Buena Vista is located in central Colorado roughly midway between Salida and Leadville in the Upper Arkansas River valley at an elevation of 7,965 ft (2,428 mi). Buena Vista lies in a wide valley and is a high mountain desert with milder temperatures than nearby communities such as those on the I-70 corridor. The town lies at the base of the 14,000+ peaks of Colleigate Peaks, Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale, Mt. Columbia, and Mt. Harvard of the Sawach Range. In summer, Buena Vista is a popular access point for world-class whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing on the Arkansas River, and mountain climbing and backpacking on local 14ers and the Colorado Trail.
Buena Vista incorporated in 1879 and grew as a railroad town serving the local silver, gold, and lead mining industry, with three rail lines including the Denver & Rio Grande, South Park & Pacific, and Midland Railroad. Many of the existing buildings of Buena Vista date back to this era and were built in the 1880's and 1890's.
The name "Buena Vista," Spanish for "Beautiful View," can often be heard pronounced locally as "Byoona Vista." This Americanized pronunciation was specified by Alsina Dearheimer who chose this name for the town, which was officially selected over other names (Cottonwood, Mahonville) on the occasion of the town's incorporation. Alternate pronunciations include the more linguistically correct "Bweynah Veesta" and simply "Byoonie." To avoid controversy, many residents simply refer to the town as "BV."