Buena Vista, a pretty little town with a special flair for river activities, sits in a valley surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in Colorado. Before you visit, you need to know that it’s pronounced “Byoo-na Viss-ta,” or just “Byoonie.” Don’t embarrass yourself.
Can you guess? We stayed at the KOA, on a hill with views of the still-snowy Collegiate Peaks range, a few miles to town and BLM hiking nearby. The campground was empty, having just opened for the season, with the friendly owner and employees buzzing around prepping for the summer. We had a lovely stay there.
On the way to Buena Vista we stopped in Poncha Springs to check out a brewery. We called ahead to see if they had food or a food truck for lunch; they didn’t that day (usually they have a truck), but the guy recommended the Hunger Trailer truck nearby. We picked up an enormous fish burrito and bbq platter and ate at the brewery with a beer.
On day 2 we had big bowls, made by someone else this time. I had an Indian-ish bowl, and J had a Mediterranean-ish bowl for dinner at House Rock Kitchen on the main drag in Buena Vista. Cool place, really good food, pretty healthy menu, enormous portions, and local beers on tap.
On our last full day in town, we treated ourselves to breakfast and lunch out. Evergreen Cafe is a old-school diner with a contemporary natural food-vibe, and when we drove by it on the way to the post office on our first day we knew we’d have to eat there. Breakfast was everything we’d hoped for. In the afternoon we visited nearby Salida (another fun pronunciation: with a long i) and had top-notch pizza at Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub, with Bugsy snoozing under our patio table, after wandering around town for a couple hours.
J did his usual treatment of the breweries over in the Breweries section. We tasted beers at:
- Elevation Beer Co in Poncha Springs
- Eddyline Brewing, both the brewery and the restaurant in Buena Vista
- Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub in Salida
Buena Vista has a distillery too, Deerhammer. J is a whiskey guy, I am not, but they have gin too so after some small tastes we had a cocktail. J’s whiskey-cucumber concoction was out of this world, even to “I drank too much bourbon in college and can’t stand the smell of it now” me. The gin was floral and layered and really interesting.
We also drank coffee and tea and used the free wifi at BV Roastery. Campground wifi is generally terrible, and we seek out free wifi at coffeeshops and bars in most towns.
The best way to get familiar with a new town is to park the car downtown and go for a walk. We three enjoyed strolling around the shops of downtown BV and Salida. We did a similar stroll through the town of St Elmo, but not much was happening there as it’s a ghost town! It seems cooler than it actually was though—it’s a long drive from BV to a short street of old houses, and a general store that’s open for a bit during the summer. In early May we were the only people in town. The buildings were neat and the drive was pretty, and it was a fun adventure.
Buena Vista sits at the feet of the Collegiate Peaks, a stretch of mountains in the Rockies, many over 14,000 feet tall, known for fabulous hiking… in the summer. We were there in early May, so had to stick to the lower elevations for hiking. We could still enjoy the sight of the 14ers, as they are called, as the snowy mountains made for a gorgeous backdrop as we hiked elsewhere. We did three hikes, with varying degrees of success:
Hike to Midland Hill summit from the wonderfully accessible Whipple Trail system that starts from the center of Buena Vista. This was a quick first-afternoon-in-town hike to get the blood pumping and enjoy a big vista of town and the mountains.
Browns Creek, which in warmer weather takes you to a waterfall and an alpine lake. We made it to the top of the (hidden by ice) falls by tromping through deep snow and guessing at the correct direction up the boulder hill, and had to turn back because the snow got deeper and deeper. Boo. We did get some pretty views of the valley and Mt Princeton (I think) on the way.
Turret Trail, very close to the KOA, into BLM lands with a river and rolling hills and NO SNOW. We were leaving town that morning, so hiked in three miles and turned around, stopping for a picnic breakfast on some rocks along the way. We saw a tall, gray beastie loping up the hill that looked awfully wolfish to us, but it seems the gray wolf is extremely rare in Colorado, but making a comeback. So our friend was probably a coyote, but we like to think he was a wolf and how exciting is that, that we saw a rare gray wolf in Colorado?