Fall Weekend Getaway: 4 Days in Buena Vista, Colorado

A fabulous fall getaway in Buena Vista, Colorado. We hit the trails at peak color season and were rewarded with golden views and cool temps. Here’s what we did and what we ate for four days in Buena Vista, Colorado.

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:

Quick Family Meal on 4-day getaway to Buena Vista Colorado

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.

Breakfast Burritos and Coffee at Buena Vista Roastery

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.

Looking out over Arkansas river in Buena Vista Colorado

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.

Topo Chico fall getaway beverage

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.

Dinner at House Rock Kitchen in Buena Vista Colorado

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
  • Spinach
  • 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.

Easy Breakfast Casserole for Weekend Getaway

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.

Fall Hiking in BV Colorado

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.

Packed lunch and trail snacks hit the spot. Some of my favorite hiking finds were Joolies’ Dates, Thrive Market Beef Sticks, NutZo, GoMacro Bars, and of course, Cowboy Cookies.

Feeding Chipmunks in Ghost Town of St. Elmo Colorado
Post-hike we made a stop in the Ghost Town of St. Elmo. We took a few minutes to feed the chipmunks.

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.

Dinner for Fall Weekend Getaway
Tacos are crowd pleasing, since everyone can top as desired!

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 while Hiking in BV Colorado

Tamales make a great hiking lunch!

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.

Pizza Night on Fall Weekend Getaway in Buena Vista
Family Pizza Night Easy Meal

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.

Group Selfie on Bench in BV


Dinner: BBQ Chicken Salad
Treat: Ice Cream at K’s Dairy Delite

Breakfast: Burritos and Pastries at The BV Roastery Cafe
Lunch: Sandwiches, PaleoPuffs, and Figgy Pops 
Dinner: House Rock Kitchen

Breakfast: Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, and Sausage Casserole
Lunch: Packed Lunches at Grizzly Lake
Treat: Carrot Cake from The Brown Dog Cafe
Dinner: Tacos

Breakfast: Leftover Casserole
Lunch: Farmer’s Market Tamales 
Dinner: Homemade Pizza

Fall In Colorado Long Weekend Menu
Fall Weekend Getaway in Buena Vista, Colorado
Fall Hiking in Colorado



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