Choose your own autumn adventure in Chaffee County! Autumn brings spectacular color to the Rocky Mountains. Aspen trees turn golden between mid-September and mid-October, depending on temperatures and elevation. Anytime is a good time to visit Chaffee County, but if color is what you want, autumn in Chaffee is your best bet.
Start this day on top of Monarch Pass with a few hours of ski touring. As always, it’s best to practice safe backcountry protocols and travel with a partner. Around Monarch Pass you can find open bowls, gladed tree runs, and tight chutes for those so inclined. Take off around noon before the snow turns to slush and you find yourself postholing.
With your climbing gear in the trunk and your duckie strapped to the roof-rack, head up to Buena Vista and check into the Trailhead for route maps and any extra gear you may need. The Four Mile Recreation Area offers a multitude of rock faces with both sport and multi pitch trade routes to climb. Enjoy the incredible views while pushing your limits to the max.
The few hours that are left in the day are perfect for a quick mellow duckie trip to Salida. This section is less than 10 miles long and travels past picturesque ranch and farmland, lush riparian zones, and expansive views of the surrounding mountains. Once in Salida, enjoy a well-deserved dinner at one of the many fine restaurants.
Go places that most people will never see when you travel by Jeep, ATV, or dirt bike. Spend the day fishing in crystal-clear alpine lakes or prospecting for gold in a mountain stream. Explore abandoned ghost towns or the nation’s highest concentration of 14,000ft peaks. Reach remote vistas for breathtaking views of autumn’s golden colors.
Before the sun sets, head back to town and drop a line in the Arkansas River near the Buena Vista River Park. During early Spring, the runoff from snowmelt hasn’t quite started yet, creating an ideal situation for catching fish in the cool clear pools and eddies that line the river. Practice your casting technique while recounting the awesome day you just had.
Challenge yourself and your friends and family to a fun series of catwalks, bridges, trapezes, ladders, hanging skateboards and much more. Courses are high above the ground, yet you’re secured with harnesses, belts, and safety lines.
Start off the day by heading up to Monarch Mountain Ski Area. This gem in the rough stays open until mid April thanks to its high elevation and big snowpack. Its not uncommon for the area to have a 70” inch base on closing day, which means that most runs will be open with plenty of coverage to ski or ride on until the very end of the season.
While the west side of the valley is still covered in tons of snow, the east side is drying out and perfect for spinning your wheels in the dirt. Start at the F Street bridge in downtown Salida, cross the railroad tracks, and head up the Frontside Trail to the top of Tenderfoot Hill. There you’ll find miles of narrow singletrack with amazing views of 14,000ft mountains across the valley.
After a couple of hours of mountain biking head up to Fisherman’s Bridge in Nathrop and drop your raft into the Arkansas River. Spring snowmelt causes the water levels on the river to rise each day in Browns Canyon. This stretch of class 3 and 4 rapids will test your skills as you cruise through a landscape of towering walls, rock outcroppings, and curious wildlife.