Salida: Heart of the Rockies
Article and photo by Julie Matuszewski; photos by Lynn Zahorik
Nestled in the middle of Colorado is the town of Salida. Known as the “Heart of the Rockies,” this small mountain town attracts visitors with its charm and year-round outdoor life. Its appeal comes without all of the hustle and bustle of a popular mountain resort or the I-70 traffic. Offering world-class fly fishing on the Arkansas River, whitewater rafting and the highest concentration of 14ers in Colorado, Salida is an outdoor paradise with a mild climate – making it the perfect play and staycation destination in Colorado any month of the year.
Castle Pines residents Steve and Stephanie Hron invested in Salida property years ago, as they too were attracted to the town’s charm, and all it had to offer. Stephanie said, “It’s our little slice of ‘Mayberry’ and our home away from home.”
With the foliage changing vibrant colors, fall is a beautiful time to hike one of the many trails Chaffee County has to offer. Browns Canyon, Colorado’s newest national monument, is centered along the Arkansas River just outside of Salida and offers more than 21,000 acres of breathtaking views while backcountry hiking.
For high country mountain biking, the Arkansas Hills trails and the Methodist Mountain loop offer numerous mountain biking trails with some that begin in downtown Salida – a perfect way to view the changing scenery.
When temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall, just 20 miles away from Salida is Monarch Ski Mountain. Monarch offers some of the best snow for skiers and snowboarders. The terrain is varied enough to appeal to skiers and riders at any level. There are several backcountry trails in the surrounding area for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling as well. The perfect ending to a full day on the slopes is a relaxing soak at Salida Hot Springs Pool, the largest indoor hot springs facility in the country.
Established in the 1800s as a stagecoach stop and later as a stop-over for travelers on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, downtown Salida is home to Colorado’s largest National Historic District with 136 preserved buildings. Today, historic downtown Salida is home to several locally owned shops, galleries, breweries, distilleries, restaurants in addition to offering a glimpse into the area’s mining past – providing an excellent way to spend an afternoon during the warmer spring and summer months.
The farmers market opens in June, with shopping from local vendor’s wares. A venture down F Street, the main hub of downtown, is where shops, art galleries and sweet treats are readily available. Old fashion sodas at Salida Pharmacy and Fountain are a favorite. A visit to Vino Salida Wine Cellars is the perfect stop after a day hike to grab a locally sourced lite bite and wine tasting.
The Salida Whitewater Park where tourists join locals and other thrill seekers for kayaking, paddle boarding, rafting offers several manmade features to hone your rafting skills. For those looking for a more relaxing afternoon tubing along the river is also available.
Whether it is the enticing water of the Arkansas River, the thrill of skiing the backcountry, or simply taking in the local art displays, Salida makes a perfect stay-cation and for many offers a home away from home.