collegiate peaks scenic overlook

Your Perfect Weekend Exploring Buena Vista, Colorado

Just a couple hours’ drive from Denver, but a world away, lies one of our favorite little towns of Buena Vista, Colorado. The whitewater rafting capital of Colorado (BV as it’s known by locals), boasts three sections of the Arkansas River we love to raft including Big Bend, Browns Canyon, and the Numbers. Browns Canyon is one of our nation’s newest national monuments, designated by President Obama in February of 2015.

Read more river history in our 2-part series about Brown’s Canyon.
Part I  |  Part II  |  Brown's Canyon Official Website

Rafting and Adventures

First, make your reservation for your rafting adventure with Kodi Rafting. You’ll want to lock down your reservation for a half-day, full-day, or half-day rafting with ziplining, horseback riding or cycling adventure so you can fill in your other perfect weekend activities around the best activity in the valley. We especially like the zip and raft … zipline through the trees in the morning and raft the Arkansas during the warmest part of the afternoon. Want more insight? Call our specialists to pinpoint what will work best for your group at 877-747-RAFT (7238).

 

Camping and Lodging

Now that rafting is booked, where to stay? We love camping, and Buena Vista offers numerous campgrounds from a KOA to dispersed camping and everything in between. Camping Information

Not into sleeping outdoors? One of our favorite rustic lodges is right on the banks of the Arkansas River on 23 tree-covered acres, just one mile from downtown Buena Vista. The highly-rated Buena Vista Riverside Lodge at 30000 County Road 371 offers just 5 rustic-chic rooms, some with whirlpool tubs, which are great after a day on the river. This is the definition of local modern rustic Colorado with a communal game area, a fireplace with amazing views, and a complimentary house-made full breakfast daily from 8-9 AM.

 

Family friendly lodging in the Buena Vista valley with wildlife
Elk wanter through the valley. Photo courtesy of Buena Vista Riverside Lodge.

Sightseeing

Since the views in the BV valley at 8,000 feet are epic and surrounded by 14’ers (14,000+ foot peaks), we love to stop at the collegiate peaks scenic overlook. It’s a landmark pull over on Highway 24, ideal to take some great pictures, and marvel at the majesty of Mt. Princeton and the whole mountain range.

Another fun drive is along the Arkansas River, turning at the put-in for the Numbers section of the river. Cross over the river and drive south along the narrow road. You are very likely to see wildlife, and the stone tunnels will remind you of Road Runner and Wile E Coyote. This is classic Colorado, we hope they never “improve” this road.

 

Quenching Your Hunger and Thirst

We have our favorites and although small, Buena Vista has some fun little places to get a drink and fill the belly! One of our favorites is the Deerhammer Distillery at 321 E Main Street. The cocktails are handcrafted and delicious. Deerhammer is known for the best Sloe Gin Fizz ever, and they distill single malts, bourbon, rye, limited run single barrel spirits including a clear whitewater whiskey that is infinitely drinkable. Get a cocktail, take the tour with said cocktail in hand, mingle with the raft guides and other colorful residents that frequent this local institution. And of course, take home a bottle with a couple of recipes to relive the experience at home after you enjoy their funky little patio.

Another local business focuses on craft brews and layers in the colorful tavern with food and draft beer at its two BV locations. Eddyline Brewery brews and cans their beer right on-site at the taproom location at 102 Linderman Avenue in the center of town. Their second location restaurant is at 926 South Main Street right along the Arkansas River and across from the Buena Vista Whitewater Park – which is an awesome place to watch some of the best kayakers practicing their skills in the new South Main Neighborhood development. Great eats include wood-fired pizzas, burgers, wild game sausage, and delicious salads.

great dining and beer in the Buena Vista valley
Colorful dining room, local art and the best brews in the valley. Photo courtesy of Eddyline Brewery.

 

In the mood for a marg? Try dinner at Casa Sanchez 3 at 314 Charles Street. Their guacamole is terrific, and pair perfectly with the natural margaritas mixed with actual lime juice. The pork dish is perfect to share and the shrimp tacos are a delicious, healthy alternative.

We also love the Simple Eatery at 402 E Main Street. They offer fresh ingredients, locally prepared and earned a coveted #1 restaurant rating on Trip Advisor. Try the beef stroganoff or chicken club sandwich or the bison ravioli with the sage cream sauce. Save room for the carrot-coconut cake! This is an “order at the counter” scene but don’t let that put you off, it gives the staff more time to prepare fresh food to order. Simple Eatery is co-located with spoon it up frozen yogurt and artisan bakery, so you know these folks are into food! They also have a patio for those nice days when you want to be outside.

