Every year the Arkansas Valley, CO welcomes tens of thousands of adventurers seeking guided trips down the Arkansas River. Dozens of outfitters compete for the opportunity to thrill guests with big whitewater and breathtaking scenery. Though, when the float is over, visitors often ask for tips on other local adventures, biking, climbing, even surfing. Surrounded by big, consequential terrain, that can be a difficult question. One outfitter, Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center (RMOC) decided the best way to answer these questions was to offer guided trips across multiple disciplines!
Based just South of Buena Vista, RMOC rests on the Arkansas River. What were once rooms for rent in a roadside motel, now house gear and classrooms. The gear inventory is mind-blowing; rafts, kayaks, SUPs, duckies, surfboards, climbing gear, mountain bikes, skis and splitboards. Other attributes of this dreamy basecamp; a live music venue, a brewery, a chef run foodtruck, and riverside camping!
As a cyclist, I was drawn to the mountain bike program. Biking in the Arkansas Valley is epic! Starting in Buena Vista, on the Midland trail system I was pleased to find trails that utilize easy peddling, cross-country style terrain combined with tricky technical features, dozens of B-routes, and one very committing roll down the steep spine of a large boulder! With some expert tips from my guide, I was stoked to hit nearly every technical feature on the route. After a 2 hour tour through the Midland trails, we shuttled South to Salida to check out the Methodist Trail System. We followed our guide down fast and flowy single track with some spectacular high desert scenery. The highlight was a trail called Solstice, which is a fast pump-track style mountain bike trail with big berms, tons of style, jumps, and smiles all around. We ended our epic day with some savory Almond Burgers and refreshing Browns Canyon Brewing Co blonde ale.
After a chill night camping on the river we were ready for the next day of adventure; an AM climbing mission and some afternoon surfing! The climbing opportunities in the Arkansas Valley are almost endless. Because of our varied skill level, we opted for a climbing route in Aspen Ridge called Castle Rock. This was a remote area of wilderness surrounded by high meadows, free range cattle and aspen groves. While we only managed 3 climbs, we were happy to pick up new skills, get a better understanding of the gear, and confidence in our technique. The views from the top of the crag were stunning. While it is not nearly the spiciest route on the RMOC menu, the Castle Rock climb fit perfectly into our agenda and left us with enough time to get ourselves mentally prepared for what I knew was going to become my new favorite hobby, river surfing.
Back in Salida, we started at the Office Wave to go over some basics of surfing and river hydrology to set up for success on the bigger wave. Clearly the similarities to ocean surfing are abundant, however there are some key differences – the gear! Board shorts aren’t proper attire for river surfing! A wetsuit, booties, helmet and PFD are the basic pieces of equipment that will keep you safe and confident surfing the river wave. The boards themselves are a lot shorter, inflatable, and more durable than ocean boards. And my favorite difference, there is a lot less paddling! I was stoked that most of my surfing skills transferred over, and after a short while, we decided we were ready for the Scout Wave. The line was a dozen people long on either side of the wave and once we were in full view of the wave I understood why! The wave was massive, over 30 feet wide and generally about4 feet tall. An endless, perfect wave. The local rule is 1 minute at a time in the wave to keep things moving, and while that may not seem like much, there is a lot you can get done with 1 minute on a surfboard in the Scout Wave. After a few more pointers from the guide, I was shredding!
If you are looking for epic mountain adventures of any kind, look up RMOC! They have a qualified guide that will be stoked to show you around their beautiful valley, while providing expert instruction and shared passions.