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There’s really not a bad time to visit centrally located Salida (although we are partial to spring and fall). The railroad town is nestled into the Upper Arkansas River Valley, with easy access to the mighty river and more than a dozen nearby fourteeners. As you’d expect, the tiny town (population is around 5,200) caters to an outdoor-obsessed crowd. Take a hint: Bring a bike or a kayak.
The Odometer: 142 miles, one-way
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If You Do One Thing…: Swing by Ploughboy, a market and deli we raved about in “Moveable Feasts.” Pick up a lunch to pack for a hike (try the chipotle chicken salad sandwich; $6.99) and make plans to stop again on your way out of town to stock up on Colorado-produced goodies such as pasta and salsas.
Local Secret: The folks behind Beeyond the Hive, a beekeeping operation that dates back to 1908, are dedicated to all things honey. Make sure to try a sample of their chai spice creamed honey.
Where to Nosh: Ordering a pie at Amicas is a classic pick for dinner in Salida—and that’s the problem. The tiny eatery is often so packed that the wait time scares us away. The solution? Order a Salsiccia (pepperoni, sausage, tomatoes, and mozzarella; $11.70) to go and head for a picnic in nearby Riverside Park. For breakfast, order the Smoke House (hash browns, pork green chili, cheddar, eggs, and a tortilla; $8) at Rivers Edge or grab a cup of Joe from Cafe Dawn.
Get Outside: On warm days, the Arkansas River (and its banks) are packed with river rats. You can watch the festivities from the bridge over the river on F Street or while drinking a cold one on the Boathouse Cantina’s deck.
Stay: The Palace Hotel has all the charm of a historic spot—it opened in 1909—but has recently gone through a massive remodel, so the rooms now feel oh-so modern.
Stroll: Salida’s window-shopping on F Street is perfect for whiling away a few hours. Check out the retro aprons at Dandelion Ranch, the yarn stash at Fringe, and the quirky re-fabbed gifts at Art and Salvage Gallery. Then head over to SteamPlant Event Center, which houses a gallery, a sculpture garden, and artsy events throughout the year.