Hiking

Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado

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Sawatch Mountain Range Colorado

Sawatch Mountain Range

Running from north of Leadville to southwest of Salida, 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 Collegiate Peaks, named after five famous universities, are a part of the range.

Mosquito Mountains

Mosquito Mountain Range

Alpine tundra, adjoining forests and rare plant species are found in this area northeast of Buena Vista. The Mosquito Range features five fourteeers: Lincoln, Bross, Democrat, Cameron and Sherman. It is also home to the highest vehicle route in the country, Mosquito Pass, cresting at 13,185 feet.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

Running south from Poncha Springs to Santa Fe, New Mexico. This portion of the Rocky Mountains is the southernmost subrange.

A wilderness area and multiple 14,000-foot peaks are located here, as well as the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

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.

Interactive Hiking Map

Will you be camping while visiting Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado?

Please allow us to share some important hiking tips.

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.

 

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

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.

 

The Ten Essentials

1. Navigation (map, compass, GPS, extra batteries)

2. Insulation (Weather protection; rain pants/jacket, extra clothes, hat, gloves, large plastic bag, no cotton )

3. Illumination (two) headlamp, flashlight, extra batteries)

4. Personal Protection – sunscreen, first aid, medications, clear/dark glasses, bug repellent

5. Fire (waterproof matches, fire starter, saw, knife,)

6. Signaling Devices – cell phone w backup battery charger, mirror, whistle

7. Repair kit and tools (specific to the adventure and season)

8. Nutrition (extra food for 24 hour, high calorie, won’t freeze or spoil)

9. Hydration (extra water, means to filter or purification tablets)

10. Emergency shelter (reflective waterproof tarp, bivy sack, extra large leaf bag, cord)

The Adventure By Nature pledge

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.

 

Take The Pledge & Get A Free Discovery Pass

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

Salida Mountain Trails

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

 

 

 

 

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

Visitor Photos Hiking Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado

National Trail Systems

Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail stretches 486 miles from Denver to Durango. Trail users experience six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges topping out at 13,271 feet, just below Coney Summit at 13,334 feet. The average elevation is over 10,000 feet and it rises and falls dramatically. Users traveling from Denver to Durango climb 89,354 feet. The Chaffee County section is popular with day and overnight hikers alike.

The Colorado Trail Foundation


Colroado Trail

Continental Divide Trail

Continental Divide Trail

The Continental Divide separates the rivers and streams that flow eastward into the Atlantic Ocean from those that flow westward to the Pacific.

The portion of the Continental Divide in the United States is about 3,000 miles long – from Glacier National Park in Montana, south through the Rocky Mountains, to the Mexico border in southwest New Mexico.

The Sawatch Range segment in Chaffee County follows the flanks of Colorado’s highest peaks, with nice stretches above timberline in portions of the Holy Cross, Mount Massive, and Collegiate Peaks wilderness areas.

Continental Divide Trail Coalition


American Discovery Trail

The Colorado Trail stretches 486 miles from Denver to Durango. Trail users experience six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges topping out at 13,271 feet, just below Coney Summit at 13,334 feet. The average elevation is over 10,000 feet and it rises and falls dramatically. Users traveling from Denver to Durango climb 89,354 feet. The Chaffee County section is popular with day and overnight hikers alike.

American Discovery Trail Society

American Discovery Trail

BE PREPARED

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.

 

LEARN MORE

TRAIL ETIQUETTE

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.

 

LEARN MORE

CORSAR CARD

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.

 

BUY COSAR CARD

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 FOURTEENERS

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

SAWATCH RANGE THIRTEENERS

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


Care for Colorado – Are You Colo-Ready?