changing leaves

Exploring the Shoulder Seasons in Salida & Buena Vista

When you live in a mountain town, you learn to love all the seasons. Summer sees the rivers flowing, winter brings the snow for skiing, and the height of fall brings leaf peeping. But there’s that time between, when the leaves have fallen but the mountains aren’t quite ready for skiing. While this might seem like a time to stay away from the high country, it’s just the opposite. Ask any local and they’ll tell you–shoulder season is where it’s at. 

Whatever you call this time of year–mud season, off season, shoulder season–it carries its own appeal and charm. The days in between late fall/winter and late spring/summer can be some of the nicest times to live and visit Chaffee County. Crowds are gone but thanks to the Banana Belt phenomenon, weather here can be warm enough to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. Best of all, rates fall along with leaves at Creekside Chalets! Our rates are the most affordable in the fall and spring shoulder seasons. We also allow 1 night stays during the weekdays. 

Low rates? Less crowds? Sign us up! Here are some great ways to make your shoulder season getaway to Salida and Chaffee County unforgettable. 

Shopping, Eating and Hanging Out in Downtown Salida and Buena Vista 

In some ski and winter tourist towns, the restaurants, shops and bars close for the off-season. This makes spending time there less than ideal. But Chaffee County’s local business keeps the restaurants and bars open for business. This is good news for visitors. 

Milling around town is a great way to get a feel for any town. The problem? When the tourists show up in droves, locals hide. Why would they battle long wait times at restaurants? Or window shop on crowded streets? Locals know that shoulder season means they’ll have the place to themselves.

Less people means a more relaxed vacation. Restaurants are more laid back. Bars aren’t packed but they still host fun activities like happy hours, live music and trivia nights. Plus, it feels luxurious to visit notoriously crowded spots like Amicas Pizza in Salida or Crave in Buena Vista and not see lines out the door. 

Cruising downtown in Salida and Buena Vista can be hectic in the summer. Visiting when others aren’t has lots of perks. Look in the windows. Pop into the coffee shop. Stroll by the river. Both towns have beautiful riverside trails and it’s the perfect time of year for a quiet, tranquil moment by the water. 

Family Friendly Activities for the Off-Season in Salida 

Downtown Salida offers more than just eating and drinking. Whether you have the kids in tow or just love playing games, Fun Street Family Arcade is a perfect place to land. This classic arcade space has all your old favorites like Pac Man, Donkey Kong and a row of pinball machines. Test out your Skee-Ball skills or settle into pool, shuffleboard, air hockey or ping pong. It’s easy to spend an entire day hanging out in this fun space, no matter what age you are. 

Riveting Experience Jewelry is another great way to spend time with family and friends in Salida. This unique shop lets you be the maker and master of your own creative piece. With multiple options for making your own jewelry, hats and more, you’ll walk away with a unique souvenir. Kids love making their own jewelry and it’s a great chance for them to craft a gift for a parent, grandparent, sibling or friend. The shop also sells beer and wine for adults and makes a fun group activity for birthday, bachelorette or any get-together.

If you’re a yoga lover, try a guest pass to one of the downtown yoga studios in Salida: Yoga Olas and Yoga Tonic. Both studios offer daily classes of different levels and types. You’ll find healing, restorative practice along with upbeat classes, activity and dance classes. Check out their schedules to add a healing, meditative quality to your spring or fall day.  

History Lover? Discover Salida and Chaffee County’s Backstory

For history buffs or those interested in spooky stories, try Steve’s Original Salida Walking Tours. These highly recommended tours fill visitors or locals in on unknown slices of Salida history. It’s also a great way to walk around and see Colorado’s largest historic district with friends or family. They offer ghost tours, history tours and cemetery tours. You could even book them for a private event. 

The Salida Museum is a hidden gem for any visitor, any time of year. This museum, open Thursday through Sunday, offers a well-curated glimpse into the incredible history of this area. With fascinating photos and artifacts and incredibly helpful volunteers, this small museum packs an informative punch. It makes an excellent addition for all visitors, history buff or not. 

