Friday, May 17, 2013

The Beautiful Views of Buena Vista (Summer Adventure Town Review)

The Beautiful Views of Buena Vista

Buena Vista is a beautiful small town that sits at 8,000 feet in the middle of the Rockies. It has amazing access to the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail, and is home to the Collegiate Peaks. That’s right; the 14er access here is pretty incredible. Don’t let the 14ers consume all your time though as there are other trails that are even more scenic.

Top 3 best trails/routes

-There are so many amazing trails here in summer it’s really hard to pick just three. There are also tons of other great trails within a half hour drive of BV. The first two on the list will for sure get you above timberline so plan on some stunning views but slow miles. Of course, there are also great trails to reach the top of 14ers, but those are easy to figure out so I won’t include them. I also advise you to take a look at a map before doing any of these trails.

·         North Cottonwood trail head to Denny Creek (Mt. Yale) trail head: About 13 miles. This is a great point to point run if you have two cars. Start at North Cottonwood trail head (parking area) and run up the road a short bit until you get to the trail. Within a few minutes there will be the Kroenke Lake Trail* on your left. Take that trail and you will be running mostly up on it until you take another left on the Browns Creek Trail. Now you will be going mostly down until you reach Denny Creek trail head.
*The last time I did this the sign was down for Kroenke Lake. Keep looking for a trail on your left!

·         Alpine Tunnel (actually in Nathrop, Co but I had to add this often overlooked trail): I did this as an 18 mile loop so I started off by running  5 miles up FSR 295. When you see the Alpine Trail sign get on that trail for a few miles until you take a left on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Enjoy these trails! These are absolutely stunning in the summer. You will even see railroad ties from a railroad that stopped running in 1910. You will be in awe that it was possible for a railroad to even get through there as the trail curves on the edge of cliffs. You’ll also spend some beautiful miles above timberline. When you get to a CDT trail junction turn right and enjoy stream crossings and meadows. Then enjoy a fun and crazy downhill until you reach FSR267. Turn right down a dirt road, run through the ghost town of St, Elmo (taking a left when you reach the main street in town), and head back to your car.

Tips: Start early to avoid ATV’s on the road sections or just do an out and back on the single track as that’s the best part.

View from the Pine Creek Trail
·         Pine Creek Trail: It’s an out and back so you choose the length. I suggest at least going to the old ranger cabins, about 6.5 miles in as you will get the best views from there. This one’s simple. Start at the Pine Creek trail head and just follow the trail. Admittedly, the first 1 to 2 miles aren’t great, but if you make it through that the trail starts running along the beautiful waters of Pine Creek. After about 3 miles of steady climbing you will pop out to a gorgeous view. If you decide you want a long run the trail will take you directly to Silver King Lake which sits at 12,750 feet. To the lake it’s about 10 miles one way.

Other things to do:

·         Raft or Paddle: Legs need a break after climbing that 14er but still want those exercise induced endorphins? Buena Vista is a great town for rafting, kayaking, and paddle boarding!

·         Hot Springs: Choose from Mt. Princeton Resort or Cottonwood Hot Springs. You may want to do a little research here as they are quite different.  If you want a good place for the family or more of spa experience try Mt. Princeton. If you want something a little less crowded with more of a mountain hippie vibe go to Cottonwood.

St. Elmo Ghost Town
       St. Elmo Ghost Town: This old railroad and mining town sits at an elevation of 9,961 ft.  The town is really only a couple blocks long but there are quite a few activities to do their in summer from 4 wheeling to history lesson. Plus, just the drive up there is pretty!

         Fish: I don’t fish but I hear tons of people talking about how great fly fishing is here and there are actually fishing reports on the radio station so it must be good.

      Music: Just walk down the main street and read the signs on windows and you will easily find when the music is happening.

Best Café:

·         Buena Vista Roastery: Sure, you can get coffee elsewhere but that would just be silly. The place has got a great vibe with the help of local artists and has some great tasting coffee from all over the world. For all you gluten free people out there they always have a daily gluten free baked good. It’s also a great place to bring your laptop if you need a little Facebook time to tell your friends about your cool adventures.

Best Restaurants:

·         Asian Palate: A little pricey but tons of great food and gluten free options.

·         Eddyline: Perfect if you want good beer and pizza.

·         Rainforest Café: Best breakfast place in town.

·         El Paraiso: I wish the restaurant was a little more authentic but the place is great when you want a lot of good Mexican food.


·         Community Center located at the end of Main Street: I have used this shower far too many times. It’s important you are prepared for it. Its $1 for a 3 minute shower, although it can sometimes be more like a 2.5 minute shower as the first 30 seconds might consist of very cold water. Sounds awful but it can be kind of fun if you think of it like a game. To win the game I suggest laying out your razor (girls), conditioner, and soap and then have your shampoo in your hand before you start your shower.

·         Wally Lalas Laundromat: $5 for 10 minutes. A little pricy but you get a nice private shower with a sink and an outlet just in case you want to plug in your phone or blow dry your hair.


·         You can easily look up campgrounds in Buena Vista, but many of the campgrounds that pop up will cost money.  The campgrounds are okay, but there are tons of great spots all over to camp. Really, all you need to do is drive up the mountains on either side of Buena Vista to find great, free camping spots along the road or trails.

·         One of my favorite places to camp is the free Turtle Rock campground. It’s a group campground and can get crowded in summer, but there are porta potties and nice flat spots to camp. It’s on the desert side of the mountains which means the mornings will be much warmer than camping on the “14er” side of Buena Vista. It’s also easy access from town. From Main street (coming from BV’s one and only traffic light), take a left on CR 371, drive about 2-3 miles, and then turn right on CR 375. After a little uphill driving you’ll see the campground on your left.

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