Athletic Races and Events in Chaffee County and Salida 

Welcome to spring in Salida, Colorado! This season of buds and blooms means we’re out of the dark days of winter. It also means we’re kicking off the first in a series of great outdoor events and races here in Chaffee County. 

If you’re into competition, whether it be a fun race or a serious athletic endeavor, there is so much to do here in the mountains. Local organizations host races involving almost every discipline: running, biking, rafting, kayaking, SUPing and more! Plus, many of these events are part of a bigger, livelier festival so it’s so fun to get in on the action, whether you’re a racer or spectator. We also love that our cabins at Creekside Chalets are right here in the middle of it all. 

Spring and Early Summer Races in Salida and Chaffee County 

3P, Salida. We may have a lot of races, but the Pole, Pedal, Paddle is a Salida classic. Since the late 90’s, racers in this free-spirited, fun-loving event have gone from the top of monarch pass to the finish line in historic downtown Salida along the Arkansas River. The race includes three legs: Ski, bike, river. The river leg can be completed in any river craft, with many participants on SUPs and kayaks. 

pole pedal paddle competitors

What makes the 3P so accessible and fun is the variety of options for racers. Athletes looking for a challenge can run the race solo and compete against other individuals. Those looking to run just one leg can team up and race relay style. 

The racers in this event are all great athletes, and running the course solo is a true challenge. Despite this, the race doesn’t take itself too seriously and is famous for its laid-back, lively vibe. Expect to see costumes and lots of smiles along the route! Salida is known for its fun events and this one is a staple of this active town. 

The 2024’s race takes place on April 14th and registration is open until April 9th with fees of $75 for individuals and $150 for teams. Be aware that 3P organizers cap the race at 200 participants. Visit their website for registration

Paddlefest, Buena Vista. Kayakers, rafters and SUP enthusiasts rejoice! Paddlefest, takes place every year during Memorial Day Weekend, making it the official kickoff to summer in Chaffee County. 

This festival was started by CKS, the original whitewater store in the Arkansas River Valley. They offer just about anything you’d want to get on the river–from kayaks to paddles to PFD’s–and they’ve incorporated a gear swap into the event. CKS owners Brad and Megan Kingman recently moved CKS into 426 Main Street, making this the first Paddlefest in their new, updated store.

CKS gives the funds from Paddlefest back to the whitewater and recreation community via the River Fund. The River Fund is used for youth education, river access, and infrastructure projects in the downtown whitewater park. This is where much of the  action takes place during Paddlefest and where river runners play all year long.  

The schedule of events for Paddlefest includes SUP races and raft and kayak competitions in The Numbers and Pine Creek. These challenging class IV and V whitewater sections north of Buena Vista bring in serious talent. Spectators often line the riverbank to watch the action. 

If running is more your thing, check out the Spirit Trail Race. With marathon, half-marathon and 8K options, runners can find a distance that works for them. The race takes place Sunday morning of the festival. 

Paddlefest is more than just kayaking. It includes a town party kickoff, bands and nightlife, making it just as fun for spectators as it is for competitors. The town of Buena Vista really shows up for this local event. It’s an excellent time to hang out in one of the best river towns in the state and experience the local culture. 

FIBArk, Salida. This is the granddaddy of all Salida events: FIBArk! Known as the “Oldest and Boldest”, this river festival is in its 76th year and was the first whitewater competition in the nation. 

Whether you kayak, raft or SUP there are multiple river events to choose from throughout the weekend. Most races take place right downtown in Salida’s river park and range from the meticulous skills of kayak slalom and freestyle events to the crazy madness of the Hooligan Race and Raft Rodeo. If you have a river loving dog, there’s even a competition for them! 

FIBArk is just as beloved for its running races. Options include 5K and 10K road races, a 10K trail run and the famous Tenderfoot Hill Climb. In the Hill Climb event, runners head straight up Tenderfoot Mountain (aka S Mountain), with the fastest racers coming down the hill at unbelievable speeds. This event kicks off the festival on Thursday night and is fun to run but even more fun to watch!  

FIBArk’s most recent competition will appeal to the skateboarders out there. The Heart of the Rockies Rampage is a homegrown skateboard competition that attracts everyone from local kids to professional skaters. Categories include amateur, female, masters, pro and groms (12 and under).