Kick-Back Experiences

In the summer, we adore the funky little drive-in movie theater in the shadows of Mt. Princeton. The Comanche Drive-In plays first-run films in the middle of a field making for a great throwback experience. Just 3 miles west of BV on Highway 306, they are one of only 8 drive-in theaters remaining in Colorado (and one of only about 300 in the US), and notably at the highest elevation. Thinking back to those grainy films of the ’70s? Not the Comanche – they upgraded to new digital projection in August of 2018 and offer 4k digital clarity along with sound piped in through your car radio or your own portable through FM radio. Of course, popcorn and concessions are for sale – they take cash only, so be prepared! Get up to date film information on their Facebook page.

Our last recommendation for the truly perfect weekend in Buena Vista is to soak in our local hot springs for a soothing, healing, and massively relaxing experience. We love the Mt Princeton Hot Springs with their odorless hot springs bubbling out of the ground at 140F degrees. Open year-round, there are numerous choices spread around the manicured grounds of the resort. For a $25 day pass to the hot springs, you can choose from the relaxation pool, cascading hot springs, or the truly unique chalk creek hot springs where you dig down into the rocks to encourage the hot bubbles of healing to reach your body. Their full spa offers massage, facials, body treatments, and more pampering than you may have enjoyed in years. The resort also has 5 different lodges for accommodations … and is a favorite destination for everything from family reunions to weddings and bachelorette weekends.

Chalk Creek Hot Springs at the base of Mt Princeton
Chalk Creek Hot Springs, image courtesy of Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort

Buena Vista adventures, experiences, and views are things movies, stories, and memories are made of. I was lucky enough to attend camp at the base of Mt Princeton when I was a kid and my experiences whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and hiking were memories I’ll never forget. It’s what brings visitors back time and again to this very special little Colorado valley.


A River Rafting Road Trip

Want to create the ultimate rafting experience? How about a rafting road trip? Hit multiple rivers, all offering unique rafting experiences in the following rafting loop.

It all starts in Denver, where you’ll head 30 miles west on I-70 and stop in the historic mining town of Idaho Springs.

Idaho Springs

In Idaho Springs, you'll raft Clear Creek either on a beginner, intermediate, or advanced raft trip. You’ll hit any range of rapids from class II to class IV. You’ll flow through a rugged, spectacular mountain canyon filled with granite boulders and towering pine trees and finish up with a float through historic Idaho Springs.

From Idaho Springs, continue heading west for 40 miles on I-70 until you hit Frisco, your next rafting stop.

Frisco

Frisco offers some very special rafting trips, including the Blue River Half Day Raft Trip and the Ten Mile Creek Half Day Raft trip. Each offers excellent white water, although Blue River is an early season run as it's dependent on snowpack.

From Frisco, head into the Arkansas River Valley and hit up Buena Vista. A beautiful 60 miles south of Frisco, Buena Vista offers some of the country’s best whitewater.

Buena Vista

From Buena Vista, there are several awesome raft trips to choose from, including KODI’s most popular raft trips through Browns Canyon National Monument. By this time, you might be ready to truly test your skills. If this is the case, you might want to consider KODI’s Numbers Raft Trips. These trips take you down the Numbers, a series of rapids so intense, they were numbered instead of named.

Now that your road trip is done, you can make the easy and scenic drive back to Denver along Hwy 285. However, if you’re not ready to call it quits there’s always KODI’s Kremmling office, where you can jump on the Upper Colorado River for a scenic float and gorgeous views.


The History of Browns Canyon National Monument: Part II

Friends of Browns Canyon, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, officially formed in 2003, with volunteers spending hundreds upon hundreds of hours in the field mapping and getting to know the area. Later that year, the 5th Congressional District’s Republican Rep. Joel Hefley had 10 areas in the district and could pick one to push forward as a wilderness.

With a Republican congressman as an ally, the Friends of Browns Canyon thought their wilderness proposal for Browns Canyon was all but passed. But the legislative process in Washington would prove to be more complicated.

The bill was drafted, introduced to Congress in November 2005, and was passed favorably to the House Committee on Natural Resources. However, this is where the bill died because the NRA opposed the closure of the Turret Trail, which maintains access for hunters.

The Friends of Browns Canyon created a board of directors for the first time in 2012 and hired their first executive director. That year, Senator Udall proposed taking a different approach by pursuing a national monument for Browns Canyon. It would designate 22,000 acres for the national monument, 10,500 of which would be wilderness.

At the end of 2013, Udall introduced the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013 in the Senate. In mid-2014, the U.S. Senate National Parks Subcommittee held a hearing on the bill. But the bill went no further in the Senate.

Along with Sen. Michael Bennet, who co-sponsored Udall’s bill, Udall urged President Barack Obama to consider using the Antiquities Act to designate Browns Canyon a national monument, sidestepping the congressional route that had failed for the last decade to bring the project full circle.

White House officials reported Feb. 18 that the president would use the Antiquities Act to declare Browns Canyon a National Monument. And sure enough, the next day


The History of Browns Canyon National Monument: Part I

Browns Canyon National Monument provides ample year-round recreation opportunities for sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts.

