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fisherman at arkansas headwaters recreation area

Fishing at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. Photo: Park Facebook page

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is a Colorado State Park located in Salida, and is approximately 25 miles south of the city of Buena Vista. The park offers boating, fishing, hiking, and biking with scenic views of The Arkansas River.


There are a number of things to do available to Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area patrons.

Here is a sampling of the many activities at Arkansas Headwaters park:

Boating At Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

If you’re looking for some of the best whitewater rafting in the country, you’ve come to the right park. Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) features 152 miles of waterways, including thrilling rapids and scenic cruises for all skill levels. Those looking to get their hearts pounding can check out River Outfitters, which includes approved companies and guides that work with AHRA to help people boat, fish, and explore these incredible waterways. Be sure to check the safety recommendations provided by both the River Outfitters themselves and the AHRA to prepare yourself for any water adventure.

Hiking and Offroading at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

AHRA offers plenty of trails for the outdoor enthusiast. Not only does the park cater to hikers and mountain bikers, but it also offers off-roading vehicle trails, known in Colorado as OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) riders. OHV riders can take on both the Four Mile trail and the Texas Creek area trail, as well as several other trails owned and operated by the US Forest Services.

Hikers can take on any number of local trails, as well as those in the nearby San Isabel National Forest. However, for those looking to stick to the AHRA for their first hiking experience, there are plenty of trails to get you started, as well as plenty of nearby mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet high (locally known as “fourteeners”).

Here are some of the trails at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area:

  • Hayden Meadows – Hayden Meadows is one of the more accessible trails in the park and has sections that are wheelchair and stroller friendly. This trail is located to the north of the AHRA, and includes ADA-accessible fishing trails, as well as interpretive trails. There are 5 boardwalks through natural wetlands, and two bridges situated by a small reservoir, offering gorgeous views to the casual hiker. Degree of Difficulty: easy
  • Collegiate Peaks Group Picnic Area Trails – This area is nearby the start of the Midland Bike Trail, Four Mile system, and Barbara Whipple Trail. These biking trails are tailored for both motorized and manual mountain biking and have branches for a variety of skill levels. The group picnic area is also a nice centralized location for those looking to explore the park separately and then meet up after their rides have been completed. Degree of Difficulty: varries
  • Ruby Mountain Campground – Those looking to take on the Four Mile trail system, as well as anyone hoping to visit Browns Canyon National Monument, Ruby Mountain campground is a great starting point. It is worth noting that while Four Mile supports both motorized and manual vehicles, Browns Canyon is for nonamortized only. Degree of Difficulty: varries
  • Hecla Junction Campground – This location offers a ¾ mile hiking trail that leads to Seidel’s Suckhole. Not only can you sit by the shore and enjoy watching whitewater rafters take on the churning waters, but you can also take advantage of the choice fishing available in the spring and summer months. Length: 3/4 mile Degree of Difficulty: varries
  • Lone Pine Recreation Site – An unnamed trail at this location takes you from the eastern picnic area, and winds you near the local river to show off local wildlife, as well as take you to pristine fishing locations. Length: 1/2 mile Degree of Difficulty: easy
  • McIntyre Hills Wilderness Study Area (WSA) – This area is home to countless social trails made to wander at your own leisure. While there are a few marked trails, including one between campsites #4 and #5, most of these trails are unmarked and made to take at your own pace. Degree of Difficulty: varries

Biking At Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

AHRA has countless biking trails, both for those looking to take their mountain bike out for a spin, as well as those hoping to hop on their dirt bike and take on more challenging hills. Areas like the Four Mile trail system cater to both manual and motorized visitors, and offer a wide range of trails for all skill levels. However, it is worth noting that not all trails in the park support motorized use, so be sure to read up on the individual trails before taking them to the park.

For those looking to take a more casual spin around the area, check out some of the smaller hiking and walking trails made for wheeled use, like Hayden Meadows, as these areas are generally made for casual use and can be welcoming to the biking beginner, as well as those looking for a gradual cooldown after their ride.

Pets At Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

Dogs are welcome at AHRA, but they must be leashed at all times (as long as the leash is 6 feet long or under, of course). Visitors should dispose of all dog waste appropriately, and should never leave their dogs unattended.

Camping At Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area features eight distinct campsites. These campsites require reservations to be made before camping, and there are no electrical hookups in the area, nor is there any potable water, so campers should plan accordingly.

Dispersed Camping at AHRA

For those looking to take advantage of dispersed camping, or camping outside of an approved location, AHRA has 6,000 acres of land available to camp at. However, there are several guidelines one should follow before setting up camp, which are listed on the camping website, and it is important to note these locations have no development and fire use is regulated for camper and park safety.

Park Location

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
307 West Sackett Ave.
Salida CO 81201-1654
Phone: 719.539.7289



Below is a brief video highlighting various attractions at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area: