March madness? How to slam-dunk a guys’ weekend trip to Salida
Although nearby Monarch Ski Resort gets hit regularly with serious powder, the Arkansas River Valley floor (and the outdoorsy towns of Salida and Buena Vista) are blessed with a temperate mini-climate locals call Colorado’s “banana belt.” That means big outdoor fun—fly fishing, hiking, cycling, even mountain biking—can be had all through winter and early spring.
So don’t wait: recruit a few of your favorite partners-in-crime and make your spring weekend escape from March Madness.
Here are 5 trip highlights you and your crew won’t want to miss:
1. Cast Your Line in the Mighty Arkansas
The 102-mile stretch of the Arkansas River from Cañon City to Leadville boasts extensive public access and was recently designated a Gold Medal Fishing Area, reflecting massive restoration efforts in recent decades. Even in February, subsurface nymph fishing can be quite good. Come mid-March, mayfly and other hatches ensure this trout fishery (75% brown, 25% rainbow) is in peak form.
Do this: Call Ark Anglers (719-539-4223), with shops in both Salida and Buena Vista, to book a guided half or full day of wading or float fishing. Owner Greg Felt and his experienced local guides will teach you how to read the river’s structure and shoreline to locate the wild browns.
2. Tour Local Breweries & Distilleries
Thanks to a thriving local beverage scene, your cup will literally runneth over during your stay. You owe it to yourself to make the rounds in Salida, Buena Vista and nearby Poncha Springs to sample the unique handcrafted elixirs.
Do this: In Salida’s historic red-brick downtown district, stop by Woods’ High Mountain Distillery’s cozy tasting room for a killer cocktail made with their small-batch gin and whiskey. Then sample house-brewed ales and stouts with truly stellar pizza at Moonlight Pizza and Brew Pub. Head to Buena Vista to Eddyline Brewery Taproom for10+ fresh beers on tap, wood-fired pizza, and other tasty eats. At the family-owned Deerhammer Distilling Company on Main Street, you can sip American-style artisan whiskey. Be sure to drive or bike to beautiful Poncha Springs and tour Elevation Beer Co.’s brewery, or just sample their award-winning beers. When the weather’s good, a food truck dishes out gourmet eats right outside.
3. Celebrate Springs on the Slopes
An easy drive from Salida, Monarch Mountain is a hidden gem that often offers nice snow through its closing date in mid-April. The locals like to have fun, as evidenced by Kayaks on Snow, the area’s signature event on March 29. For a $10 entry fee, contestants race down a bermed and bumped-out course to an icy finish line.
Do this: Call Monarch Cat Skiing (719-530-5105) to book a snow cat trip in their 1,000-acre steep, closely treed terrain. Trips run through early April as conditions permit. If that’s not in the cards, you can still ski or board most of the mountain through Closing Day festivities on April 13.
4. Unwind With a Hot Springs Soak
To soothe your sore muscles, take your choice of local hot springs, all fed by odorless geothermal water (i.e., no stinky sulfur). Convenient to town, Salida Hot Springs Pool boasts a 6-lane pool along with a hot soaking pool. Near Buena Vista are both the renowned Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort and the more rustic, lovely Cottonwood Hot Springs.
Do this: Book a day pass to the club and spa facilities at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort. Soak in rock-lined eddies along the Chalk River itself, then do laps between the club’s steam room, sauna, and hot and cold plunge pools. Release any remaining tension with an Arkansas River Hot Stone massage and do lunch on the patio. You can even book a cabin or lodge room overnight, so you can soak all over again, under the remarkably bright mountain stars.
5. Refuel at Great Local Eateries
Breweries and distilleries arent the only establishments experiencing a renaissance in Salida and Buena Vista. Long after the weekend is over, you’ll find yourself craving some of the amazing food you ate here. Local restaurants are affordable and range from dive bars to ethnic to fine cuisine.
Do this: In downtown Salida, soak up the local ambiance in classic bars Benson’s Tavern and Victoria’s (a.k.a. Vic’s). Then head to The Fritz for delicious tapas and a friendly local crowd. Or be wowed by the Napa-inspired fresh seafood specialties at the chef-owned Laughing Ladies. If you’re craving comfort food, 216 Ferraro’s offers fresh housemade pasta, steak, Italian wines, and homemade desserts. For breakfast, Brown Dog Coffee hits the spot, in both Salida and Buena Vista. Other don’t-miss spots in BV include the Lariat for bacon cheeseburgers and The Asian Palette.