Buena Vista is one of my favorite laid-back mountain towns in Colorado, and the perfect place for an elopement if you want easy access to incredible views, lots of off-roading and hiking trails, adventure activities like rafting and rock climbing, and of course relaxing in the natural hot springs that the area is known for.
Keeping reading for everything you need to know about planning a Buena Vista elopement—or just visiting a great mountain town for a weekend!
Practical Info About Buena Vista
Buena Vista is a small town with around 3,000 inhabitants in Chaffee County, located between the Arkansas River to the east and the Collegiate Peaks to the west. As with most mountain towns in Colorado, BV has seen some major population growth recently, but it’s also handled the growth well while keeping the small-town feel we all love.
Buena Vista is around a 2.5-3 hour drive from Denver International Airport, and you can get here by driving highway 285 through Conifer and Fairplay, or by taking I-to 70 to Copper Mountain and highway 24 south through Leadville. 285 is usually your best bet, since traffic along I-70 is notoriously bad—especially on weekends during ski season. Buena Vista is also home to the Central Colorado Regional Airport (AEJ), but no commercial airlines service AEJ at this time.
Oh, and one important thing: how the heck do you pronounce Buena Vista anyway?
If you believe the local history, the town was named Buena Vista for the beautiful views, but with the pronunciation of “beau” in beautiful—”BEW-na VIS-ta.” (Say it in “American” and not Spanish, and you’re saying it right.)
Best time to visit Buena Vista
Since you can find something to do in Buena Vista all year round, the best time to visit depends on what you’re coming out here for. If you want to go hiking, late June through September is ideal for snow-free trails and perfect hiking weather at high elevation (highs around 80° in town). Just watch out for afternoon thunderstorms in the middle of summer, start your day early, and get back down below treeline before noon.
The town slows down between Thanksgiving and Presidents’ Day weekend, but the area is starting to get more and more ski traffic as people want to hit Monarch, Cooper, and even Copper Mountain without dealing with I-70 traffic and the prices of bigger ski towns like Breckenridge and Vail.
Buena Vista Wedding Venues
The town of Buena Vista only has a handful of wedding venues, but if you expand your search to include nearby Salida, Monarch, Howard, and Nathrop, you’ll find quite a few venues to choose from. Many of the venues around here are ranches, both old and new. On the more modern side, Terrace on Main and Surf Hotel are great options for elopements and micro-weddings that want to combine photos in the mountains with a celebration in town.
- Surf Hotel & Chateau
- Terrace on Main
- Mount Princeton Hot Springs
- The Barn at Sunset Ranch
- Steamplant Event Center
- Three Peaks Ranch
- Deer Valley Ranch
- Howard Creek Ranch
- Willow Vale Events
- Hutchinson Ranch
- Joyful Journey Hot Springs
- Blue Coyote Ranch
- Guyton Ranch
- The Steel Horse
- The Loft Orpheum Theater
- Noah’s Ark
Best places to elope in Buena Vista
While I can’t name exact hiking trails and elopement locations in a post like this without risking them going from private to crowded, these are the public lands in the area. All the best places to elope near Buena Vista are managed by one of these, and that’s where you’ll need to start researching permits, special use fees, commercial use authorizations (if you’re a photographer/vendor) and rules for what you can or cannot do when eloping on public lands.
- Collegiate Peaks Wilderness
- Browns Canyon National Monument
- Pike-San Isabel National Forest
- Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
- Gunnison National Forest
Looking for more specific trail recommendations for your elopement? Get in touch with a local photographer—like me—and we’ll help you find the right spot based on the time of year, group size, and what you want from your elopement.
Where to get your marriage license
If you are eloping in Buena Vista, you’ll likely want to get your marriage license from the Chaffee County Courthouse at 104 Crestone Ave in Salida. The Clerk’s office is open from 8am-4pm on weekdays, and closed on all county holidays, so make sure you plan accordingly and give yourselves at least one day before your elopement to pick up your license. You can schedule an appointment to get your marriage license by calling 719-530-5602 during their open hours, and save time by completing the application online before your appointment.
Where to stay in Buena Vista
Buena Vista is home to two of my favorite boutique hotels anywhere in Colorado: the Surf Hotel & Chateau, and The Inn at Railroad and Main. The Surf is a bigger hotel, with a great restaurant and hotel bar called Wesley & Rose, and they also host weddings and events. The Inn is much smaller, but with the most comfortable hotel bed I think I’ve ever slept in anywhere. While I haven’t stayed there yet, Mount Princeton Hot Springs is also a local favorite, with guests getting access to multiple hot spring pools on site.
Best hotels in Buena Vista
- Surf Hotel & Chateau
- The Inn at Railroad and Main
- Mount Princeton Hot Springs
- Best Western Vista Inn
Best vacation rentals in BUena Vista
There are plenty of vacation rentals to choose from in Buena Vista. While I usually prefer staying in hotels when I’m only visiting for a night or two (because let’s be real, no mountain town needs more investors buying up homes to make them short term rentals), vacation rentals are great for longer stays when you want access to a kitchen, and for elopements where you want a group of people to stay together at the same property.
- Bighorn on the Wilsey (vrbo, allows events up to 12 people)
- Hacienda on 37 acres (vrbo, allows events up to 20 people)
- 1008 Swift (vrbo, allows events up to 25 people)
- Tiny Treat in South Main (vrbo)
- Merrifield Cabin with private hot springs (airbnb)
- Holloway Cabin with private hot springs (airbnb)
- Rivendell Cabin (airbnb)
- The Zebra Loft (airbnb)
- Treehouse Hot Springs (private)
- Aqua Hot Spring (private)
- Whispering Willows Hot Springs (private)
- Antero Hot Spring Cabins (private)
Where to eat and drink in Buena Vista
Buena Vista is not a foodie town like Aspen or Steamboat, but the restaurant scene has greatly improved over the decade I’ve been coming here, and you can get great food—and beer—in BV. I always end up going back to my favorites: The Midland Stop for coffee, Bread + Salt for a classic diner breakfast, Eddyline Brewery for lunch and beers, and Wesley & Rose for dinner and cocktails.
- The Midland Stop — coffee, gelato, and a great breakfast frittata!
- Bread + Salt — closes in winter, but a solid diner breakfast that hits extra hard after an early hike.
- Eddyline Brewery — they have two locations, the one on South Main has the bigger food menu, but the original taproom off highway 24 has the bigger patio and wood-fired pizza.
- Wesley & Rose — one of the nicest restaurants in town, and with an excellent cocktail menu.
- Simple Eatery — good soups and sandwiches, great for a healthy lunch.
About Nina Larsen Reed
Nina Larsen Reed is an elopement photographer based in Boulder. She plans and captures adventure elopements and micro-weddings across Colorado, and has photographed over 220 elopements since 2017.