14,000-foot peaks abound in its vicinity. Among the more than 10 in the area are mounts Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Columbia — located directly west of Buena Vista. This impressive collection of “fourteeners” (as locals call them), inspired the name for the newly designated Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway that runs along Hwy. 24 right through town.
Buena Vista is considered by many to be the capital of whitewater rafting for the United States — the Arkansas River is adjacent to town and flows through Browns Canyon National Monument. The Arkansas has trips for those seeking all levels of rafting experiences — from mild to wild — as well as Gold Medal fishing opportunities. A new expansion to the South Main River Park makes it the longest whitewater park of its kind in the country. Good fly-fishing spots along the river are just one of the many fishing venues in the area.
Historic mining and railroading sites allow for fascinating and beautiful excursions by four-wheeling, mountain biking or hiking. St. Elmo, one of Colorado's best-preserved ghost towns is only 30 minutes from town, and you can stop on the way to fish, hike or swim in the Mount Princeton Hot Springs.
Winter provides for mild temperatures in the valley but excellent cross-country skiing, ice fishing and snowshoeing are available minutes away. Additionally, there are 100 miles of groomed snowmobile trails that can be accessed just west of town on Cottonwood Pass. A dip in Cottonwood Hot Springs on the way down makes for a great day in the mountains. At dusk or early morning, large elk herds, bighorn sheep and many deer can be viewed from your car.
For skiers and boarders, Monarch Mountain is less than an hour's drive from Buena Vista, home to the Continental Divide's famously deep powder, as well as short lift lines and panoramic views.
Step back in time with historic events such as Gold Rush Days in August. Watch the professional burro racers in the Third Leg of the Triple Crown Burro Race, or try your luck running with a burro yourself in a much smaller race. The event is complete with gunfighters, gold panning, constant entertainment and more than 100 vendors. Take in a cemetery tour and visit with local characters from the past. Melodramas, concerts, art shows and lectures help round out your visit to Buena Vista.