Location: Salida, Colorado
Distance from Denver: 141 miles (~2.5hrs) ♡ ♡
Parking Situation: Plenty of street parking (brush up on your paralleling skills!) ♡ ♡ ♡
Where We Ate: Sweetie's Sandwich Shop | the Biker & the Baker | Brown Dog Coffee
Sights We Saw: Riverside Park & Arkansas Headwaters | Boss & Hunt Lake hike
Salida is a small town. Like really small. The entire city is about 2-3 miles and has one stop light in the heart of downtown.
If you're a huge skier, you may have driven through here to get to Monarch mountain. Otherwise, Salida is probably not even on your radar. It certainly wasn't on ours until we saw articles on Travel + Leisure, Business Insider, and Thrillist touting it as one of the best small towns to visit this year. We were facing a cold, dreary spring day in Denver ...
... so we hopped in our car, and a little over two hours later found ourselves surrounded by gorgeous 14ers all around. Literally, what is not to like about this view??
We really didn't know what to expect in Salida because our research didn't turn up much. It was founded in the 1800s as a hub for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, and quickly established itself in mining and agriculture. As the railroad industry declined, Salida also entered into a period of decline until it was "rediscovered" as an alternative to the crowded mountain towns everyone is more familiar with (such as Breck, Vail, Aspen). It pretty much stayed under the radar until magazines "found" the charm of the city and its laid-back lifestyle. It's apparently now regarded as a great place to retire given its temperate climate and abundance of outdoor activities.
If you are looking for a quaint walk-around-downtown-boutiques kind of day trip, you will likely be disappointed. We were able to walk around and look at most of the stores within half an hour, (1) because of how small the town is and (2) a lot of the stores were closed on the weekend! This really surprised me because I expected them to be open on the weekend given the tourist-y nature of the town. But guess not!
Definitely leave your heels at home because Salida's vibe is very laid back. If you are so much as wearing a maxi dress or a collared shirt, that is considered wedding attire (we overheard this from locals talking about what they were wearing to a wedding that day). Shorts, jeans, and summery blouses are the way to go (a few styles linked below) paired with flip flops or sneakers.
The weekend that we went, the town was hardly crowded! I guess with everything to do outside, no body wanted to laze around town. After walking around and taking pictures, we let our noses pick our lunch spot - Sweetie's Sandwich Shop. The menu is extensive, the service friendly, and the food delicious! Brandon ordered a Club sandwich, and I ordered the Med. We chose to get our order to go, and walked down to Riverside Park to eat by the water. Both of our sandwiches were HUGE! Every ingredient was homemade and quite frankly, I was surprised at how delicious the food was!!! Sweetie's cares. And it shows. I'd honestly drive here everyday for their sandwiches if I could. SO good!
We chose to hike after lunch, so we hopped in our car and drove ~20minutes outside of town to the Boss Lake / Hunt Lake trailhead (it's kitty-corner to the Monarch Lodge). I really don't have much to say here, other than we were disappointed in the lack of information available for newbies. Also the trailhead sign lies to you.
I cropped out the mileage because the sign states that it is a 1-mile hike to the Boss Lake Tr(ailhead). FAKE NEWS friends! We clocked two miles on Brandon's phone. And what a two miles! We had a 4-wheel/high clearance vehicle (#Jeeplife) but were uncomfortable driving it up the narrow and tight path. This was our first mistake. If you have a high clearance vehicle, say your prayers and drive on up. The hike to the trailhead is MISERABLE because of the elevation gain and intense sun. And the fact that once you get there, there is still another ~4.5 miles to go TO GET TO HUNT LAKE. Oh & did I mention that the trail to the lakes still has plenty of snow (in May), is a straight incline upwards, and in the heart of bear country? Because AllTrails certainly didn't. Our second mistake was not taking crampons or ice spikes because that would have been helpful in our ascent (PSST: bring these if you go in May like we did). Unfortunately, we didn't make it to either lake that day but enjoyed the complete seclusion (if you are jittery about being all alone, then skip this hike!) The pictures below don't capture the level of snow or incline because we had to put our camera away in order to stay safe hiking up.
We still clocked a five mile hike through the woods and thus were exhausted and ready for a treat. We drove back into town and stopped at the Biker and the Baker. This was a shop we had walked past in the morning thinking we could stop in for sweets to walk around with, but sadly they only opened at 4p. So we came back for a post-hike treat. And boy did it deliver!!! We ordered a tootsie-roll creme brulee and you guys it was out-of-this-world DELICIOUS!
All in all, we loved our day trip to Salida. What surprised us was both how quiet the town was, as well as how delicious the food was! We definitely know what to expect next time we come back! Mt Princeton, we're coming for you!!
- Drive to Salida (arrive around 11).
- Walk around town & grab lunch (to go) at Sweetie's Sandwich Shop.
- Stroll over to Riverside Park and eat lunch by the water as you watch kayakers/rafters.
- Drive to Monarch Lodge to hike Boss/Hunt Lake.
- Come back to Salida & grab a post-hike sweet reward at the Biker & the Baker.
- Drive back to Denver in time to eat dinner!
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Wear in Town:
Wear on Hike: