Choose your own spring adventure in Chaffee County! Our unique “Banana Belt” climate provides the perfect opportunity to plan a multi-sport day. Whether you want to play in the snow, the dirt, or the water, spring in Chaffee County has you covered.
Start off the day by heading up to Monarch Mountain Ski Area. This gem in the rough stays open until mid April thanks to it’s high elevation and big snowpack. Its not uncommon for the area to have a 70” inch base on closing day. What this means is that most every run will be open with plenty of coverage to ski or ride on. Don’t miss the Kayaks On Snow event held each April. Have a tasty lunch at the Sidewinder Saloon and head on down the pass for part two.
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. This scenario brings bike enthusiasts from surrounding mountain towns still covered in snow to Chaffee County where the trails are high and dry. 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. A network of stacked loops provide miles of narrow singletrack with amazing views of fourteen thousand foot 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 creating exciting whitewater opportunities in Browns Canyon. This stretch of class 3 and 4 rapids will test your skills of navigation as you cruise through a landscape of towering walls, rock outcroppings, and curious wildlife. End your day at the Hecla Junction or Stone Bridge takeouts.
Pack up the sleds first thing in the morning and head up Chalk Creek Canyon past Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort to the road closure. A groomed trail system will take you past the well preserved ghost town of St. Elmo and several other mining sites. Stop awhile and check out the historical buildings before continuing up to Tin Cup Pass or the Alpine Tunnel. Views abound up here so be sure to take a camera and maybe even a picnic lunch.
After zipping over snow covered trails deep in the wilderness, its time to break out the dirtbike or ATV and ride dirt. Start this portion of the adventure in downtown Buena Vista and the gateway to the Four Mile Recreation Area. Miles and miles of dirt roads wind in and out of sandy washes and past rocky outcroppings perfect for gaining views of the Continental Divide. While exploring, be sure to check out the historic remains of the Spanish Mill and the railroad grades and tunnels of the long gone Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.
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.
Start this day on top of Monarch Pass with a few hours of ski touring. Typically the snowpack has started to consolidate by now creating a less hazardous environment to play in. Even still, its 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. Access is fairly straight forward and most of the time you can ski right back to your car. 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 trad routes to climb. The rocks are warm and dry and provide an ideal situation for climbing with friends. 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. Start at the Big Bend put in off of County Road 165. 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. Carefully navigate past the low head dam using the engineered boat chute on river left before continuing the journey onto downtown Salida. Use the Coors boat ramp to exit then enjoy a well deserved dinner at one of the many fine restaurants in Salida.