Four ways to explore Paonia like a true local

Surrounded by mountains, downtown Paonia could be in a Hallmark movie. With colorful, low-slung buildings occupied by local shops and restaurants, it’s no surprise this town is a Certified Colorado Creative District and part of the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition.

Feel like a local with these insider tips to seeing all there is to see in this precious western Colorado town.

THINGS TO SEE & DO

The best way to start your journey in the cherry capital of Colorado is by taking a stroll along Grand Avenue. The shops and galleries you’ll pass are housed in buildings built in the late 1800s. Pop into The Refinery, which showcases clothing and accessories made from reclaimed fabrics right here in Paonia. Sip Big B’s Hard Cider and shop at Trader Mags, a resale boutique selling vintage clothing, jewelry and fine art.

Blue Sage Center for the Arts offers concerts, classes and a gallery for everyone’s enjoyment. Stop into the gift shop to pick up a North Fork Valley resident’s artwork. Want even more culture? Built in 1928, the Paradise Theatre is the place in town to catch a movie, live music show or the occasional film festival.

Now that you’ve shopped until you could drop, it’s time for some wine tastings. Azura Cellars not only makes boutique wines but also sells fine art. Indulge in a glass of merlot and their signature cheese board on the terrace overlooking the bountiful North Fork Valley.

Black Bridge Winery’s tasting room is in the Orchard Valley Farms Market. But their full-flavored fruit wines aren’t all they have to offer — sample 18-year-old balsamic vinegars and infused olive oils at the tasting bar.

Finish off your grape tour with Stone Cottage Cellars, which produces European-style wines like Gewürztraminer on top of the Garvin Mesa. Wine just tastes better at 6,300 feet.

DINE OUT

Paonia doesn’t just make crisp wines; they have a budding dining scene just waiting to be explored. Start your day at Root & Vine Market and enjoy delicious favorites like the hearty farmer’s breakfast bowl or the trendier avocado toast. Don’t forget to grab a slice of one of their exceptional fruit pies for after your outdoor adventures.

Delight in sweet treats at Ollie’s Ice Cream, open seasonally during warm-weather months. They feature creamy concoctions from Anne & Mann and Enstrom, plus homemade waffle cones, dairy-free options and crispy gluten-free cones.

Berg Harvest and Mercantile is situated on a certified organic fruit farm just off downtown; but the secret is their deck, where you can get a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast or chow down on a meat-lover’s pizza later in the day.

GET OUTSIDE

Bring your bike for back-road travel and thrill in the bucolic settings that greet you along with fresh mountain air. The town’s roads are excellent for biking and e-biking.

If your two feet are your preferred transportation method, make your way to Jumbo Mountain for hiking trails with views of hunter-green-covered mountains for miles around. The trailheads are accessible through Apple Valley.

Cross a national park off your list by spending a day at the breathtaking Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The sheer walls of this massive geological formation get their name from sunlight’s inability to penetrate its depths. With 20 scenic overlooks around the top of the park, you can slowly walk toward the edge — faint of heart be forewarned, it’s a long way down. Since it’s a birder’s paradise, see if you can spot one of the peregrine falcons that call the place home before exiting the canyon.

HEAD OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Spend the night in a family-operated inn on 40 acres of arid valley space that’s just far enough out of town for the peace and quiet. But don’t worry, the metal-roofed turrets of the Wisehart Springs Inn are still close enough to grab provisions in town so you can use one of their kitchens to prepare a farm-to-table meal.

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