While snow still blankets the Colorado Rockies it’s not too early to start planning your visit to one of America’s newest national monuments, Browns Canyon National Monument.
About Browns Canyon National Monument
Browns Canyon sits on the Arkansas River and near the outdoor paradise of Salida, an area treasured by many for its world class fly fishing and epic white water rafting. The 21,500-acre Browns Canyon National Monument is one of three national monuments named by President Obama in 2015.
Once you visit, you’ll know why so many Coloradans fought to make it a national monument. Whether you drive over from Denver for a long weekend or stay for your entire vacation, a visit to this recreational paradise packs a wallop of the legendary scenery that makes Colorado special.
Arkansas River at Browns Canyon.
With unforgettable views of the Arkansas Valley and the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains featuring trails at altitudes as high as 10,000 feet, what makes Browns Canyon a unique environment is that it’s situated in a low elevation within an arid river valley that’s unlike anything else in the state.
The essence of any Browns Canyon visit means time spent along the roaring waters of the Arkansas River. But leave time for a nice long day hike. Once you hit the trail and ascend away from pinion-pine laden land into the more rugged alpine terrain, you’re likely to come face-to-face with many of Colorado’s most beloved wildlife species, including black bears and bighorn sheep.
Bighorn Sheep roam the hills.
The Browns Canyon designation is the culmination of a twenty year advocacy effort by local residents to ensure the area remains free of development in order to preserve the multi-million dollar economic benefits derived from tourism. If you’ve never been to Colorado’s Arkansas River Valley, now is the time to go.
Browns Canyon: What to Know Before You Go
How to get to Browns Canyon
Browns Canyon is located about two hours west of Denver, Colorado along Highway 285 and between Buena Vista and Salida, 3.5 miles south of Highways 285 and 24. Before heading out you can stock up your RV in Denver, but if you want to keep it local you’ll find provisions at Salida grocery stores (with fewer choices in Buena Vista). Since this driving route is popular with Denver weekenders, plan to drive among lots of fast-moving traffic on Highway 285 or wait until mid-week when fewer people are around.
Insider Tip: Say it like a local by pronouncing “Buena Vista” the way the locals do: “byoo-nuh VIS-tuh” or just “Bueni” (pronounced “BYOO-nee”) for short.
Snowcapped Rocky Mountains loom in the distance.
Watch a video about Browns Canyon.
RV Campgrounds Near Browns Canyon
You’ll find the closest RV camping near Browns Canyon located at Ruby Mountain Campground, which is managed by the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area authority. With only fourteen parking aprons big enough for small-to-medium sized RVs, you’ll be wise to reserve a spot, especially during peak camping months.
You’ll pay $16 a night plus a $7 daily vehicle fee for the pleasure of parking your rig in a bar bones campground that includes four vault toilets and campsites with a tent pad, fire grill and table. Dogs are allowed but you’ll have to follow leash laws and pick up after your dog.
Insider’s Tip: There is no potable water available at Ruby Mountain Campground, or other Arkansas River Recreation Area campgrounds. Fill up your water tanks before you arrive. However if you forget, the Salida Chamber of Commerce makes drinking water available at no charge (with donations greatly appreciated). Bring a long hose though, it’s quite a stretch from the spigot to your tank. The Chamber is located at the corner of “I” Street and US Highway 50 in Salida.