A Weekend Guide to Salida – The Heart of the Rockies

Photo courtesy of Amigo Motor Lodge on Facebook

Whether you live in Denver, Boulder or are visiting from out of state, there are so many cool towns in Colorado to spend a day — or two or three. The usual suspects being Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride to name a few — but there are some lesser-known ones that are worth a stay.

Less than three hours southwest of Denver and 30 minutes south of Buena Vista sits the town of Salida. It’s just over two square miles wide but packed with things to do. Situated on the Arkansas River, surrounded by huge mountains and open spaces, it hosts a plethora of outdoor activities. The river is right on the edge of town, making water activities extremely accessible. Bike paths are just a stone’s throw away as well. There are honestly countless outdoor activities to do in and around Salida.

And within the town center, there are tons of vintage shops, art galleries, boutiques and great places to eat. It also has a somewhat old western vibe with buildings intact from the late 1890s. The mountain views are spectacular, too.

If you want to score some awesome art and vintage, eat some good food and be outdoorsy — Salida should satisfy. Check out our guide below.

Where to Stay

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Plenty of lodging options are available in and around Salida — but our favorite is the Amigo Motor Lodge. It’s a renovated ’50s motel, turned modern motel paradise. The room before the front desk area is adorned with plants and hanging chairs and is full of clothing items and goods for sale. Rooms are equipped with Tuft & Needle mattresses, Baltic birch bed frames and LED TVs. In addition to the rooms, you can rent one of two Airstream trailers on the lot. And there are two fun hang out spots outside for optimal relaxation. Make sure to book in advance because the rooms go fast.

In the heart of downtown, the Palace Hotel established in 1909 and located one block from the river, is both elegant and convenient. It has since been renovated and includes a continental breakfast, free wi-fi and other amenities. And there’s always camping for the outdoorsy folks, with a couple of nearby campgrounds like O’Haver Lake and Heart of the Rockies.

What to Do

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On the edge of downtown is the Arkansas River where you can find people doing all sorts of water activities. River Runners Salida offers river tubes, inflatable kayaks and SUP board rentals ranging from $18 to $35. You can literally just hop in the water which is just a few feet away. Guided whitewater rafting tours are available as well.

Rent a bike from Absolute Bikes to cruise around town or challenge yourself on one of the many nearby trails. One of the closest routes is the Tenderfoot Trail System just across the river and only nine miles round trip. If you’re into more challenging rides, Absolute Bikes also offers shuttles to Monarch Crest and Cottonwood Trail. Another bike shop, Salida Bike Co. provides local resources, bike repair classes and sells bikes and bike apparel.

As for hiking, there are tons of nearby trails ranging from easy to difficult. The area has the highest concentration of fourteeners in the lower United States — 15 to be exact. For something easy, try Waterdog Lakes Trail which is three miles round-trip, for pretty views and fishing. If you’re into difficult hikes, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness has more than a dozen trailheads to choose from. And for gear and hiking tips, check out Salida Mountain Sports downtown.

If you want to soak your overworked bones, Mountain Princeton Hot Springs is down the road in Nathrop and has three soaking pools and a natural creekside hot spring. Lodging is available and the hot springs stay open late night for stargazing. And if you’re in town during the winter, Monarch Mountain in downtown Salida offers lift tickets and gear for all of the nearby ski trails.

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Shopping. The whole of the downtown area is just a few blocks wide, but it’s jam-packed with awesome shopping. For vintage, Ruby Blues has a variety of jeans, band shirts, boots, jean jackets and old-school tees to choose from. A few doors down, Fay and Maye has a small selection of modern home and self-care goods as well as accessories.

If you enjoy a nice cup of coffee, while simultaneously shopping — Howl Mercantile & Coffee is your one-stop-shop. Grab some caffeine at the counter then browse its large selection of goodies. It’s got nice bags, belts, coffee mugs, jewelry, herbal elixirs, home decorations and more. But if you’re more of an edgy character, Corvus Clothing & Curiosities is worth a stop. Corvus is much like Hot Topic but it’s better curated being that it’s an independent shop. If you need a creepy mask or a tarot reading, this is your spot.

Art. If you’re the artsy type, you’re in luck because Salida has lots of it. A must stop is artist Zoe Rayor’s, Curioddity Gallery — a shop full of her own colorful and feminine illustration prints, photography prints, apparel and accessories for sale. If you want some music with your art, Sutty’s Records & Arts is a boutique record store that also carries a good selection of contemporary art pieces. And for your creepy monster sculpture needs — The Bungled Jungle is strange but fun to browse.

Where to Eat & Drink

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Breakfast. For something lite, Cafe Dawn is a coffee shop offering lattes, bagels and other baked goods. In addition, it’s got an adorable patio with great mountain views. If you’re in need of a big breakfast, Shallots has an extravagant brunch menu with items like the smoked salmon benedict ($16) and the enchiladas & eggs ($13).

Lunch. On Hwy 50, FiftyBurger is a burger and ramen restaurant, situated in what used to be a Burger King.  If that’s not convincing enough, it also has a large list of big snacks, salads and a full bar. Downtown, Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop offers 60 artisan sandwiches, hefty salads and a gluten-free bread option. And for the health-conscious — Manipura Juice Company is your spot for big smoothies and cold-pressed juices.

Dinner. If you want some lovely riverside and mountain views, try the Boathouse Cantina. The menu consists of seafood dishes, burgers and more — and uses organic and local produce. Another great option is Amica’s Pizza, which has a cute sidewalk patio and an impressive pizza and pasta menu. If you’re a foodie, the Fritz offers fancy dishes like duck cilantro sausage ($9) and mussels & fries ($14).

Bars. In need of wine and dessert? The Biker and the Baker specialize in both. It’s got pie, cookies, cupcakes, lots of wine and a few draft beers. But the best part is the floral walls and yellow ’70s-style bar stools. If you’re into whiskey and gin, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery’s tasting room is a chill, popular hangout. And as for beer, Elevation Beer Co. is just down the road in Poncha Springs, and it’s got a very diverse selection of beers.


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