I just got back from a fabulous fall getaway in Buena Vista, Colorado. My family flew in from Virginia and Texas and we went up to our favorite small mountain town for a long weekend. It was such a treat to get a vacation in amidst the pandemic state of 2020.
October in Colorado is amazing! We hit the mountains at nearly peak color season and were rewarded with crisp mornings and warm days. Layers were key as we saw temps from the 40s to the 70s daily.
Everyone flew into Denver on Thursday morning. They made a quick stop at my house in Littleton for lunch and last-minute packing. We wanted to make the drive up to the mountains during the day to really soak in the views and changing colors over Kenosha Pass.
We arrived to check in to our AirBnB around 4pm. Mateo and Kim’s place is great! The kitchen is spacious and well-appointed and the large island gives plenty of room for grazing while prepping. We loved that with a group, we were able to hang out in the kitchen/family room and never felt crowded.
After the drive to Buena Vista, Colorado from Denver, we were ready to settle in and simply chill. My family had flown in from Virginia that morning, so they were tired from travel.
Preparing a few things ahead of time made assembling a healthy dinner super easy. I had packed a cold chicken salad and took a few minutes to put it all together. A hearty salad for six people took less than 20 minutes to get on the table!
Barbecue Chicken Bacon Salad
Here’s what went into it:
We finished up dinner and made our way into town for a quick treat at K’s Dairy Delite. It’s a no-frills roadside shake shake that serves up the classics. Mmmm soft-serve dipped cones and peanut butter sundaes!
After our ice cream treat, we took a drive to the top of Cottonwood Pass (12, 126 ft) that sits on the Continental Divide. The top of the pass is 18 miles from the stoplight in Buena Vista, Colorado. We were not ready for the change in temperature after dark! Winter is definitely coming.
On Friday, We woke up early (some of us are still on East Coast time) and brewed coffee. Kelsey and Austin turned on the news and got us caught up on the pre-market happenings. [Finance nerd alert]
After a leisurely morning, we decided to head into town. First stop: More coffee and breakfast burritos at The Buena Vista Roastery Cafe.
If you’ve never stopped in here for a Honey Badger (honey + cayenne latte), you’re missing out! My Dad anticipates his honey badger from the time his plane lands in Denver. …And talks about it all year long!
We spent time shopping around in the boutiques and exploring along South Main River Trail. The fall weather in Buena Vista, Colorado was perfect!
Kelsey and Austin had mobile meetings to attend around noon, so it was great timing to come back to the AirBnB for lunch.
We ate sandwiches, and snacked on Paleo Puffs and Figgy Pops. (More Thrive Market finds!) Alas, just enough to satisfy us prior to an afternoon hike.
A surprising 5-mile hike on the Barbara Whipple Trail at that. I love this hike for out-of-towners getting acclimated to the elevation. You’re rewarded with sweeping views of the Arkansas River Valley. Thankfully, we got lucky with more great weather and warm sunshine despite some haze from the wildfires.
After hiking, we got a few hours to put our feet up and sip on a Topo Chico while enjoying the view from the AirBnB porch.
We do love Topo Chico.
Friday Night Dinner was another well-anticipated meal. This time at House Rock Kitchen! This restaurant in Buena Vista, Colorado is amazing. Their menu is “gluten lite, dairy lite, and 95% Soy/GMO/Corn+Sugar Free” with locally sourced and organic products as much as possible. They do a great job of being transparent with their ingredients.
BONUS: there are no wimpy plates here, the portions are huge!
Our big plan for Saturday included THE BEST HIKE EVER and stopping to feed the chipmunks in the Ghost Town of St. Elmo.
With a big hike to come, I put together an easy breakfast to feed a crowd. I love making a breakfast casserole with a group because it is satisfying and it doesn’t require as much kitchen time. Meaning I could still enjoy the morning with the family!
