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Most Coloradoans define the southern Rocky Mountains as the breathtaking stretch of wilderness just below Aspen and Leadville — filled with 30 "fourteeners," or 14,000-foot peaks. It's a diverse area, encompassing arty small towns, high-end ski resorts and the roaring Arkansas River, perfect for white-water rafting. This region begins with the half-hour stretch of U.S. 285 from Salida to Buena Vista, in the shadow of the Collegiate Peaks, including Mount Shavano, Tabeguache Peak and Mount Princeton. Salida itself is easygoing and full of art galleries and colorful lunch spots; the climate is so consistently mild that residents have dubbed it ...

Most Coloradoans define the southern Rocky Mountains as the breathtaking stretch of wilderness just below Aspen and Leadville — filled with 30 "fourteeners," or 14,000-foot peaks. It's a diverse area, encompassing arty small towns, high-end ski resorts and the roaring Arkansas River, perfect for white-water rafting. This region begins with the half-hour stretch of U.S. 285 from Salida to Buena Vista, in the shadow of the Collegiate Peaks, including Mount Shavano, Tabeguache Peak and Mount Princeton. Salida itself is easygoing and full of art galleries and colorful lunch spots; the climate is so consistently mild that residents have dubbed it the "Banana Belt." Not far is Crested Butte, a relaxed area known primarily for skiing but also a magnet for mountain-bikers, with intense trails such as the 12,700-foot-high Pearl Pass and attractions like the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame & Museum. Consider spending time in Crested Butte's village, a lovingly preserved National Historic District of colorful Victorian buildings, some of which have retained their identities as saloons and banks.

Steve Knopper
About the Expert

Steve Knopper is the Denver-based author of Moon Handbooks Colorado as well as a contributor to numerous Fodor's city guides.

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Steve Knopper for Triporati

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