Salida Ranger District

Area Status: Open
Forest Service district office in Salida Colorado.

The Salida Ranger District is part of the Pike-San Isabel National Forests & Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands located near the towns of Salida, Buena Vista and Poncha Springs. The district encompasses over 440,000 acres in central Colorado, "the heart of the Rockies." It's an outdoor recreation paradise with seven 14,000- foot peaks "fourteeners" (Harvard, Tabeguache, Yale, Columbia, Shavano, Princeton, Antero), three wilderness areas (Buffalo Peaks, Collegiate Peaks, Sangre De Cristo) and Browns Canyon National Monument.

The Forest Service manages most of the higher elevation areas, while the Arkansas River corridor is managed by Colorado State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management. The Arkansas River is one of the nation's most popular rivers for whitewater rafting and kayaking. It's also a designated "gold medal" trout fishing river. For fishing & hunting licenses or off-highway-vehicle (OHV) licenses, please contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

The majority of the Salida Ranger District is located within Chaffee County. Nearly 80% of Chaffee County lands are public lands. Small portions of the district are also located in Lake, Fremont, Saguache and Park Counties.

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed federal holidays.
Reservations: Visit or call 1-877-444-6777 for campground reservations. Campground reservations cannot be made from this office. 
Permit Info: Special use permits are required for groups of 75 or more persons and all commercial activities including outfitting and guiding. 
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Busiest Season: May-September
Closest Towns: Salida, CO
Water: Water fountain in the lobby. RV water and dump station at the Poncha Springs Visitor Center.
Restroom: Accessible restrooms available.
Passes: America the Beautiful Federal Recreational Lands Passes
Operated By: U.S. Forest Service
Information Center: 5575 Cleora Road Salida, CO 81201; 719-539-3591

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Campground Camping

The Salida Ranger District offers campgrounds with picnic tables, fire pits, and vault toilets. There are no electric or water hookups for RV's and no shower facilities. The campgrounds are operated by a concessionaire, Rocky Mountain Recreation Company.

Reservations can be made for some campgrounds, while others are first-come, first-served only. For reservations contact the National Recreation Reservations System, 877-444-6777. Reservations cannot be made at the Salida Ranger District office, and campground hosts cannot be contacted directly to check availability.

For other camping and lodging options check out the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau.


Areas for Campground Camping at Salida Ranger District

RV Camping

Areas for RV Camping at Salida Ranger District

Group Camping

Areas for Group Camping at Salida Ranger District

Dispersed Camping

 “Dispersed” camping means not camping at a campground.

  • Practice Leave-No-Trace camping principles. Pack it in, pack it out.
  • Camp, dispose of wash water, and bury human waste
  • Camp in existing dispersed campsites and use existing fire rings when available.
  • Park vehicles on bare and compacted areas within one vehicle length from the road.
  • Please do not camp at trailheads.

Areas for Dispersed Camping at Salida Ranger District

Cabin Rentals

Areas for Cabin Rentals at Salida Ranger District

Day Hiking

Areas for Day Hiking at Salida Ranger District


Areas for Backpacking at Salida Ranger District

Horse Riding

Secure pack animals 200 feet away from lakes, streams, and trails. A picket line is less damaging to trees than direct tying. Move stock often when picketing to prevent resource damage. You must follow weed-free forage guidelines for National Forests and Grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Areas for Horse Riding at Salida Ranger District

Big Game Hunting

The Salida Ranger District offers some of Colorado's best hunting for deer, elk, sheep, antelope and other big game. Game management units (GMU's) for deer and elk in the Salida area include: Units 56, 561, 481, and 57. All units are limited licenses and must be applied for. For detailed license information, please visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The Salida Ranger District Office has detailed maps available to help in planning your hunting trip.

Target Shooting

The Chaffee County Shooting Range is a cooperative range between the CDOW and Chaffee County. Open to the public during daylight hours, Sunday through Saturday (7 days a week). No charge for use. Facilities: Rifle range with 8 covered shooting benches. Target placement available from 25 yards to 400+yards. Target stands available at 25 yds, 50 yds, 100 yds and 200 yds. Metal silhouette targets available out to 400+ yards.Shotgun range with covered sun shelter. Two bird throwing devices available on site. Pistol range with covered sun shelter. Target stands available and shooting distance available up to 25 yards+. Small bore rifle, target stands available.

Special restrictions: paper targets only, no glass, metal or other target material allowed.Outhouse vault toilet on site. 719/530-5523 (DOW Salida Service Center)


Areas for Target Shooting at Salida Ranger District

Interpretive Areas

Areas for Interpretive Areas at Salida Ranger District


The Salida Ranger District offers three picnic areas which are for day use only. Camping is not allowed and a fee per vehicle is charged for the use of the toilets, picnic areas and fishing docks.

Areas for Picnicking at Salida Ranger District

Gold Panning

Many of the small streams on the Salida Ranger District are great spots to try your hand out gold panning.

Place a small amount of material in your pan – maybe 1/4 to 1/2 pan full at first. Submerge the pan just below the rim and shake side to side.  Be careful not to wash a lot of material out of your pan while doing this. The heavier material like sand and rock will wash out of the pan, leaving behind lighter materials like gold flakes. Panning takes practice and a keen eye for spotting the golden flakes left in the bottom of the pan.

Permit: Permits are required for certain types of mining activity. Check with the Salida Ranger District for rules and regulations on mining and dredging activities.

Areas for Gold Panning at Salida Ranger District


The Prospectors TV show increased interest in Mt. Antero and Mt. White, unfortunately, almost of those mountains have already been claimed. To contact claim owners for permission to dig, search the BLM database and/or the database for Chaffee County.

The Bureau of Land Management handles mineral rights for public lands. Contact the office in Canon City, CO at (719) 269-8500.


Areas for Rockhounding at Salida Ranger District

Scenic Driving

Areas for Scenic Driving at Salida Ranger District

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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