- The Salida Ranger District provides attractions for history and nature lovers alike. Some of the highlights of the district are detailed in the paragraphs below. St. Elmo, a famous ghost town in the Salida District, was initially known as Forest City. The city developed in the late 1870s and continued to grow with the success of the Mary Murphy Mine and the completion of the Alpine Tunnel. Wavering silver prices and lack of freight on the railroad led to the demise of St. Elmo. It remains one of the best examples of mining town architecture in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Alpine Tunnel may interest railroad buffs. In 1881 the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad completed the first railroad tunnel through the Continental Divide to Gunnison. The tunnel is 500 feet long, at an elevation of 11,542 feet. Today it is closed due to natural earth movement.
Hancock townsite is another area linked with mining history. This town was established in 1880 as Hancock placer claim, but was never incorporated. In 1881, Hancock consisted of five stores, many saloons, a hotel and restaurant, two sawmills and over 200 inhabitants. The town was a secondary railhead and headquarters for construction of the Alpine Tunnel. Today few traces of the town exist.
Marshall Pass is a scenic drive over a very old transportation route through Colorado. Originally a toll road completed in 1880, Marshall Pass was a major route between the Gunnison and Arkansas Valleys. In 1881 the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad laid tracks over the pass, beating the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad in the race to Gunnison.
Recreation - A plethora of outdoor activities can be enjoyed by visitors to the Salida Ranger District. The list includes, but is not limited to, the following: boating, camping, backpacking, fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, motorcycle riding and horseback riding. The varied terrain of the region provides excellent opportunities for recreationists of all skill levels to participate in their favorite or a new sport.
Climate - Controlled mainly by the Rocky Mountains, weather in the Salida Ranger District varies extremely on a yearly, daily and hourly basis. Colorado's high elevation makes the air thinner and harder to breathe. The elevation also makes it easier to get a sunburn, because there is less air between you and the sun to filter ultraviolet light. Temperatures are affected by elevation, cooling four degrees for every 1,000 feet gained.
When hiking, particularly on high mountain peaks, during the summer, morning and early afternoon hikes are best to avoid lightning and thunderstorms. The average yearly precipitation is 16 inches, the majority of which comes in spring and summer. Summer temperatures average 72 degrees during the day. Nighttime freezing temperatures are not uncommon during the summer. The mean winter temperature is 26 degrees. The low humidity on the eastern slopes makes both warm and cold temperatures seem more comfortable.
The Salida Ranger District begins immediately west of Buena Vista in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. The district includes the National Forest Lands south to, and including, the northern section of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.