Outdoor Activities in the Off Season of Chaffee County 

monarch crest trail

Chaffee County is lucky to have a pleasant climate much of the year, even when areas around them are frigid. In high altitude mountain towns, winter comes early. But with an altitude of approximately 7,000 feet, Salida remains warmer. Throw in the Banana Belt effect, and you might find yourself wondering, “Is this really November?” 

In Salida, the organization Salida Mountain Trails keeps the Arkansas Hills Trail System (also known as the “S Mountain Trails”) in great shape all year round. With a south facing exposure, these trails on Tenderfoot Mountain stay hikable through the winter. Even in January you’ll often find locals riding bikes and running. This is the perfect place to bike or hike. (If you’re staying at pet friendly Creekside Chalets, you might even get to bring your dog along!) 

If it is a frigid day, as it sometimes will be in shoulder season, the drive up to S Mountain is a great alternative. Spiral Drive, the road winding around S Mountain, ends at the small shack on top. You won’t find a warm hangout–the shack’s windows are simply open frames–but you will find great views of Salida. You’ll love the view up the river into the valley. You can also hike around from the top if weather permits. 

If hiking or biking around S Mountain ever feels too cold, no worries. Just across the river you’ll find restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Sitting inside and enjoying warm food and cozy drinks is also a pretty great way to enjoy a vacation. 

Hot Springs in Chaffee County and San Luis Valley 

Shoulder season might be the most perfect time ever to visit the area’s hot springs. The weather, even if warmer than expected, won’t bring the heat of summer. And if it’s unseasonably cold, the hot water will feel even better. But the best part? The crowds are at home, not soaking with you. 

From Salida and Creekside Chalets, you’ll find world class hot springs resorts. In Chaffee County, Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort and Cottonwood Hot Springs are within an easy drive. We’re also close to Joyful Journey and Sand Dunes Swimming Pool in the San Luis Valley. The hardest part of your day will be choosing which hot springs you want to visit! 

Feeling like a relaxing soak but not excited about a drive? Don’t forget that all our Creekside Cabins have private hot tubs. Soak as much as you like right at your own cabin! 

Great Sand Dunes National Park 

Shoulder season is maybe the best time to explore Great Sand Dunes National Park. Summers here can be much too hot. Do you really want to be surrounded by scorching sand in the heat of July or August? Probably not. But hiking up steep sand in the snow doesn’t sound like much fun, either. Why not try this famous national park in the off-season Goldilocks zone? 

Even on chilly days, hiking up and down the dunes keep you warm so visiting in November or even early December can still be a great time for GSDNP. Just remember to dress in layers and bring hats and gloves. 

If your off season is between the winter and summer seasons, you might catch Medano Creek. The peak time for this unique creek is usually between late April to early June. Seeing this creek when it flows is a special activity for the whole family. 

Being Prepared for Shoulder Season in Colorado 

There is no reason to stay away from Chaffee County in the off season, but you’ll surely have more fun if you’re prepared. Weather can be unpredictable any time of year, but it’s extra important to be ready as winter approaches. Bring a winter hat, gloves and a warm jacket, just in case. Plan ahead with layered clothing. You never know if you’ll feel like strolling the streets in a t-shirt or your puffy jacket! When you hike or bike, always bring lots of water. The climate here is dry all four seasons of the year. Remember: water keeps you happy in the high country! 

If you’re driving your own vehicle, check the tires. Whether you’re traveling in late fall or late spring, snow is possible. If you’re renting a car, check the weather forecast and make sure you have the right kind of vehicle for the road ahead. Better to be prepared than to be stuck! 

Anytime is a good time to stay at Creekside Chalets! 

We know traveling in the shoulder season can be a weather gamble. But staying at Creekside Chalets makes any climate enjoyable. The hot tub is always hot. The 10 acre property is a great place for a stroll by the creek, even if it’s chilly. And all our cabins have cozy living rooms with a fireplace. It’s the perfect spot to play games or spend time catching up with friends and family. All this plus lower rates and options for one night stays on the weekdays? It’s a win/win you won’t want to miss! Check our website for availability today–it might be the perfect off-season getaway for you and your crew.