Easy Breakfast Bake (And so customizable!):
- Sage Sausage (to really save time use pre-cooked)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Red Bell Pepper
- 12 Eggs + Whole Milk (Whisked)
I combined all ingredients in a glass baking dish and baked at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Yum! I even made a bit of sausage gravy with the drippings to spread on top of the warm casserole.
After breakfast, we packed up our bags with our sandwiches and trail snacks. We drove up the valley to the sorta secret Grizzly trailhead and started hiking around 9 AM.
We were thankful for our extra layers as the temperature was around 48 degrees! However, as we climbed the sun came out and quickly warmed us.
It was another ideal fall hiking day.
When we got to the lake, we were shocked to find that it was warm and pleasant–even better than the summer! We spread out on a grassy knoll to rest and refuel. Several curious Jays and Chipmunks came by to check out our snacks as well.
When we got back to the AirBnb, it was another afternoon for napping.
We roused for a coffee in town, this time at Brown Dog Cafe (formerly Bongo Billy’s) and then came back to prepare a fiesta. Ay-yi-yi!
Tacos are such a great group meal! Each person can top as desired to personalize and suit their diet. I cooked a batch of Grass-Fed Ground Beef seasoned with Thrive Market Taco Seasoning. I love this seasoning because it is clean (no preservatives) and flavorful but not-too-spicy.
On our topping bar: black beans, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeños, cilantro, lime, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.
We had Organic Blue Chips and Fire Roasted Salsa on the side.
We ended our night watching Jeopardy! reruns and reminiscing on past trips to Colorado. It turns out, Austin is the true trivia whiz of the group.
After a full day of activity the day before, we “slept in” until 6:45am! Wow!
Breakfast was leftover breakfast casserole, pumpkin bread, and sweet potato muffins. (I baked the bread and muffins one week earlier and kept frozen.) We brewed up more BV Roastery Coffee and talked about plans for the day.
We decided to make another stop in town and get a later start on a trail. Of course we bought coffee beans to take home and picked up a few souvenirs. I was surprised to see the South Main Farmer’s Market was running! My Dad picked up some Tamales, one of our favorite foods to sample.
After regrouping once more, we headed to the Denny Creek Trailhead just outside of Buena Vista, Colorado where we accessed the trail to Hartenstein Lake. The trail was challenging! We started around 11 AM and made it to the lake in just over two hours.
Just when we were jonesing for a break we popped out in a clearing and saw the lake. A welcome site indeed. We enjoyed our tamales with a view.
Tamales make a great hiking lunch!
Making our way up the incline Trail Split: Right to Mount Yale, Left to Lake Surveying the valley
Two hiking days in a row meant another afternoon nap. We loved coming back to the AirBnB to recharge. Vacation for us means playing outside, reading, completing crosswords, and cooking!
The dinner menu on Sunday evening was homemade pizza. I pre-packed pizza dough, sauce, and toppings as an easy meal when we didn’t feel up to going out. Lucas’ favorite toppings are pepperoni, black olives, and jalapeños.
We rounded out Sunday evening by cleaning up, packing up, and preparing for a big travel day to follow. I’m always sad to see everyone off, but so thankful to return to a job I love. Sometimes it takes others coming to visit to take enough time away to feel like I get a vacation. I truly love Colorado and I’m so thankful weekends like this are possible anytime I make the effort.
We are leaving Buena Vista, Colorado with full hearts and new memories.
WEEKEND MENU Thursday Dinner: BBQ Chicken Salad Treat: Ice Cream at K’s Dairy Delite Friday Breakfast: Burritos and Pastries at The BV Roastery Cafe Lunch: Sandwiches, PaleoPuffs, and Figgy Pops Dinner: House Rock Kitchen Saturday Breakfast: Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, and Sausage Casserole Lunch: Packed Lunches at Grizzly Lake Treat: Carrot Cake from The Brown Dog Cafe Dinner: Tacos Sunday Breakfast: Leftover Casserole Lunch: Farmer’s Market Tamales Dinner: Homemade Pizza
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