Salida Offers a Package of Surprises

If you enjoy visiting smaller towns, Salida, Colorado, might be the perfect spot for you to enjoy a vacation. The area offers beautiful scenery while you are bordered on all sides by mountains. In 2017 Salida was named the “Best Unsung Mountain Town” by Outside Magazine. Despite its small population of fewer than 6,000 people, the Matador Network named it as one of the “9 U.S Destinations to Visit” in 2018.

The History of Salida

When the town was first settled, it was named “South Arkansas.” This was when the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reached the area in 1880. It was later given the name of Salida (meaning ‘departure’ in Spanish). This was to represent the gateway to the Arkansas River Canyon. 

By then, Salida had grown to a whopping 300 people. The downtown area burned down twice, first in 1886 and again in 1888. Businesses rebuilt using the beautiful brick that can be seen to this day. The National Historic Register recognized and recorded the town on June 14, 1984. Through the years, Salida has hosted Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, Harry Truman, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt which was quite a feat for such a small township. It eventually became the county seat of Chaffee County. No one is surprised that this small mountain town is known as a hub of tourism, industry, and transportation in the region. 

Winter Activities

Salida has an elevation of just over 7,000 feet and is a collection of “fourteeners” – these are Colorado’s 58 mountain peaks, which each exceed 14,000 feet. Colorado takes pride that they have the most of any state. The variety of peaks make for excellent skiing, offering levels from beginners to some of the most challenging slopes you can tackle.

The area offers several ski areas. The more popular slopes include Monarch Mountain, which offers skiing, snowboarding, and a variety of winter sports. Another favorite spot is Buena Vista, where snow enthusiasts can enjoy snowshoeing and cross- country skiing.  If you do not own any ski gear to fly through the snow, there are several shops where you can rent skis and other equipment.

Hiking Trails

Many tourists enjoy the numerous hiking trails where they can explore the beautiful scenery, wildlife, and overall beauty of the area. Salida offers 17 hiking trails, which range from 0.4 to 20.9 miles in length. The variety of trails requires a little research before setting off on a hike. There are several things you should contemplate: if it is a long hike, you need to consider the time you leave and determine if you can return before sundown. 

You also should assess your food and water supply. If you are in a group, you should know that everyone can be successful in completing the hike. You might want to consider some of the more popular trails. These include The Colorado Trail, the Chalk Creek Trailhead, and Sargents Mesa. 

Places to Eat

When hunger pains strike, you can be assured there will be an eatery within reach. More than 50 restaurants will allow you to find the food you want to fill you up. If you’re going to try something different, The Firefly Restaurant offers a wide selection of Korean food. Currents Steaks & Seafood specialize in what their name implies. Another favorite is the 50 Burger. Aside from a variety of burgers, they also serve rosemary fries and hand made battered onion rings.


If you make reservations in advance, there are homes available through Airbnb and other sites that rent homes. If you choose to stay in a motel or hotel, you have a selection to choose from, and many of them are reasonably priced. 

For example, the Great Western Lodge offers rooms starting at $59 per night, while the Comfort Inn rates start at $85 per night. Prices are always subject to change due to the season and any special events in the area. 

There are also several lodges and suite hotels. You might choose to stay at a campground or in an RV park. Most of these facilities require reservations, so you need to plan in advance.

Other Fun Salida Activities

If you have had your fill of skiing and hiking, there are many other activities to experience in Salida. If you want to enjoy an evening of shock and surprise, you might like the Ghost & Murder Tour. You will learn about the haunted history of Salida as the tour focuses on ghosts and murders. 

The Browns Canyon Whitewater Rafting offers a half-day trip where you can experience a rafting adventure of a lifetime. You can also experience your time visiting different art galleries and museums. There are 17 of these to enjoy. One of the most popular is The Bungled Jungle. Others include The Maverick Potter LLC, the Gallery 150, and the Brodeur Studio Gallery. 

And, of course, you have a variety of shopping opportunities. For a specialized but exciting experience, you might want to visit Bill’s Dart Shop, a unique store offering different sporting goods. 

Weather in Salida

The climate in the area is milder than the other mountainous towns in Colorado. This is due to the “banana belt.” The “belt” has to do with the climate afforded by the surrounding mountain ranges, as well as the interaction of these barriers with weather patterns. The annual high temperature in Salida is 62F while the low is 28F. The area receives an average rainfall of 9.52 inches per year. The total amount of annual snowfall is 43 inches. 

Where to Go From Salida

If you decide to visit this charming little town, you can also take side trips to Colorado Springs, which is only 67 miles away or Denver, which is 99 miles. However, as most people choose to do, once you settle in, you will want to stay put and enjoy all that Salida, CO has to offer.