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.


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.