The most popular stretch of whitewater river in the country runs through Browns Canyon, where commercial rafting companies offer a variety of float trips. The monument also protects important habitat for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer and many other wildlife species. The monument’s multi-use trail system accommodates hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers, while the Arkansas River in Browns Canyon is part of a 102-mile Gold Medal trout fishery.

While many of us in the Arkansas River Valley can’t imagine not having Browns Canyon National Monument outside our back door, it was a designation that was hard fought and almost didn’t happen at all.

In 1976, Congress instituted the Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLPMA), an act that directed the Bureau of Land Management to review its land for best management practices and gave the BLM direction to manage resources. FLPMA was the first initiative that said the area in the heart of Browns Canyon, which wasn’t a wilderness study area yet, had wilderness characteristics.

From the late 1970s into the 1980s, Browns Canyon was further inventoried for wilderness characteristics, and in 1980, the BLM reached the decision that 6,614 acres of Browns Canyon did qualify as a wilderness study area and purchased nearly 150 additional acres to add to the original recommendation after an intensive inventory of the area. Inventorying of Browns Canyon continued through the ’80s. A 1991 BLM Wilderness Study Report officially recommended the Browns Canyon WSA for wilderness designation.

Around this time, a handful of advocates began the hard work of turning Browns Canyon into a dedicated wilderness. These were non-paid volunteers who, for the first 10 years, operated on less than $1,000 a year. Their goal was to create a wilderness area east of the Arkansas River with the Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area at its heart.

Continued in Part II…


The Perfect Buena Vista, Colorado Vacation: A Three-Day Itinerary

From your drive into the Arkansas River Valley, you can tell Buena Vista bursts with outdoor recreational opportunities.

Fourteen thousand-foot peaks line one side of the valley while the Buffalo Peaks line the other. Together, they provide miles upon miles of trails for hiking, ATVing, horseback riding, and mountain biking. And during certain weeks each year, these mountains become a hunter’s paradise.

Buena Vista also has a darling Main Street made up of boutique shops selling vintage and handmade items, bike gear, art, and more. There are also several options for coffee, lunch, and satisfying your sweet tooth, making a stroll along Main Street a delightful event.

Close to downtown are two hot springs resorts, always a favorite among visitors. At night, during the summer, free music is offered at several different locations. Just a short drive away, adventurous visitors can soar among the tree on a zip line.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Gold Medal Arkansas River. World-renowned for its amazing whitewater, Buena Vista’s pride and joy has brought rafters and kayakers to the Arkansas River Valley decade after decade.

With so many options for your Buena Vista vacation, how will you ever squeeze everything in during a three-day visit? Contact KODI Rafting. We can help.

KODI’s reservations specialists can hook you up with many Buena Vista activities, making scheduling a breeze! Here’s what we recommend.

Day One:

Start with a full day on the river, of course! From Buena Vista, you can spend a day rafting Browns Canyon National Monument. Not only is this our most popular trip, we’ll also serve you a riverside lunch.

Day Two:

Take a horseback ride in the morning and a dip in some hot springs in the afternoon. If you’re sore from your ride, a soak in our natural hot springs is the perfect cure.

Day Three:

Start the last day of your Buena Vista vacation with something bold—zip lining! KODI Rafting will book your morning zip line at Top of the Rockies Zip Line located between Frisco and Leadville near the Summit of Fremont Pass.

Finish up your amazing three days in Buena Vista with a simple hike. We have dozens of trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Take this time to reflect on your visit and soak in Buena Vista’s breathtaking scenery.


Avoid I-70. Take the Road Less Traveled.

Denver is a super popular vacation destination, and why wouldn’t it be? This booming city has culture, sports, and is close to Colorado's famed Rocky Mountains where you'll find an abundance of outdoor recreational activities.

Unfortunately, getting into the mountains can be tough, especially when traffic along the I-70 corridor slows you down.

Don’t let bumper to bumper traffic steal precious Colorado vacation time. Book a Colorado raft trip with KODI Rafting. We have rafting trips in Buena Vista that avoid I-70’s traffic by taking you along Highway 285.

This less-traveled route goes through Bailey, over Kenosha Pass, and into South Park (yes, that South Park) before dropping you into Buena Vista.

Buena Vista is a small—but growing—mountain town. From rafting and mountain biking to hiking and rock climbing, this Colorado gem has it all.

Buena Vista is considered by many to be the whitewater capital of the United States, and for good reason! The Arkansas River, Colorado’s #1 rafted river, runs right through town and offers several access points just a short drive from Main Street.

From Buena Vista, you can also raft Browns Canyon National Monument, a breathtaking canyon featuring granite cliffs, colorful rock outcroppings, and drastic elevation changes ranging from 7,300 to 10,000 feet.

KODI Rafting offers the following Buena Vista raft trips: