If you live or are stationed in Colorado Springs, congratulations. You’re already surrounded by natural beauty with tons of fun things to do without having to go far out of your way. But if you do decide that you need a Colorado Springs getaway, you’ll find that there’s plenty of ways to feel a hundred miles away without having to go far at all. And if you don’t mind camping, all the better.
A beautiful place to go camping in Colorado is right outside of Salida. There’s plenty of activity to keep you and the family occupied, and you’ll be surrounded by the unique beauty that Chaffee County has to offer. It’s a different kind of feel than some of the more popular Colorado mountain destinations like Vail, Breckenridge or Aspen. Here is the AAFSO’s recommendations on how to make the most out of your colorado camping getaway.
Where to Camp
Monarch Park Campground
- Getting there: From Colorado Springs, go west on US-24, then South on Highway 285 (a left turn). Follow 285 until you come to a stoplight and intersection for Highway 50. You’ll see a Sears outlet warehouse and a questionable looking Thai Restaurant. Turn right. Stay on the road for approximately 15 miles. After you pass a mining operation on the left, start looking out for signs that indicate camping on the left. The turn is really easy to miss, but if you keep a lookout for the signs that say Monarch Park, you’ll at least know to slow down and start looking. Turn left on to County Road 233 and continue on County Road 231 (it might say 231 right at the beginning – I can’t remember). Keep following the road until you reach the campground.
- About: This campground has over 30 camp sites and when we went on Labor Day Weekend, it didn’t fill up. There are plenty of different environments to suit any taste. It is heavily wooded and has both a creek and some of the South Fork of the Arkansas River running through it. The Ponderosas and Fir Tree provide plenty of shade and there is no shortage of picturesque meadows dotted by wildflowers.
- Practical Information: Camping fees as of the publishing date are $17/night. There are water pumps for non-chlorinated water; bring your own potable water. Firewood can be purchased nearby close to Salida – make sure it is dry. There are vaulted toilets, but they have not followed the trend that I’ve noticed of campgrounds trying to make the experience of a honey pot less traumatizing. By my third day, I couldn’t handle even a wafting of the odor and insisted on going into town. This is a dog friendly campsite.
- For more information on reservations and contacts, click here.
What To Do
Hike Browns Creek Falls
Unless you hate beautiful waterfalls.
Getting There: From Monarch Park Campground, take a right on Highway 50 and go until you reach the intersection of 50 and 285. Take a left on 285. From 285, turn left on to County Road 270 west for approximately 1.5 miles to a 4-way intersection. From the yield sign, continue traveling west. The road continues as Forest Road 272. Stay on FR 272 for about 2 miles. A sign at the cattle guard will indicate you entrance onto Nation Forest lands. Continue traveling west from the boundary sign for 2 miles. At the intersection, turn left and travel south for 1.5 miles to the trailhead.
About: This trail is located at the base of Mount Antero along the Collegiate Peaks. The entire hike offers beautiful scenery, some of the sweeping peaks, some of gorgeous meadows, and of course, at the end a beautiful waterfall. There is an option to continue to Browns Lake, which adds another six miles total to the hike.
Practical Information: Colorado weather is a fickle mistress at best. Be prepared for rain in the summer months, and snow during the rest of the year. Light layers are best. You’ll be hiking above 9,000 feet so wear sunscreen. This hike starts out at the base of Mount Antero and the first mile or so is pretty consistent uphill. After you turn off at a sign pointing you to the fall and the Colorado Trail, the trail is a little more mellow and incredibly pleasant. There are a few make-shift bridges that cross over the river, but nothing that is too difficult. Be prepared for bikers and horses. This is a dog friendly trail. Playful pooches abound.
Soak in the Mount Princeton Hot Springs
This is the perfect apres-hike way to get your muscles relaxed after your hike to the waterfall. It’s only a ten minute drive away, but I’m going to refer you to your GPS. Mount Princeton Hot Springs Map Admission was about $22/adult. They do give military discounts.
There are two pools accessible to general admission guests. One hot soaking pool and another larger exercise pool. There is an upper deck with lots of lounge chairs and a steam room. If you go right as you enter the swimming area, you’ll see a bunch of improvised pools down in the river. We went on a holiday weekend, so it was really busy but just as pleasant. DRINK WATER. If you think you’re hydrated, keep drinking.
I was not anticipating a visit to the Springs, but I welcomed the prospect of both the relaxation and a shower. I didn’t bring shower toiletries because see above, but the showers do have shampoo, conditioner and body wash. However, getting a decent amount of any was a feat unto itself and wrestling with plastic bottle naked in front of strangers was starting to get to me. Bring flip flops. Bring a towel. It’s $2 for locker rental. Did I mention that you should drink water?
Walk Around Downtown Salida
About: Downtown Salida is full of cafes, stores, bars and galleries. It’s has a great unique energy to it and it’s easy to spend the day there just walking around. We got lost in a couple of the many antique shops, but there’s plenty of new stores to check out as well. Craftier visitors will enjoy all the stores purveying goods to make arts and crafts. I enjoyed the consignment shops and my
boyfriend fiance (!) was enjoying digging through old records at various stores.
We stopped in for a drink at this downtown Salida distillery, where our incredibly friendly and talented bar tender told us about the hike and the hot springs. So maybe your trip should start with your day in Salida. That way you can combine all this awesome information about your Colorado Springs Getaway to Salida with some booze-slanging locals in the know.