Adventure Rating

Salida, Colorado, is a picturesque mountain town known for its vibrant arts scene, outdoor recreational opportunities, and historic charm. Nestled in the heart of the Arkansas River Valley, Salida offers vanlifers a perfect blend of adventure, culture, and relaxation.


Salida, located in central Colorado, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and artists alike. The Arkansas River divides the town, which has a stunning Sawatch Range backdrop and lots of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and kayaking. With its laid-back atmosphere and welcoming community, Salida is an ideal destination for vanlifers exploring the Rockies.


Founded in 1880 as a railroad town, Salida quickly grew into a bustling hub for the mining and agriculture industries. The town’s historic downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features well-preserved Victorian buildings, charming shops, and art galleries. Salida’s rich history is also tied to its role as a gateway to the mining camps of the Rocky Mountains.


Salida offers a variety of attractions that cater to diverse interests:

  • Historic Downtown Salida: Explore the vibrant arts district, with numerous galleries, shops, and restaurants housed in beautifully restored buildings.
  • Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area: This state park offers world-class whitewater rafting and fishing along the Arkansas River, as well as hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities.
  • Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center: Unwind after a day of adventure by relaxing in the largest indoor hot springs pool in North America. 


The area surrounding Salida is a hiker’s paradise, with trails for all skill levels:

  • Monarch Crest Trail: Known for its breathtaking views, this high-altitude trail is popular among hikers and mountain bikers. It’s considered one of the best singletrack trails in the country.
  • Browns Creek Falls Trail: A moderate hike that leads to a stunning waterfall, offering beautiful scenery along the way.
  • S Mountain (Tenderfoot Mountain): For a quick hike with rewarding views, climb the short but steep trail to the top of S Mountain, which overlooks downtown Salida and the Arkansas River.



Vanlifers will find a variety of camping options in and around Salida: 

  • Salida/Mount Shavano KOA: A well-equipped campground with amenities such as full hookups, Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, and a dog park.
  • Heart of the Rockies Campground: Located along the Arkansas River, this campground offers riverfront sites, hookups, and easy access to outdoor activities.
  • Walmart: Allows for one day of overnightcamoing. 


For those seeking a more off-grid experience, numerous boondocking opportunities exist in the nearby San Isabel National Forest and BLM lands. Dispersed camping is available along forest service roads, such as Marshall Pass Road and CR 250, offering beautiful, secluded spots to park your van and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Other Tourist Information

When visiting Salida, be sure to stop by the Salida Visitor Center for maps, trail information, and updates on local events. The town hosts several annual festivals, including the FIBArk Whitewater Festival and the Salida Arts Festival, which showcase the area’s vibrant community spirit.

Downtown Salida offers a range of dining options, from cozy cafes to fine dining restaurants, many of which focus on locally sourced ingredients. The town also features several breweries and distilleries, perfect for sampling local craft beverages.

It’s a privilege to have Salida Colorado for our enjoyment, so please practice Leave No Trace principles.

References and Links:


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Pagosa Springs

Nestled in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, Pagosa Springs, Colorado, offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, rich history, and outdoor adventure for vanlifers seeking a memorable experience. From hiking and boondocking to relaxing in the famous hot springs, Pagosa Springs is an ideal destination for those looking to explore the great outdoors and unwind in nature’s splendor.

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