8 Cash-free Ways to Enjoy Mountain Town Adventures

Okay, so everyone knows by now there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But guess what – there are free adventures and experiences everywhere when you know where to look. So buy your own lunch but enjoy our best ‘freebie’ experiences.



1. Scenic Drives and Views 

Take a drive up Spiral Road to the summit of Tenderfoot Mountain (a.k.a. ‘S’ Mountain) for the best birds-eye view of Salida. Or go up Monarch Pass for a scenic splendor of peaks and valleys and a glimpse of the old historic Madonna Mine. In the fall, it’s positively glowing with Aspen gold. You’ll see Monarch Mountain Ski Area, one of the country’s oldest ski and snowboard resorts. Stop where Monarch Pass tops out at 11,312 feet at the Continental Divide and take in the incredible 360-degree mountain vistas. Also cruise on the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway.


2. Play in the Park 

Browse the Farmer’s Market in Alpine Park in central Salida or meander down to Riverside Park and enjoy this gorgeous green/play space. Stroll the river walk to bask in the positive ions of the Arkansas River. Enjoy plenty of free live music concerts and summer festivals, too. Or just off Hwy 50, relax at Centennial Park. Skaters can ride all day at the Salida Skate Park downtown, too. Then there’s Salida Whitewater Park, a vibrant area on the Arkansas River featuring a river course and two play holes for kayakers. The banks are the ideal Rocky Mountain beach.


3. Climb a Mountain

‘Bag a 14er’ on the magnificent summits nearest to Salida. These impressive peaks over 14,000 feet in the southern Sawatch Range include Mt. Shavano, Mount Antero, Tabeguache Peak, and Huron Peak. These intense destination peaks take an investment in training but not in any fees. Because of the close concentration of these summits, it is possible to do several in one quick trip – if you’ve got the legs and lungs for it.


4. Hike and Bike

Whether on wheels or in hiking boots, you’ll love discovering the vast system of trails in and around Salida. Explore the Salida Mountain Trails and Arkansas Hills Trails across the river from historic downtown. Or take the Methodist Mountain Trail System and Rainbow Trails on the south side.  Salida also has great paved walking and biking paths winding around town.  Or get more ambitious and take a high-altitude trek on the renowned Monarch Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail.


5. Fest-It-Up

It’s a party and you’re invited! Plan a trip around one of Salida’s epic free festivals. Celebrate Americana music at the Bluegrass on the Arkansas fest every Memorial Day weekend in Riverside Park. Or experience a kayak-fest like no other – Fibark Whitewater Festival every Father’s Day weekend.  Fibark stands for ‘First in Boating on the Arkansas’ and includes Olympic-caliber kayak competition, a raft rodeo, a world-class music fest, a parade, epic runs and bike races; and more. We also have free admission to the Chaffee County Fair and Rodeo and don’t miss the Christmas Mountain tree lighting this holiday season, too!


6. Window Shop Artsy-Style

Browsing is free (and inspiring!) in Colorado’s first official Creative Arts District in downtown Salida. Known as “the biggest little art town in Colorado,” Salida has about 20 unique artist-owned and operated galleries and studios. This vibrant hub of creativity is full of one-of-a-kind offerings and unexpected delights. Celebrate creativity during the Second Saturday Art Walks and Gallery Tours. Plan your visit around one of Art Festivals, too, including the annual Salida ArtWalk in June, as well as the Salida Arts Festival, Salida Riverside Fine Arts Festival and Salida Fiber Festival.


7. Get Off The Grid

Getting off-the-grid is good for the soul. Use our backcountry as your hub amidst your other adventures. Yes, you can lay your head down and camp for the night – for free – in our public lands. It’s a backpacker’s dream to find a place where the remote Bureau of Land Management acreage welcomes primitive camping. Grab a map to identify which areas are accessible to under-the-stars camping. There’s room to relax in the Four Mile Recreation Area, too. And the star show at night? Yup, that’s free too. Take it all in.


8. Trout Stuff 

See where the circle-of-life begins for Colorado trout with a free and fascinating visit to the Mt. Shavano Fish Hatchery. Start at the Visitor’s Center to check out the exhibits and watch the educational video to learn how trout are raised. These are the trout that are born to stock the high mountain streams and lakes.