This high-mountain main street keeps its western heritage alive, with many of the buildings in active use along Main dating to its late-19th century heyday as a mining, ranching and railroad center. The shops along Main in Buena Vista today specialize in locally raised food, area craft products, and Colorado brews and spirits, so you’re guaranteed to find something that stirs your spirit here.
“Buena Vista” is Spanish for “beautiful view,” and Main Street, altitude 7,965 feet, offers that in just about every direction — it’s virtually surrounded by 14,000-foot mountain peaks. (If you visit, by the way, be careful to say the town’s name as locals do: ByOOna Vista.)
To learn more of the town’s history, visit the Buena Vista Heritage Museum in the 1882-built Old Chaffee County Courthouse. The building itself has a story. The original courthouse was 17 miles away in Granite, which refused to give up its records after Buena Vista became the county seat in 1979. So a group of Buena Vista men “borrowed” a locomotive and flat car, built a siding up to the Granite courthouse, held the local sheriff at gunpoint, and took away the records. Plus the furniture.
Hey, it was the Wild West. Upstairs in the museum is an impressive model train display, which shows in great detail the 130-mile rail system along the Upper Arkansas River Valley around a century ago.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or just looking for an afternoon in the sun, the Buena Vista Whitewater Park, on South Main by the river, has play spaces for kids, manmade rapids and trails that cross the river by footbridge into mountain upcountry for hiking, biking and horseback riding. You can equip yourselves for outdoor adventures along Main at Boneshaker Cycles or The Trailhead — and once you’ve built up a healthy thirst, there are several appealing options.
Stop into the Jailhouse Craft Brew Bar, where Colorado beers and ales are featured on ten rotating taps, or Deerhammer, a Main Street distillery where every step of the fine whiskey-making happens on site. The Lariat and the Green Parrot are more pubs on Main, and you’ll find Mexican food with locally farm-raised ingredients at The Bearded Lady.
You can wrap up your day where it might well have started: with organic Bongo’s coffee and desserts made with local ingredients at the Buena Vista Roastery café, right here on Main Street.
All photos provided by Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center
Primary photo taken by Scott Peterson