Salida Colorado Kayaking Overview
Just a couple of hours from Denver, nestled beside Gunnison National Forest, is one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets: Salida. An unassuming little mountain town with a robust, loyal community, Salida offers a gateway to some incredible outdoor opportunities, including water sports. The Arkansas River offers a variety of rafting and kayaking experiences from easy beginner paddles to advanced class V rapids that will provide a challenge for even the most experienced whitewater kayakers. The river runs right through town and Salida also offers plenty of hiking and camping opportunities to round out your outdoor adventures.
Why Salida Colorado Kayaking is Great
Really, what’s not to love about kayaking in this beautiful town? There is a long list of things that make Salida great, but we’ll give you the highlights.
Salida is up at about 7000 feet of elevation and it enjoys a super mild climate. Though you’re surrounded by dramatic, 14000-foot peaks (locally known as 14ers), the elevation and geography here mean that the seasons are easy and comfortable, no matter when you visit.
The Arkansas River
This infamous river has more than 100 miles of Colorado’s best whitewater, and is the most popular whitewater rafting river in the entire United States. Many of the most popular whitewater rafting sections are near Salida and Buena Vista, CO.
Places to Fuel Up
No Colorado adventure town would be complete without excellent restaurants, fun coffee shops, and awesome brews, and Salida has them all in spades. We particularly love Moonlight Pizza and Brewpub for their “moonzones” (a take on the calzone) – and the fact that they donate 10 percent of their Monday sales to a local nonprofit!
Hot Springs Aquatic Center
Recharge your muscles after a long day of paddling with a visit to the Hot Springs Aquatic Center. This spot pumps in natural hot springs water from about 8 miles away and it’s been soothing fellow outdoorspeople for 80 years.
Where to Go Salida Colorado Kayaking
Wondering about the best kayaking spots in Salida, CO? Here’s our list.
Kayaking Downtown Salida
The stretch of the Arkansas River that runs through Salida is exceptionally calm and serene as it pours into Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Because of its beginner nature and super easy access from downtown Salida, this stretch is a popular choice for kayaking in this area. Many people put in at Big Bend for a leisurely half-day paddle including a couple of Class II and Class III rapids.
The section of the Arkansas that runs through Brown’s Canyon National Monument is perfect for a single day self guided kayak in Salida for an experienced kayaker. We recommend an inflatable kayak for the journey. It features mostly Class II rapids and a couple of Class III, including Twin Falls and Seidel’s Suckhole, which add a little spice to the day. Especially when water levels are low, Brown’s Canyon can be an especially fun paddle for kayakers. Most people put in at Fisherman’s Bridge or Ruby Mountain Campground about 20 minutes north of Salida and take out in downtown.
Eleven Mile State Park
For flat water kayaking, Salida’s best choice is just over an hour northeast: Eleven Mile State Park, where paddlers will find one of the best lakes for kayaking Salida CO. The lake can be windy on some days, but the option to stay close to shore and explore coves and grottos means that you can make your trip as challenging as you want regardless of the wind levels.
When to Go Kayaking in Salida Colorado
Shoot for visiting in early summer: late May to June can make you feel like you have the town of Salida all to yourself! Salida sits in a valley that is ringed by mountains on all sides which impacts its climate significantly. It gets over 300 days a year of sunshine, and much lower precipitation than the surrounding mountains. Most tourists come to Salida in summer in the warmest months of July and August. Late summer and early fall is also a great time to visit, and low river levels mean that some highly-rated rapids might be available to more novice paddlers.
Getting to Salida Colorado
The closest airport to Salida is the Colorado Springs Airport (COS), about 100 miles or a 2-hour drive to the east. If you don’t want to rent a car (which is fine, the town of Salida is very walkable), you can get a shuttle from COS to the town. Denver International Airport (DIA), which is much larger than COS, is just over 2.5 hours’ drive from Salida.
Salida Kayak Shops, Rentals, Tours & Lessons
No matter your level of experience, there are plenty of places for kayak rentals and guided tours in Salida CO. TripOutside features the best kayak providers in Salida CO, with guides, tours, and Salida inflatable kayak rentals. Our outfitter partners are all four-star rated or above, and they are some of the most experienced Salida kayaking guides in the state of Colorado. We take the guesswork out of booking your Salida kayaking trip – all of our outfitters provide top notch service and safety.
Salida Colorado Kayaking FAQs
Can you kayak the Arkansas River in Colorado?
Yes. The town of Salida CO is located at the headwaters of the Arkansas River and offers plentiful kayaking opportunities on the river. Different sections of the river have varying levels of rapids, so check with a local outfitter on the best section for your experience and abilities.
What is Salida, CO known for?
One of Salida’s claims to fame is the Arkansas River, which offers unmatched water sport experiences like kayaking and rafting.
Is Salida, CO worth visiting?
Absolutely. With a solid downtown full of restaurants and bars, and plenty of places to hike, bike, kayak, and raft, Salida is a very worthy destination.
How safe is Salida Colorado?
Salida is a quiet, small town and very safe to visit.
What is there to do in Salida Colorado today?
Check out our outfitter companies and plan your next kayaking trip on the Arkansas River in Salida!