Salida, the seat of Chaffee County, is a unique mountain community nestled among snow-capped 14,000-foot mountain peaks. With a population of 5,500, Salida is the county’s largest town and serves as the economic and tourism hub of the Upper Arkansas River Valley. Our area boasts multiple recreational opportunities including world-class skiing, whitewater rafting, gold medal fishing, and mountain biking to name a few.
Salida was established as a railroad town in 1880 and became a major division point on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The fledgling community became the center of a booming agricultural and mining region. Today tourism, recreation and the arts have emerged as the bedrock of the local identity. Recognized by both U. S. News and World Report and Outside Magazine as one of the top 10 mountain communities.
At an elevation just over 7,000 feet, our community experiences a surprisingly mild climate. Locally known as “the banana belt” the average high temperature in January is 49 degrees with the July temperature rising to around 77. Annual precipitation is 10-12 inches. We enjoy over 330 sunny days annually.
Educational needs are served by both public and private schools. Salida has just completed a new, modern, and environmentally sensitive high school. Colorado Mountain College is also present in the county and other educational facilities are within a reasonable distance from the city. Health care services are superior for a small community with over 30 well acclaimed physicians. Heart of the Rockies regional medical center completed the new hospital in 2008 and employs over 320 people. The campus has 4 specialized clinics. The hospital has been so successful that another addition has just been completed to the original 85,000 sq ft for a total of 100,000 sq ft.
Salida is surrounded by 15 different mountains of 14,000 feet or higher, often referred to as The Fourteeners, making it a true destination for alpine sports. Rising from the Arkansas River Valley is Monarch Mountain, one of Colorado’s most popular ski areas. Whether you choose to ski, snowboard or check out a snowcat tour, Monarch Mountain provides steep terrain and plenty of natural snow. You can also rent a snowmobile and explore the heart of the Rockies for yourself.
A 40-mile stretch of the Continental Divide follows the crest of the Sawatch Range. The central portion of the Sawatch is home to the Collegiate Peaks. The most prominent of these peaks are Mt. Harvard, Mt. Princeton and Mt. Yale. The Colorado and Continental Divide Trails pass through the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area providing hikers with an opportunity to marvel at the majestic mountains, vast valleys, sparkling alpine lakes and glacier-carved grandeur.
If you’re looking for whitewater adventure, there is no better place for your raft or kayak than the Arkansas River. The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area offers 148 miles of riverpark. The “numbers” rapids provide world-class kayaking. The river continues through Brown’s Canyon and the Royal Gorge combining natural scenery with heart-pounding excitement.
The entire county has approximately 650,000 acres, and over 80% of the lands are public offering thousands of trails for horses and hunting. The outdoor activities are limited only by one’s imagination.
With 70 miles of public access the Arkansas River is a renowned Gold Medal fishery. Rainbow and brown trout are particularly abundant. With a year round mild climate the Arkansas is an ideal location for fly fishing.
When you’re finished conquering the Fourteeners and taming the Arkansas, you must also experience the cultural and artistic tradition of Salida. Or, you can choose to relax in one of our many odorless hot springs. The historic downtown district features the largest historic downtown district in Colorado with quaint brick buildings, eclectic dining establishments and art galleries showcasing the wares of local painters, potters, sculptors & jewelers. The historic Steam Plant Theater and Event Center is a riverfront venue hosting concerts, art expos, conventions, conferences and all sorts of community festivals.