Small towns are charming, tucked-away, and offer a retreat from the noise of larger cities. But that does not mean they are sleepy or boring. Far from it -- Salida, Colorado is a small town that’ll keep you entertained in a BIG way!

Located in the middle of the state of Colorado, Salida, also known as “The Gem of the Rockies” sits in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Cradled between Gunnison National Forest and The Pike and San Isabel National Forests & Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, it offers plenty of activities to satisfy even the most ardent outdoorsman or woman.

The area contains the largest number of 14,000-foot-or-taller peaks in the country, which the locals efficiently call the “Fourteeners.” Numerous trails offer beautiful hiking scenery, while mountain biking is another local favorite. The 26-mile Banana Belt Mountain Bike Race, coming up in September, is one of the many bike festivals that are hosted in the region.

Salida Bike Race

Photo courtesy of City of Salida, Colorado Facebook page

For anyone curious and not in the know, “Banana Belt” refers to a specific geographic area that enjoys warmer weather conditions than the region as a whole, especially in the winter. So due to its mild climate, most of these activities are available year-round in Salida!

The Arkansas River, originating only 60 miles north of Salida, is another source of all sorts of water sports. Fishing, kayaking, and rafting – take your pick! In fact, Salida is home to America’s Oldest Whitewater Festival called FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) which runs every June and is in its 70th year. Check out the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area for more fun on-the-water ideas!

Salida Watersports

Photo courtesy of City of Salida, Colorado Facebook page

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Salida offers much more: golfing, ghost towns, rockhounding, zip lining, skiing, and plenty of hot springs to soak in at the end of a long day in the great outdoors.

After an hour or two of relaxation, why not explore Downtown Salida? Instead of giving in to the strip-mall and chain-store mindset, Salida preserved its historic brick buildings and now boasts the largest historic district in the state of Colorado. Whether you're in the market for a handcrafted guitar (what a souvenir!) or a piece of local art, the shopping and art scene of Salida is a crowd-pleaser.

Photo courtesy of City of Salida, Colorado Facebook page

So much to do, you'll surely get hungry! Salida will feed you from morning 'till night. Whether you're craving a hearty breakfast (Patio Pancake Place) or fresh house-made pasta (Ferraro's), the town has no shortage of places to grab a bite.

Unless you plan on making this a one-day trip, not recommended if coming from afar, there's a head-spinning selection of places to snooze. There's definitely an affordable Days Inn nearby or you can splurge on the Palace Hotel, with custom eucalyptus linens, freshly ground locally roasted coffee, and artisan soaps. Oh-la-la!

For the full list of Smithsonian Magazine's Top 20 Small Towns to Visit in 2018, click here.

Have you ever been to Salida in Colorado? What do you think? Any tips for first-time visitors? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below! Happy travels!

Two Colorado mountain towns ranked as the "Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA" by U.S. News!