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Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado

Hiking & Backpacking

Rimmed by the mighty Sawatch, Mosquito and Sangre de Cristo mountains, Chaffee County is a breathtaking place to get outdoors. Like sentinels lining the horizon to the west, Sawatch peaks dominate the Upper Arkansas Valley. Running some 100 miles, from south of Salida to north of Leadville, 15 of Colorado’s 58 14,000-foot peaks rise in the Sawatch. The range features four of the state’s five tallest peaks including Mount Elbert, at 14,440 feet the state’s highest and second only to California’s14,505-foot Mount Whitney in the lower 48. The Collegiate Peaks – five mountains named after colleges – are included in the Sawatch. View Interactive Hiking Map

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Hiking & Backpacking In Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado

Rimmed by the mighty Sawatch, Mosquito and Sangre de Cristo mountains, Chaffee County is a breathtaking place to get outdoors. Like sentinels lining the horizon to the west, Sawatch peaks dominate the Upper Arkansas Valley. Running some 100 miles, from south of Salida to north of Leadville, 15 of Colorado’s 58 14,000-foot peaks rise in the Sawatch. The range features four of the state’s five tallest peaks including Mount Elbert, at 14,440 feet the state’s highest and second only to California’s14,505-foot Mount Whitney in the lower 48. The Collegiate Peaks – five mountains named after colleges – are included in the Sawatch. View Interactive Hiking Map

hiking photo op

Leave No Trace

Boreal Toad, the 200+ year old Krumholtz fir trees at timberline, and an extensive list of aquatic and land species? Follow these guidelines to help keep these creatures and plants thriving, and ensure other backcountry adventurers have a positive experience:

  • Do not collect firewood for campfires
  • Camp 200 feet from any water source and 100 feet from any trail
  • Use existing backcountry campsites, and make sure you are camping on durable surfaces

Pack it in, Pack it out

Pack out your trash and human waste. Our local gear stores carry human waste bags. We all appreciate not seeing the invasive non-native toilet paper flowers and what is underneath

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Experiences

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Hiking and climbing at 14,000 feet is no joke

Do Your Research

Most of the fourteener routes involve Class 2 scrambling or climbing. Only a few fourteeners have hiking routes to the summit. Determine your route based on your ability and others in your group. Roads to the trailhead can oftentimes be a journey on their own, so make sure your vehicle can safely travel to the trailhead. Check the weather forecast ahead of time and plan appropriately.

Make a Plan

Summertime in Colorado’s high country means afternoon thunderstorms, so check the weather beforehand, plan an early start, have a group turnaround time, and be back below tree line by noon. Cell service is spotty to non-existent in the backcountry, so plan for alternative communications. Remember, summiting is optional but returning to the trailhead happy and safe is mandatory!

Pack the Right Gear

The old saying goes that if you don’t like the weather in Colorado, then wait five minutes. The weather at 14,000 feet can be radically different than at the trailhead, so make sure your pack includes extra layers, plenty of water, food and the 10 Essentials to get you through an unplanned night.

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The Adventure By Nature Pledge is an outreach and education project supporting outdoor recreation, economic and visitor growth in Chaffee County by encouraging responsible recreation, stewardship principles and best practices for visitors and residents recreating in the outdoors.

We believe that stewardship of the environment is everyone's responsibility. Please help us protect and preserve our home so future generations can enjoy it just as you have.

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Local Trail Systems

Fourmile Travel Management Area

Off Buena Vista’s East Main Street, a foot and bike bridge leads to the Barbara Whipple and Midland trail systems, with routes over and around the Arkansas Hills and into the Fourmile Travel Management Area. West of town are a number of great rides starting with the Colorado Trail among a host of others.

Fourmile Map | Midland Map | Whipple Map

Salida Mountain Trails

In Salida, mountain bikers have a wide variety of trails to ride right from town on Arkansas Hills or Methodist Mountain trails. Among a multitude of choices outside of town, the famed Monarch Crest Trail starts at the top of Monarch Pass and connections to the Colorado Trail are just off U.S. 50 between Maysville and Garfield.

Arkansas Hills Trail Map | Methodist Mountain Trail Map

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Search and Rescue

Chaffee County has two Search and Rescue organizations. These are all volunteer organizations operating under the direction of the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office. Their mission is to provide search and rescue services, as well as outdoor safety education, at no cost to the public.
Please consider purchasing a COSAR Card to ensure Colorado’s search and rescue teams are reimbursed for your rescue.

Chaffee County
Search and Rescue – North
P.O. Box 1671
Buena Vista, CO 81211
ChaffeeCountySARnorth.org

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Chaffee County
Search and Rescue – South
P.O. Box 313
Poncha Springs, CO 81242
ChaffeeSARsouth.org

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National Trail Systems

Colorado has 58 mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet — more than any other state in the country

The Sawatch Range consists of 15 peaks of 14,000 feet or more, including Mt. Elbert at 14,440 feet, the highest in Colorado and second highest in the lower 48 states. The Sawatch Range rises over 7,000 feet from the valley floor to the top of the Continental Divide.

Sawatch Range Thirteeners

(Peaks over 13,000 feet or 4,000 Meters in elevation)​

Sawatch Range Fourteeners

(Peaks over 14,000 feet or 5,000 Meters in elevation)

Hiking Trails

Boss Lake

Boss Lake is a small reservoir set in a crown of thick forests. It’s a beautiful spot for a…

Midland Trail

The Midland Trail offers a pleasant hike that is fairly flat and follows the old Midland Railroad…

Alpine Tunnel

This hike follows the old railroad grade from the ghost town of Hancock to the East Portal of the…

Poplar Gulch

Poplar Gulch lies just outside historic Saint Elmo, a photogenic ghost town with many original…