Buena Vista, Colorado

Buena Vista, Colorado

Buena Vista is in an absolutely beautiful location in the upper reaches of the Arkansas River Valley. It's a beautiful little town with lots of history evident in the streets. With the Collegiate Peaks of the Sawatch Range on the west and the Ten Mile-Mosquito Range on the northeast, there's old mines and ghost towns in all directions. The road in (US Highway 24) is also one of Colorado's newest scenic byways: the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway. And if you continue north on US 24 you'll pass Granite and then come to the turn-off to Independence Pass, Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive, and the historic town of Leadville (this is also the region of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway).

At the only stoplight in town you can turn west on the road that leads into the San Isabel National Forest to St. Elmo, one of the best preserved mining ghost towns in Colorado. Along the way to St. Elmo you'll pass between Mt. Antero to the south and Mt. Princeton to the north - If you're up to it, you can also stop at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and have a soak in the natural mineral waters while enjoying great views of two of Colorado's famous fourteeners.

Turn right at the stoplight in the heart of Buena Vista and take a drive down Main Street where the real history is displayed. Buena Vista was founded as a center for mining and farming: in the old days, farming could be much more profitable than mining (and the job usually had much more security, including a real future). But it was the gold, silver and lead-mining that brought the Denver & Rio Grande, South Park & Pacific and Colorado Midland Railroads into Buena Vista. Many of the buildings in downtown Buena Vista date back to the mining and railroad era.

Buena Vista is also an excellent jumping off point for folks wanting to climb 14ers in the Sawatch and Collegiate Peaks area. There's lots of fishing, hunting, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting and hiking opportunities in the area, too. Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area is in the mountains northeast of town while the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area is in the mountains northwest of town. And there are several nice campgrounds around if all you want to do is kick back and watch the world go by. Good restaurants (no Starbucks yet, but Bongo Billy's is an excellent substitute), several modern motels, bed & breakfasts nearby, Buena Vista makes for a good place to hang out any time of year. But if you're looking for a shopping mall: you should've stayed in Denver or Colorado Springs because there's no malls anywhere near here... although Buena Vista does have a nice riverside water park with bike paths and beaches for rafts and kayaks.

Buena Vista was named one of "The Best Towns in America" and a "New American Dream Town" by Outside Magazine in 2005.

Storefronts and residences along Main Street in Buena Vista
Along Main Street in Buena Vista
Buena Vista's local newspaper office'
The local newspaper office
The Buena Vista Town Hall
Buena Vista Town Hall
More storefronts and offices along Main Street in Buena Vista
Along Main Street
Buildings along Main Street in Buena Vista
More on Main Street
The Buena Vista shopping mall
Restaurant, shops, rooms upstairs, closest thing to a mall in Buena Vista
The view west from Buena Vista
Looking west from downtown Buena Vista, Mt. Princeton in the distance
The old Orpheum Theater in Buena Vista
The old Orpheum Theatre
Buena Vista's history museum'
Buena Vista History Museum
Buena Vista's historic blacksmith workshop'
The Blacksmith shop, still in business

Photos are courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License