Don’t miss the boat. Start planning your Colorado summer vacation now!

Posted on January 5, 2018

Colorado summer vacation.

Planning Guide for Colorado’s Arkansas River Basin

The Arkansas River Basin is a popular summer vacation spot in Southwest Colorado. It’s a good idea to plan ahead if you want to experience all the area has to offer. This blog will help you find the nicest places to stay, coolest activities, tastiest restaurants and best shopping for 2018.


Lodging and camping is limited – book early
Don’t get left in the cold! Many of the region’s hotels and campgrounds sell out six months to a year in advance. Book your lodging and camping right away for the best summer stay.

Plan rafting around the runoff – book now for the best deal
Are you looking for the most exciting trip possible? Plan your trip late-May through June. Do you want a family-friendly raft trip? Book in July or August. There is almost always something for everyone – just pick the right trip for your group.

Online Rafting Sale

Book now, raft April – September

The River Runners Early Bird Whitewater Rafting Sale is live. Book online to get 40% off full-days and 20% off half-day and overnight rafting trips. Questions? Call 800-723-8987. Offer expires February 5, 2018.

  • 15% off full-day tours – enter Online15
  • 15% off half-day and overnight tours – enter Online19
  • No definite date? No problem! No hassle rescheduling with two-week notice
  • Offer expires March 20, 2018

Visit the Arkansas River Basin in Colorado

Buena Vista, Colorado.

Now this is Colorado!

The Arkansas River flows through Buena Vista, Salida and Cañon City, Colorado. It’s steep decent through valleys and canyons make for 150 miles of world-class fishing and whitewater boating. Plus, there are lots of other outdoor activities in the area. Not to mention, local libations, art galleries, restaurants and more. Check out this quick guide to Colorado’s Arkansas River Basin, and book your summer vacation like a pro.

    Must-do whitewater rafting trips

    Bighorn Sheep Canyon Rafting.

    Raft Colorado’s Arkansas River

    The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area offers 150 miles of world-class whitewater ranging from beginner class I to extreme class V rapids and everything in between. Be sure to hire an outfitter for the safest experience.

    More fun things to do

    RZR Rentals.

    Explore Colorado’s high country

    This area of Colorado is an outdoor mecca. Mountain biking, off-roading, hiking, fishing, climbing and more can be found within minutes of these low-key mountain towns.

      Buena Vista, CO

    • Side-by-Side ATV Tours and Rentals
    • Mountain biking – check out the Midland Trail
    • Hike the Colorado Trail
    • Horseback riding – tours with Colorado Trail Rides
    • Summit a 14er – the Collegiate Peaks
    • Soak in Hot Springs – Mount Princeton or Cottonwood
    • Visit a local brewery or distillery – Eddyline Brewery or Deerhammer Distilling Company

      Cañon City, CO

    • Royal Gorge Bridge and Park
    • Royal Gorge Route Railroad
    • The Dinosaur Museum – next door to River Runners at the Royal Gorge
    • Horseback riding – Royal Gorge Stables
    • Mountain biking – Oil Well Flats
    • Rock climbing – Shelf Road

    The nicest places to stay

    South Main Buena Vista.

    Stay in style

    There are your budget-friendly run of the mill hotels, but if you want to relax in style try one of these unique places to stay.

      Salida, CO

    • Amigo Lodge
    • The Palace Hotel
    • Simple Lodge – Salida hostel
    • Vacation Rentals – VRBO

      Cañon City, CO

    • – search “81212”
    • Royal Gorge Cabins
    • Prospectors RV Resort

    The best camping

    Colorado camping

    The stars are bright

    Whether you’re looking for solitude, convenience, or both – plan ahead for the best camping in the valley. National Forest and BLM lands are free, but first come, first serve.

      Buena Vista, CO

    • River Runners at Browns Canyon – four group camps plus event space
    • Buena Vista KOA – book in advance – 5 minutes from River Runners
    • Chalk Creek Campground – book in advance
    • BLM and National Forest (FREE) – arrive early

      Cañon City, CO

    • Prospectors RV Resort
    • Royal View Campground
    • Royal Gorge KOA
    • BLM and National Forest (FREE)

    Tastiest restaurants

    Buena Vista, Colorado Restaurants.

    Just say no to chain restaurants

    These towns are not known for chain restaurants, but you won’t mind once you’ve experienced the local flavor.

      Buena Vista, CO

    • Riverside Grill – seasonal
    • Asian Pallet – sushi and more
    • Eddyline Restaurant – Burgers, pasta and pizza
    • House Rock Kitchen – health conscious stop for burgers, sandwiches and bowls
    • Evergreen – the best breakfast in town

      Salida, CO

    • Boathouse Cantina – great food and atmosphere
    • The Fritz – American gastropub with globally inspired dishes
    • Amicas – wood fired pizza and sandwiches
    • Currents – steaks and seafood
    • Mama Ds – sub sandwiches and giros

      Cañon City, CO

    • Pizza Madness – pizza!
    • Owl Cigar Store – great burgers and good value
    • Whitewater Bar & Grill – seasonal American pub
    • 16th Street Cafe – soups and sandwiches
    • El Alazan Mexican Restaurant – authentic Mexican food

    Best shopping and art galleries

    Downtown Salida

    Local art, collectibles and more

    No strip malls here, but there are plenty of one-of-a kind arts, gifts, clothing and collectibles – plus your outdoor gear needs.

      Buena Vista, CO

    • CKS Main Street – rafting, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and more
    • The Trailhead – backpacking and camping supplies
    • Boneshaker – cycling
    • Sundog Colorado – antique collectibles
    • Sundance and Friends – art gallery and collectibles

      Salida, CO

    • Salida Mountain Sports – local sporting goods
    • Eye Candy – art gallery representing over 30 artists
    • Howl – craft coffee and artisanal craft goods
    • Yolo Clothing – women’s clothing store
    • Ruby Blues – vintage clothing store
    • Wanderlust

      Cañon City, CO

    • The Gold Mine Rock – rocks, gems, sapphires and more
    • Red Mountain Cycles – bicycle shop