Alpine scenery, extensive public lands and exceptional whitewater have created a new bonanza. The Byway boasts abundant, pristine backcountry – Browns Canyon National Monument, the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area and Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area. The San Isabel National Forest and BLM provide numerous campgrounds. The heart of the 150-mile Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area parallels the Byway and offers boat ramps, camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing access, wildlife viewing areas, mountain biking, and OHV travel.


Anglers come from around the world to cast their luck in the rivers, lakes and reservoirs for brown, rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout. The early May caddis hatch is celebrated by an annual festival. The Arkansas River, the most commercially rafted river in the U.S, provides rafting and kayaking for all skill levels, including the renowned Class III–IV rapids in Browns Canyon and The Numbers. Salida and Buena Vista Whitewater Parks challenge amateur and world- class kayakers while spectators watch from riverside. Salida’s FIBArk whitewater festival, the oldest in the U.S., takes place every June.


Cottonwood Hot Springs opened in 1878 and Mt. Princeton Hot Springs has warmed guests since 1879. The Poncha Hot Springs feeds the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center.


The Fourmile Area encompasses 100,000 acres of colorful geology, including the Castles’ volcanic forma- tions and an exposure of the 1.7 billion year-old Great Unconformity. This joint BLM and USFS travel management area offers a wealth of recreation to campers, hikers, bicyclers, rock climbers, horseback riders, rockhounds and OHV riders amid striking rock formations and rich mining, ranching and railroad history.


High altitude trail networks crisscross the mountains. A few include 76 miles of the Colorado Trail; 47 miles of the 3,100-mile Mexico-to-Canada Continental Divide Trail; the high altitude Monarch Crest Trail, 33 miles of mountain biking fame; and the northern trailhead of the Sangre de Cristos’ Rainbow Trail. Fourmile’s Midland Bike Trail connects Buena Vista to the top of Trout Creek Pass 19 miles to the east. The Barbara Whipple Trail network offers 19 winding miles of hiking and biking directly from Buena Vista and links to the Midland Bike Trail. Salida also offers town-start hiking and biking on the extensive Methodist Mountain Trail System, Arkansas Hills Trail System, Tenderfoot Mountain and the Monarch Spur Trail. Buena Vista, Salida and Poncha Springs have town trail systems, parks and golf courses.


Chaffee County is known for its 4-season mountaineering. On the Cottonwood Pass Exploration Route, several trailheads lead into the county’s extensive network of high country trails, including the Denny Creek Trail to Mt. Yale and the Ptarmigan Lake Trail. The Chalk Creek Canyon and Clear Creek Exploration Routes access numerous trails and jeep roads, and the North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead is a great entry into the spectacular Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. The Mt. Antero Road is one of the top ten OHV trails in the U.S. and is the nation’s highest of this kind.


Monarch Mountain, a 1939 WPA project, is one of Colorado’s oldest ski areas. It has 800 acres of ski terrain. Monarch Pass, St. Elmo and the Cottonwood Pass Exploration Route are popular winter sports areas for snowshoeing, cross county skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.