Passing Through: Buena Vista, Colorado

Last month, we headed over to Buena Vista to check out a new Maverick just released by Juliana. While we had plenty to say about the bike and how dreamy it was to ride out there, the town of Buena Vista was newsworthy unto itself. It’s a bit of a haul from the Denver airport — about a 2.5-hour drive — but it’s a great spot to stop on your way up from New Mexico or Colorado Springs, and a perfect stop to stretch the legs on some world-class grippy rocks.

STAY

Buena Vista is a pretty big town, so there are plenty of lodging options from truckstop motels to five-star resorts, and plenty of bed-and-breakfasts and AirBNBs in between. We stayed at the Surf Hotel & Chateaux. This little independent hotel markets itself as an adventure hotel, and with the Arkansas River roaring in its back yard and mountain bike trails that spit you out just a few minutes away from your front door, that’s a pretty accurate description. While our adventure was pre-planned, they do offer a number of guided outdoor experiences for visitors interested in checking out the local scene. They are pet-friendly, the rooms were very comfortable, and the food was delicious. An unexpected highlight for me was waking up in the middle of the night from the sheer adrenaline of the trip, and sitting on my own little patio overlooking the courtyard, drinking tea and bouncing my vision between the Milky Way twinkling above and the notebook I wrote in on the little table provided.

Surf Hotel lobby

EAT

back room at Deer Hammer

While the hotel restaurant, Wesley & Rose, is destination enough for many people, don’t miss out on the other food options. And don’t overthink it. Food trucks are as popular here as anywhere, and Buena Viking’s got you covered for comfort food in the form of burgers (regular, vegetarian/vegan, and gluten free options), fried snacks, and — Dare I say it? — comfort salads. Buena Viking sits in a lot adjacent to Deer Hammer, a rad bar with a modern saloon vibe. Whiskey barrels and giant beer kegs fill the back room, but so do kayaks and a punching bag. The Lariat is the place to go for finer dining in a casual atmosphere, with a nice back patio and live music on the indoor stage most nights. Finish your foodie walkabout with some ice cream from Louie’s or some more libations at the historic Jailhouse. Like so many buildings in these smaller Colorado towns, the Jailhouse has History with a capital H. If those walls could talk they’d probably half to kill you afterwards.

RIDE

Wow, where to start? The “local” trails put most county park trail networks to shame. Rocky, grippy, cactus-y, and dusted with a healthy dose of kitty-litter-like sand, you’ll get plenty of technical challenge mixed in with whoopdee flow and literally breathtaking views around just about every turn, if you can manage to stop long enough to appreciate it. Bacon Bits was my favorite trails for it’s overall ridability and trail diversity, and I loved sending it down Whipple as well, which took us back to the hotel. For an all-day adventure, the newly legal Vitamin B trail is a must-ride. This trail also has everything, and in big form. Like many trails that started out illegal, this trail has some serious technical aspects and a few traverses that are necessarily hike-a-bike, adding to the thrill of being out all day in the Colorado rocks. It was on this trail I learned to truly love a big rock roll. I mean BIG. There are plenty of spots to send it or huck it or whatever you’re feeling, but most any rock is rollable if it’s rideable. There is a lot of kitty-litter sand and gravel, as well as a few sections of deep soft sand, and of course the babyhead rocks and chunder that necessitate some front or rear wheel lifts to get over. But visitors from the East Coast, like myself, will have heads spinning with the Velcro nature of these rocks that feel like they were meant to be ridden.

At the bottom, there is a string of barbed wire, so be careful, but again this trail will feed you out just about right smack in downtown Buena Vista, where you can either go to your lodging or stop by Bone Shaker Cycles to tighten up any bolts that got rattled loose on the ride. They were in the process of building a café when we visited, so if it takes you a bit of time to figure out how to get your buns and your bike out that way, it may be ready in time to also enjoy a nice post-ride espresso so you’re not totally bonked before dinner.