The Salida, Colorado area is the crossroads for the three interstate highways: U.S. 24, 50 and 285. Driving distance from Denver is approximately 130 miles, 100 miles from Colorado Springs and 60 miles from Gunnison.
The elevation of the Salida, Colorado area ranges from just under 7,000 to over 14,000 feet on its highest peaks, providing some of the most spectacular views to be seen anywhere in the world. In fact, Chaffee County where Salida, Colorado resides has more mountain peaks of 14,000-foot or more than any other county in Colorado and is often referred to as the "Fourteener" Region.
US 50 from Gunnison crosses Monarch Pass, which, at 11,312 feet is the highest point on US 50 and straddles the Continental Divide. At the eastern foot on Monarch Pass lies the tiny town of Poncha Springs, which features a truck stop with great Mexican food and a stage shop which claims to have hosted every Wild West figure from Billy the Kid to Teddy Roosevelt.
Salida struck me as Gunnison without the college. A small, small town. I really only passed through and didn't stick around long enough to enjoy any white water rafting. So I can't comment on much more than the scenery, but the Sangre de Cristo mountains alone made this leg of the trip worthwhile. The views from town are worth seeing and only get better as you continue east on US 50.