FIBArk always begins on a Thursday and runs June 13-16 in 2024. With this event always falling on Father’s Day, it’s a great way to spend time with Dad! Sunday events include the Crazy River Dog competition and the completion of the Downriver event in Riverside Park. Plus, free bands all day on the lawn! Dad will dig it. 

Fall Races in and Around Chaffee County 

Salida Endura, Salida. This race is one of the newest on the Salida biking scene. It’s an enduro race, so riders race in timed stages, usually downhill stretches, that vary in difficulty. Between each stage riders are given about an hour to transition to the next start gate, with gates usually being a few miles apart.  At the end of the race, the recorded times from all stages are totaled up to determine ranks and winners. 

mountain biker
Photo Credit: Mike Franco @ Salida Enduro

The Salida Enduro has two different options: Weekday Enduro and Weekend One-Day Enduro. The weeknight series takes place on Wednesday nights over the month of April. The weekend one day takes place April 27th and has amateur and pro/expert categories. All races are on the Salida Mountain Trail system on S Mountain and races begin at the High Side Bar and Grill with an after party to follow. 

Organizers of Salida Enduro do a great job of blending commitment to competition and commitment to fun. Riders race hard but also root for each other and gather for beers and good times after the races. 

Banana Belt Mountain Bike Race, Salida. This challenging race takes place in mid-September on some of the best trails in the county: Methodist Mountain in Salida. The route is a combination of uphill roads and trails, with some serious descents along the way. The route begins and ends in Salida after 26 miles of riding. 

The Banana Belt Race benefits Salida Mountain Trails, a local non-profit dedicated to creating and maintaining public use trails in the area. It’s all for a good cause, so while some serious players in the mountain biking scene race to be the top banana, there are plenty of folks on the train to the after party, too. 

If you’re bringing friends or family with you for this race, good news! The Banana Belt race takes place during Salida Bike Fest, an incredibly fun weekend full of bike parades and celebrations of all things bicycle! It’s a great time for everyone, racers and spectators alike. 

Extra bonus: Banana Belt takes place in September, one of the best times of the year in Colorado. Not only is Creekside Chalets a great location to access both races, we’re just down the road from Monarch Pass. Our aspen-grove filled property is starting to see pops of fall color. Fall is a great time to race and stay with us! 

Running Culture Year Round in Salida, Colorado 

Races and competitions aren’t the only ways to get your run on in Salida. There’s a vibrant culture here all year long, charged by local running enthusiasts. Our local organization Salida Mountain Trails does an incredible job maintaining our trails, so there’s always somewhere to recreate. 

The Chaffee County Running Club organizes group runs throughout the year. They host smaller, local races and weekly meetups like the long standing Monday evening run. Runners meet at 7000 Feet Running Company right downtown on 1st Street, a hub of the local running community. 

The CCRC also hosts smaller, local events for runners here in Chaffee County. Check out the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run and the Tails on The Trails 5k in spring 2024 or visit their website for runs throughout the year. Their races are more about inspiring an active lifestyle rather than serious competition. Finding a local race during your visit is a great way to authentically interact with this vibrant community. 

7000 Feet also hosts their own weekly runs which vary from season to season. These races are open to anyone. When you’re here in Salida, check in with the run board in the shop for the current schedule. The spring calendar includes a Wednesday 4 mile run that ends at Tres Litros Beer Company with a discounted pint. That’s running, Salida style! 

Anyone in town who loves running can find the gear they need at 7000 Feet Running Company or Salida Mountain Sports right in downtown Salida. The local staff in both spots will help you with advice on the best trails and gear for runners in Chaffee County. 

Creekside Chalets–Right in the Middle of all the Fun! 

creekside campsites 6

We might be biased, but we truly believe that Creekside Chalets is the perfect place for any competitor looking to race in Chaffee County. Our location couldn’t be better. We’re located on Monarch Pass, where many of these races begin, and just a quick drive from downtown Salida and the Methodist and Tenderfoot trail systems. 

Come stay with us in our beautiful aspen groves by the creek. Every cabin comes with a full kitchen, so it’s easy to make your own meal plans on race day. If you’re like us, you’ll also want a long soak in a hot tub after you push your body to the limit. What competitor doesn’t? We make it easy with private hot tubs in every cabin. The Creekside family is proud to be part of your adventures! So check your dates and start training.