Travel Colorado: Salida


A hidden gem at the edge of the Arkansas Valley, family friendly Salida is worth a visit. 

My husband’s family is from Montrose on the Western Slope of Colorado, which is a 5 hour drive from Colorado Springs. Following Highway 50, the small town of Salida lies almost exactly half way there, the perfect pit stop before climbing Monarch Pass. My first impression of Salida was, well…meh. Highway  50 runs through the southernmost edge of Salida, lined with motels, fast food and gas stations. There is a McDonalds, which for several years (with babies and toddlers in tow) was our only stop – bathroom, food and a break from the car.

I assumed during all of that time that there was not much else to Salida. How wrong I was! When our children were past the cry-eat-cry-change-cry-sleep phase, we were ready to make our trips across Colorado a little more pleasant. Salida, as the halfway point, was awaiting exploration.

Getting There

To get there from Colorado Springs, you can either head west on Highway 24 through the towns of Woodland Park and Divide, then take Highway 285 south, taking a short jog to Salida on Highway 50 east. Or you can head south on Highway 115, joining Highway 50 west through Canon City. Either way, the trip is an easy 2 hours. I prefer going through Canon City because it is the perfect pit stop at about the one hour mark. 

History of Salida

First a stagecoach stop and later a railroad town, Salida landed on the map in 1881 when the Denver and Rio Grande railroad established it as a division point at the edge of the Arkansas Valley. Sitting near the  where the Arkansas River exits the valley, Salida is actually the Spanish word for exit. The town had active railroad facilities until the 1970’s, when the railroad stopped using it as a division point. With a pleasant, temperate climate, it has been referred to as the “Banana Belt” with plenty of great weather for exploring the great outdoors.

5 Must Do’s

Strolling the historic downtown. On the National Register of Historic Places, you can drink in the sunshine and beautiful views while meandering along pleasant streets. Browse in charming shops – books, toys, art galleries, and consignment/antique stores can make for a very lovely afternoon.  

FIBArk Festival.  June brings what is perhaps America’s Oldest Whitewater Festival. Watch all things boating (and some creative takes on boating), racing and floating down the Arkansas River. Not a fish? Partake in landlubbers events, including a parade, mountain bike racing and a variety of running races. 

Salida Bike Fest.  Each September, this festival offers everything a cycling enthusiast could wish for – group rides, films, a bike parade, free live music in Riverside park and more. 

Bluegrass on the Arkansas.  Sponsored by the Rotary club, this free festival is offered over Memorial Day weekend on the banks of the Arkansas in the beautiful Riverside Park. No admission, but all donations go to the Rotary Club Scholarship fund, and food and beverages are available for purchase. 

Get outside. You can hike and bike miles of beautiful terrain or venture down the Arkansas for world class river rafting or fishing. 

5 Family Friendly Activities

 Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center.   on Highway 50.  Clean and serene, it is a regular sized indoor lap pool and a warmer, hot springs fed indoor recreation pool. Fed by hot springs, but cooled to a pleasant bath temperature, it has fountain water features that enchanted children immediately. The recreation part of the pool has a zero entry edge that curves around a low wall and slowly deepens to about 4 feet.  If you check the schedule, there are often admission specials during the morning hours, and they have towels for rent.

Monarch Mountain Ski Area.  (only 30 minutes away) is the quintessential Colorado family-friendly place to ski. Perfect for families with kids, the lodge and slopes are only a short distance from the parking lot – perfect for little legs and tired parents. Lift tickets are some of the least expensive in the state. 

Riverside Park.  A large green swath, it runs along the Arkansas River with big boulders and trees to climb, a playground, and amphitheater. Watch kayakers navigate the rushing water in front of you. 

Kaleidoscope Toy Store.  The perfect place to take your littles to ooh and ahh over their great selection of toys and candy. 

Browns Canyon Adventure Park. Zip lining, river rafting and more, this adventure park offers outdoor challenges along the Arkansas river in the beautiful Browns Canyon.

5 Great Places to Stay

Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort.  With a variety of lodging, ranging from lodge rooms to luxury cabin, the main attraction is the hot springs. From the historic bathhouse to the Creekside pools, your family has lots of options for soaking. Kids of all ages will enjoy the waterslide. An adults only area is also available. Located between Salida and nearby Buena Vista. 

Mountain Goat Lodge.  Located 8 miles from Salida, you can enjoy staying in a traditional lodge room at this bed and breakfast, or try staying in one of their retro campers or even try the tipi! Goats roam around the meadow, and provide the milk that is used to make cheese and yogurt for the included breakfast.  Sure to be a family adventure!

Palace Hotel. Located steps away from the Arkansas River in downtown historic Salida, this boutique historic hotel is mostly adults only.  The exception is the first floor suite, which families can reserve. Good to keep in mind if you need a grown-up getaway. Breakfast included. 

Comfort Inn. A familiar, reliable option for families is this chain staple—indoor pool, breakfast included. Easy to find off of Highway 50.

Heart of the Rockies Campground and RV Park. It would be remiss to leave out the classic Colorado mountain vacation – camping. Located conveniently in Salida. 

5 Great Eateries

Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop. Yummy sandwiches to eat there or pack for a picnic to go to Riverside Park nearby. 

Boathouse Cantina. Delicious food with riverside seating – the perfect place to eat al fresco. 

Amica’s Pizza. After ordering, children are delighted to receive balls of pizza dough to shape into whatever they want, and then the dough is taken back to the kitchen to be baked. Plus the pizza is delicious! 

The Patio Pancake Place. Breakfast? They’ve got you covered. That is all you need to know. 

Café Dawn.  Need an early morning pick me up or a late afternoon break? They can hook you up with java, tea and snacks. 

Like learning about great travel spots in Colorado? Read the rest of our ongoing Travel Colorado series here

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We at Colorado Springs Moms Blog love to travel this beautiful state. We suspect you do, too. Our newest series called "Travel Colorado" highlights our writers' favorite spots, in no particular order. We hope this compact, virtual guidebook provides you with the inspiration and the tools for your Colorado adventures. First up? Last month: Pagosa Springs. Next up: Durango.


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