over to the Rock House for amazing sandwiches or their signature bowls. If you’re craving a beer with your dinner and want an awesome wood-fired pizza, head to Eddyline Brewery in South Main.