Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Buena Vista, Colorado

We traveled to beautiful Buena Vista, CO, on this late summer trip, about 130 scenic miles southwest of Denver. There are many RV campgrounds in the area, but we chose a KOA campground just outside the edge of town. This was one of the nicer KOA's we have stayed at. It sits atop a hill overlooking a broad valley with stunning views of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness as a backdrop.
It has a great location just minutes into town, and boasts easy access off the highway, wireless internet, dump station, hot showers, laundry, hot tub, and clean facilities.

The area offers an abundance of outdoor activities including hiking, horseback riding, four-wheeling, and river rafting. Buena Vista has a small town, friendly atmosphere with shops and stores to explore, jeep and ATV rentals, and restaurants for when you need a break from cooking out over the campfire.

Our visit was late in the summer, so we opted for a refreshing raft trip to help us cool off during the long, hot summer days. This time of year the local rafting companies are wrapping up for the season as the water levels diminish. So, we were a little concerned that the ride might not be as adventurous as we hoped. We were not a bit disappointed though, and we were offered plenty of splashes and spills on this half day trip down Brown's Canyon. In some areas the canyon walls rise 100s of feet and you are likely to spot mountain goats, deer, and a keen eye might even catch a rare glimpse of a mountain lion.

We also enjoyed a drive off the beaten path, through heavily forested 2WD roads, up to the historic ghost town of St. Elmo. Twenty-four original buildings remain, including a school, general store (open in the summer), and private residences. St. Elmo doesn't offer public services like gas and meals, but it is a great place to explore for an afternoon - just be sure to take water and snacks.

After a couple long days of activities, we took in a massage and
a soak at Cottonwood Hot Springs, one of the several nearby geothermal springs. This was a perfect way to cap off a couple days of rafting and sightseeing. Cottonwood Hot Springs is an old west style resort just west of town and nestled within the San Isabel National Forest. If a soak in the five geothermal, stone pools with legendary curative properties isn't enough, this secluded, rustic resort also offers massages and other spa services that will take away all your cares.

If you go: Buena Vista is located about 130 miles southwest of Denver and is approximately a 2 1/2 hour drive through the beautiful Colorado Rockies.

The Buena Vista KOA offers a wide range of RV sites including full hookups, water and/or electric only. Some of the sites with the best views include B27 & B28 (Water and Electric) and P48-52 (full hookup). RV rates range between $25-$50 depending on site type.

St. Elmo, is a 20 mile drive from Buena Vista up through a scenic chalk canyon and heavily wooded forest. The road is 2WD accessible but there are no services - it's a ghost town after all. FREE!

Cottonwood Hot Springs is 5 1/2 miles west of town on the road towards Cottonwood Pass. Rates are $15 per person for a day pass to the soaking pools, and a massage will run about $65/hour. Other spa services are also offered.