Whitewater Rafting

Browns Canyon National Monument and Buena Vista, Colorado

I have been feeling overwhelmed by the backlog of adventure posts I need to write. We have been to so many incredible places and all of them deserve attention. But you also deserve to know if where we have explored is worth your time and energy the next time you're ready to adventure. It's time for my anxiety to take a back seat and for me to start writing.

I will eventually get to posting about all of our journeys, but I need to start somewhere. I'm going to jump in with Browns Canyon National Monument and Buena Vista, Colorado--a place we will no doubt return to again and again.

Trip Specifics

Time of Year

Mid-July, 2018. Between 90°F and 100°F during the day, and 70°F to 55°F at night. Buena Vista is at 7,965' elevation and I recommend a couple days at similar elevation before attempting strenuous physical activity in the area. Obviously, bring sunscreen, multiple gallons of water, hats, sunglasses, etc. for daytime activities, but also heavy sweatshirts for hanging out at night. Colorado is in a drought this year, so no open fires but propane stoves are okay for meal making.


Tent CampingThe RV was in the shop having its refrigerator fixed (another story for another post), which meant we tent camped for this outing. We stayed at Arrowhead Point Campground and Cabins just north of Buena Vista. It's an original Pony Express and stage coach stop and was a great place to stay--there is a full-blown coffee shop on property and the place was impeccably clean. Staff and owners were fantastic, too. My only complaints are that our site was situated in such a way that the sound of highway traffic was constant and it required us to use 4WD to get to (fine for us, maybe not for others), but the views of the Collegiate Peaks more than made up for any inconveniences. Rates vary based on tent, cabin, RV site, day of the week, and time of year, but were consistent with the area and services offered. Without our GoodSam discount, I believe we would have paid $44 a night for a private tent pad.


Hiking Browns CanyonThis area is packed with so much stuff to do that choosing our exact plans was difficult. We were going out with friends who have a dog, so that limited our choices. Additionally, Chris and I had spent the past few months at sea level and there was no way we would have been able to tackle any of the 14ers on this trip (14ers are the 53 mountains in Colorado over 14,000' elevation). We decided to align our hike to what we would be white water rafting (at least in part) the next day and to hike in Browns Canyon National Monument.

We settled on the Turret Trail 6045 to River Bench 6045a. It's a 5.5 mile out and back that has two 405' climbs. The trails are decently marked and we had no issue parking at the trailhead. There are two trails that hook up with this parking lot, and the Turret Trail begins behind the pit toilets.

Hiking Browns CanyonHalf the trail is flat with no tree cover, which at times felt worse than the two climbs in the direct sun. It's rated as a moderate trail and I'd agree with that assessment. You have to scramble down boulders to get to the river, and I was able to make it with my bad hip by sliding down and climbing back up on my bum. This trail isn't for anyone with mobility issues beyond mine. And I recommend taping up your feet ahead of time to reduce friction on blister-prone areas and bringing a spare pair of socks to switch out riverside. This hike is not kind to feet on hot days, so dipping your feet into the river is a welcome relief.

Arkansas RiverThe hike took us four hours and fifteen minutes. We stopped at the river and had heavy snacks and the dog splashed in the water for a good bit. We packed in everything and packed it all out. It was a good hike, and one I would gladly do again (especially on a day in the upper 70°s, instead of the 90°s). If memory serves correctly, we only passed two other hikers.

White Water Rafting

We rafted the next day with Browns Canyon Rafting company. It was a half-day trip on the Arkansas River and was $67 for an adult. We put in about a quarter mile from the trailhead for the Turret Trail we had hiked the previous day--at the Ruby Mountain campground area (22601 County Road 300, Buena Vista). BCR brought us and our gear to the spot via bus. The raft trip was approximately 10 miles, ending at Hecla Junction (roughly 10142 County Road 194, Salida). This stretch of the Arkansas is Class II and Class III+ rapids. Because of the drought and low-snow levels this past winter, the water level was somewhat low, but still moving and worth the run.

Whitewater RaftingOur guide was incredible (Spencer W.) and we had a good group of people in our raft. All of us ended the trip wishing we had signed up for the full day, as two hours on the water seemed to pass by too quickly. I highly recommend BCR as a rafting company and we will use them again in the future. They're building a larger headquarters, on the south side of Buena Vista, scheduled to open 2019, which will no doubt be impressive.