Founded in 1880, I discovered Salida only recently, visiting there for the first time in 2017. Having lived in Colorado for five years at that point, my only experience with the town was driving past it on the way to Crested Butte or some other destination off of 285.
In 2017, I was fortunate enough to be in Salida for FIBArk, an annual whitewater festival that swells the town population to over 15,000 from its usual 5,000 locals. My time there was spent riding the trails on S-mountain, wandering through the vintage stores on main street, and dancing the night away in the bars after the sun went down. After this trip I knew I would have to return, as Salida has a lot to offer.
Fast forward a year (and a few months) and I had been itching to chase what was left of warm weather before the snow takes over. Salida seemed like the perfect place as their average snowfall during the winter months is around 6”, compared to somewhere like Vail which sees numbers closer to 30”.
If you’re looking to explore Salida or check it out for the first time, here’s how you can spend a weekend away any time of the year.
As much as I might have wanted to leave early, I didn’t leave the office until 5 and we were on the road by 6. Packing ahead paid off and luckily this time of year traffic getting out of Denver was light.
Check in at the Amigo
7350 US-50, Salida, CO 81201
Google Maps clocks the drive to Salida at about 2h 40m. With a stop for food and bathroom breaks, we pulled in a little later. For a unique experience, stay at the Amigo Motor Lodge and book one of their Airstreams. Their front office is open until 10, so there’s plenty of time to get there.
After checking in we went to the store for some supplies and picked up a bottle of wine to celebrate being out of town for the weekend.
Grab a Coffee
Salida is a pretty quiet town and most stores or restaurants don’t really open until 9 or 10 in the morning. Take advantage of this by strolling down 1st Street, the main drag through town, and enjoy the crisp morning air and empty streets. You’ll spot the locals out walking their dogs, heading to the yoga studio, or cruising around on their bike.
Have Breakfast at Shallots
137 E 1st St, Salida, CO 81201
With the restaurants open and things moving, stop in and get fueled up for the day at Shallots. It’s at the East end of town and has a cozy, family vibe. We took a spot at the front of the restaurant and as guests entered we would often watch them stop by the tables of other diners in the restaurant to say hello.
Brandi went for an omelet and I had the smoked salmon. We also got french toast and a pancake on the side and left feeling very full.
Visit the Ghost Town of St. Elmo
St. Elmo is a short drive from Salida, and 20 miles southwest of Buena Vista. The drive up should take no more than an hour and you’ll be transported back in time. It is one of the best preserved ghost towns in Colorado, so be sure to respect any signage on the buildings. In the summer the General Store is open, but in the winter you’ll almost have the town to yourself.
When walking through look in the windows of the buildings around you – you might catch a glimpse of some watchful eyes.
Take a Tour of Salida’s History
Salida is full of history, some of it is just a little darker than what you’ll find in its charming present. Sign up for the Darkside Tour from Salida Walking Tours and you’ll get to hear about the murders, hauntings, and debauchery of early Salida. The tour takes place in the main part of town and features some of Salida’s most prominent spots.
On our tour, Steve was a fantastic aurator and we could have listened to the stories of the town all night. Seeing the locations where everything happened also makes it even more special. We didn’t see any ghosts during our walk, but other guests have been a little luckier.
Have Dinner at the Fritz
113 E Sackett Ave, Salida, CO 81201
If you’re feeling a little spooked after the Darkside tour of Salida, the mac and cheese at The Fritz will make you forget all about it. Their menu is classic American fare and the walls of the restaurant are peppered with local art.
Watch Movies in the Airstream
In Merle, the Airstream we were staying in, there were some DVDs left for guests. Instead of hitting the town and making a night of it, we popped in Somethings Gotta Give and turned the lights out early.
Pick Up Your Bike at Absolute Bikes
330 W Sackett Ave, Salida, CO 81201
Book your rental ahead of time to it’s ready to roll when you are. Absolute Bikes has hardtails, full suspension bikes, or fat bikes for rent. We snagged a hardtail for Brandi and the crew at Absolute gives you everything you need for a fun afternoon. The bike has a pack attached with tubes, you can borrow a helmet, and they even let us borrow a map for navigating the local trails. If you need anything beyond that they are a fully stocked bike shop.
Breakfast at the Brown Dog
105 F St, Salida, CO 81201
Bike rides usually involve burritos and beer at some point, and seeing as it was still the morning we elected to go with some burritos for breakfast. Our tour guide Steve from the previous night said of the Brown Dog, “They’ll heat something up for you,” but it’s still a great place to grab a coffee and snack. I added a quiche to the mix.
Go Mountain Biking at Methodist Mountain
There are many great options for riding in and around Salida, but for something close you can either ride S-Mountain or Methodist Mountain. Methodist features a network of beginner friendly trails and was perfect for Brandi who was out on her second mountain bike ride ever. Once you’ve mastered the trails here, head to S- Mountain or even off to Monarch Pass if you’re there in the summer.
Drive up to Monarch Pass
Give your legs a break and enjoy the views out the window of your car by driving up Monarch Pass. It’s only about a 30 minute drive and at the top of there is a visitor center and a tram that takes you to an observatory at the top of Monarch Crest. This tram is only open during the summer months, but you’ll still enjoy 11,000 feet views from the main parking lot.
Have Dinner at Amicas
127 F St, Salida, CO 81201
As your weekend in Salida starts to wind down, make a visit to Amicas. Their calzones are as big as the plate and should probably only be eaten by passengers, as you will fall into a food coma. For something a little lighter, go with a salad or share one of their 16 pizzas (or build your own).