Historic Salida (population 5,900) sits in the Upper Arkansas River Valley in central Colorado and is surrounded by 12 spectacular 14ers (peaks taller than 14,000 feet above sea level). Sandwiched between Tenderfoot Hill at the southern end of town, the Arkansas River and three national forests, Salida is a hip but unpretentious place. As one local says, it is "Colorado cool without the attitude."
The cost of living is 29% above the national average, and the median home price is $550,000, reflecting a 22% increase since last year. Homes range from condo lofts and turn of the 20th-century carriage houses to ranchettes outside of town.
Forty-seven pecent of locals are age 45 or better, and 35% hold at least a four year college degree. The town has some racial diversity, and politics lean slightly to the left. The overall crime rate meets the national average, although property crime is a little above average. Population growth has been 5% during the last decade.
Salida started out as a railroad stop in the late-1800s and was unknown to most of the world until about 20 years ago when a national publication hailed it as a great place to live. Suddenly, people from all over were traveling along one of the two narrow roads into town to check out Salida for themselves. Many liked what they saw and decided to stay.
Today, Salida is just 20 minutes from popular Monarch Ski Resort and is a place where ski bums and river rats mingle with tourists, retirees and artists. The lifestyle is laid back and very outdoor-oriented, with camping, kayaking, biking, boldering, skiing, Jeeping, rafting, fishing and golfing all popular. Residents also enjoy the soothing waters of numerous hot springs.
The wonderful downtown is a time capsule of the early days and is the largest historic district in Colorado. It is also an official Creative Arts District. Colorful century-old buildings with awnings and banners house galleries and studios, restaurants, banks, ski shops, pubs, winery tasting rooms, distilleries and outfitters.
The Arkansas River runs along the east side of town and is always a very busy spot with rafters, kayakers and tubers during summer months. The water is paralleled by a lovely river walk with outdoor cafes beneath tall pine trees. Outside of town, ghost towns and old abandoned mines are tucked into the steep hills and beckon to history buffs.
During the winter, a shuttle runs to Monarch Ski Resort where 300 inches of snow or more each season make it a powder Paradise. And after a day of skiing, soaking in one of Salida's hot springs is very close to a mystical experience.
While outdoor adventure generally takes center stage here, this easygoing hamlet also has a bit of culture. Salida Aspen Concerts presents classical concerts, and Stage Left mounts a full theater season.
There are also all kinds of events and festivals. The Chocolate Lover's Fantasy Fundraiser arrives in February. In April, Kayaks on Snow and the Chaffee Home and Garden Show bring out nearly everyone. The Bluegrass on the Arkansas Festival happens in May, while the Salida Art Walk celebrates the local art community each June. The Salida Riverside Art and Music Festival takes place in July, and the Salida Winefest is an August event. In late December Santa arrives on skis.
The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center is a 25-bed hospital that has been around since 1888. It is accredited by the Joint Commission and accepts Medicare patients.
The Chaffee Shuttle is a free, shared ride and public transit service that provides transportation to medical appointments, shopping venues and social events throughout town and the county. The nearest commercial airport is 52 miles away in Gunnison.
Salida sits at nearly 7,100 feet above sea level, so summers are short and cool with temperatures in the 70s and 80s and 10 inches of rain on average. Winters are long, with temperatures in the teens, 20s and 30s. While the surrounding peaks can receive 25 feet of snow each season, Salida gets about four feet of snow each year. The air is crisp, and the sky is deep blue.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes | Is Colorado Tax-Friendly at Retirement? Yes
An outdoor recreation Paradise, Salida has a fun downtown, lots of events, a small but good hospital and natural beauty all around. The long winters and remote location should be considered, but overall, Salida is worth a look at retirement time.
Similar to California, the Colorado area was surrendered to the United States in 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War. It did not become a state until 1876, 100 years after the nation's birth.
The Centennial State's geography includes high plains, deserts, foothills, and mountains. Its Rockies are part of the 3,000-plus mile geologic uplift known as the North American Cordillera. More than 50 of the Cordillera's peaks taller than 14,000 feet are in Colorado. Outdoor recreation ranges from backpacking and climbing to road cycling and skiing.
With roots in mining and agriculture, Colorado's economy has branched in many directions. It currently has a high concentration of tech and scientific research companies. Food processing, manufacturing, and tourism round out the state's industries.
The Centennial State maintains a long list of superlatives. It has the highest paved road, the deepest geothermal hot spring, and the nation's largest concentration of scenic byways. Colorado is the only state in the Union to reject the Olympics and one of the first to legalize recreational marijuana.
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