Published with permission from the guide book: Mellow Mountain Trails Hiking Guide to Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley
by Nathan Ward.
Barbara Whipple Trail
Established in 1991, the Barbara Whipple Trail is a popular, historical hike with interpretive signs telling about the olden days in the valley. Starting from the Buena Vista River Park, the trail loops up from the river to the old Midland Railroad grade and back down to the river. It passes through dry, desert-like terrain with pinion pines, cactus and huge views of the big peaks to the west. You will see hikers, kayakers and cyclists enjoying the River Park during the summer.
Barbara Whipple (1920-1989) was a local artist who founded the Chaffee County Council on the Arts. She loved nature and her art reflected a connection with the natural world. Barbara especially enjoyed the Arkansas hills just east of the river, so the City of Buena Vista and the BLM honored her by naming the trail after her when they developed the river park.
Location: Downtown Buena Vista
Distance: 2.1 Miles – Loop
Hiking Time: 1-2 Hours
Best Months: Year-Round
Trail Type: Singletrack
Dog Friendly: Yes – Dogs must be on a leash.
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 8,002; High Point 8,271; Climbs/Descends 388
Land Status: BLM, City of Buena Vista River Park
Maps: Trails Illustrated #129
Note: This trail can be hot in summer so go early or late in the day.
0.0 Trailhead – Begin at the kiosk near the Arkansas River/Steam Plant. The kiosk gives you some interesting facts about the Arkansas River. Turn around and head south on the paved trail. The Steam Plant Theater and Conference Center is on your right – it once housed a 1000-kilowatt steam generator and provided electricity to Salida from 1892 to 1958. Elevation 7,121 ft. (N38°32.28, W105°59.49)
.04 Cross Sackett Street – as a pedestrian you have the right-of-way, but most drivers here don’t know this. Watch for vehicles on all street crossings during this hike.
.06 On the right is the AHRA headquarters and it’s worth visiting to learn more about the Upper Arkansas River Valley.
0.1 Cross First Street.
0.2 Cross Second Street.
0.3 Cross Third Street. If you wish, walk to the right here a few yards to visit Monarch Spur Park. The flowers and trees are native to this area. The park is named after the Monarch Spur railroad line, which once ran along this trail.
0.4 Cross Fifth Street. Note the trail sign. This trail is funded by the Colorado State Parks and the City of Salida.
0.6 Cross Seventh Street. Look for the “Angel of Shavano” on Mount Shavano (14,229 ft.) several miles to the northwest. You can see this snow formation in the spring or late fall.
0.7 Rest on a bench on the right of the trail.
0.8 Note the structure to the right. What is the origin of this?
0.9 The apple tree on the right produces nice apples every year. Tasty.
1.2 Cross Holman Avenue. The trail here is lined with Russian Olive Trees, a non-native species.
1.7 Bench on the left.
2.0 End of the best part of the trail. You can continue on a bit farther to Walmart (N38°31.63, W 106°01.45)
Turn around and go back the same way to the river. The small mountain on your left as you travel back is Tenderfoot Mountain, or “S Mountain” as the locals call it. In the winter, it’s decorated to look like a giant Christmas tree. No kidding.
4.0 Back at the trailhead.
We want you to have a safe and enjoyable trip into Colorado’s backcountry. Be prepared it could be a long walk out. Be sure to read this list of equipment you should bring on your ride along with tips to make your biking trip more enjoyable.
The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.
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