Palisade, Colorado (CNN) — Colorado’s iconic locations have seemingly been round perpetually, and we all know their names by coronary heart: Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge, to call a few, together with Denver, a metropolis that has exploded prior to now decade.
For one thing new, a traveler should go farther west within the state, the place a budding but nonetheless comparatively unknown area known as the Grand Valley has grow to be Colorado’s subsequent must-visit vacation spot.
Located on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, 4 hours west of Denver (which is on the japanese facet, or Front Range, of the Rockies), the valley accommodates three distinct cities: Palisade, Grand Junction and Fruita.
These three locations individually and collectively supply a lot to expertise, together with a laid-back fruit and wine area, river actions and entry to a distinctive mixture of mountain and desert terrain for climbing, biking and scenic drives.
Come alongside as we break down and discover this up-and-coming space of Colorado.
Palisade: Fruit, wine and agritourism
A horse-drawn carriage goes clippity-clop down Palisade’s rose-lined streets, previous farm stands and wine tasting rooms bursting with coloration. The panorama is dominated by peach orchards, vineyards and, relying on which manner you look, a memorable mixture of mountain peaks and desert canyon cliffs.
James Sanders, a long-time peach farmer, waves to neighbors sitting on their entrance porch as he drives his yellow and blue forklift piled excessive with native fruit from his close by fields to his farm market, the Palisade Peach Shack, situated proper on the entrance to city.
Moments later, he seems once more, this time on a tractor, towing a trailer of smiling company to his peach orchards for a u-pick tour.
It’s simply one other summer time day in Palisade, a fruit and grape rising neighborhood of not fairly 3,000 folks, the place guests come to flee metropolis life and indulge within the native meals, fields and wine.
Peaches are a standout crop in Colorado’s Grand Valley. It’s additionally a wine-growing area.
Julia Cavalieri/Tropical Disco Media
“There’s something about this place,” Sanders mentioned. “Putting your feet up on a porch, getting into a glass of wine, having sticky hands after eating a peach, knowing that all the farmers and locals are really nice people and easy to talk to. … That’s the life we’re living here.”
Palisade’s acclaim started within the late 1800s when its early farmers planted the world’s first peach timber. Nowadays, the Palisade Peach is arguably Colorado’s most well-known crop, featured and immortalized in nationally accessible merchandise akin to Breckenridge Brewery’s Palisade Peach Wheat beer.
Apples, apricots, plums, lavender and a myriad of greens additionally now develop in abundance. This yr, Palisade’s Sunday farmer’s market took house a third-place end in USA Today’s 2022 Best Farmers Market Readers’ Choice checklist, though it was the smallest market nominated.
Summer is prime season for produce, with peaches coming in July, August and September. Stop by the Peach Shack, Talbott Farms, Clark Family Orchards or McLean Farms for peaches, and Field to Fork or Blaine’s Farm Store for different varieties of regionally grown produce.
The harvest may also be loved in Palisade’s eating places, included into the refined dishes at Pêche, the weekend burger night time at Maison La Belle Vie, the cocktails at Fidel’s, the fresh-made bread and sandwiches at Slice O Life Bakery, and the candy treats at Palisade Pies.
Restoration Vineyards is a family-owned operation on East Orchard Mesa, above the Colorado River in Palisade.
Colorado’s wine nation is ‘the brand new Sonoma’
Last yr, Food & Wine journal anointed Colorado’s Western Slope as “the new Sonoma,” with Palisade’s aforementioned orchards and practically 30 wineries sitting on the coronary heart of the comparability.
As you may think, it created fairly a buzz amongst native residents, who’ve watched the area transition from a assortment of “pioneer hobby growers” to a new wave of winemaking professionals.
“Twenty or thirty years ago, when they started making wine here in Palisade, it was farmers who were growing fruit and maybe had a small plot of grapes,” mentioned Joe Flynn, a winemaker at Plum Creek Winery who is launching his personal model, Periphery Cellars, this fall. “They were more hobby growers, but they put Palisade on the map as being a small wine-growing region, albeit without much fanfare.”
“But as Palisade has evolved, we have been taken more seriously,” Flynn mentioned. “More people have come in and realized that the wine here is on par — if not better — than the wine grown west of us, and that Palisade offers a really unique terrain and growing region that is enticing people from out of state to come in, pick up where the pioneers left off, refine what they created for us and be a part of this up-and-coming scene.”
Hop on board with Pali Tours for an open-air, “safari-style” wine tasting tour, cruise between wineries with the always-on-call Palisade Pedicab (additionally good as a scenic taxi service for pleased hour/dinner out of your lodging) or hire a bike from Rapid Creek Cycles in downtown Palisade to discover at your personal tempo utilizing the Fruit & Wine Byway map.
Must stops embrace Restoration Vineyards, Sauvage Spectrum, Colterris and Carlson Vineyards, amongst many others.
The Colorado River runs by Palisade.
Julia Cavalieri/Tropical Disco Media
Grand Junction and Fruita
About 20 minutes southwest of Palisade is Grand Junction, the biggest metropolis within the Grand Valley.
Understanding the identify Grand Junction requires some historic perspective. Much to the delight of rafters and river rats, the Gunnison River flows into the famed Colorado River on this valley.
At the time the world was based, the Colorado River glided by a completely different identify: the Grand River. (It was formally modified to the Colorado River in 1921). Hence the names, Grand Junction — the confluence of the Grand and Gunnison rivers — and the Grand Valley.
You can see the merging of the rivers on a bike by way of the Riverfront Trail. Hop on at Las Colonias Park and cruise downstream, ending at Connected Lakes. Want a nearer look? Jump on the river by renting a paddleboard or raft from Grand Junction Adventures at Las Colonias Park.
After, go to Main Street and the encompassing downtown space to browse an abundance of regionally owned outlets, together with massive vintage collectors (A Robin’s Nest); outdoor-oriented thrift outlets (Gear Junction); breweries (Ramblevine); and eateries (The Hog and the Hen for charcuterie and recent market sandwiches, Bin 707 for seasonal Colorado delicacies and Devil’s Kitchen for steaks and rooftop views, to call a few).
If you are seeking to costume the half, cease by Grand Junction Western Wear or Boot Barn for cowboy hats, boots, and apparel.
At night time, see what’s occurring on the space’s music venues, akin to Mesa Theater, the Avalon Theater or Las Colonias Amphitheater. The latter is situated proper on the Colorado River and infrequently attracts massive nationwide acts (together with Snoop Dogg and 311 this yr).
A mountain biker rides within the Kokopelli path system close to Fruita, Colorado.
Dave Grossman/Confluence Image/E+/Getty Images
At the far western finish of the valley, simply 19 miles (30.5 kilometers) from the Utah border, you will discover Fruita, a small metropolis with a massive popularity for its world-class mountain biking, together with the Zippity Loop within the North Fruita Desert. Hikers ought to head to the Devil’s Canyon Trail system to wander its cliffs, canyons and streams.
Families will love the Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, house to greater than 15,000 fossil specimens, interactive displays and a paleontology lab. The museum additionally presents half and full-day outings with a skilled paleontologist, the place children get to dig for bones in a working quarry. You can discover different dinosaur websites close by, such because the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway and the family-friendly Dinosaur Hill hike.
Where the mountains meet the desert
In addition to the assembly of the rivers, the “grand junction” moniker additionally signifies one other pure merger, one which is excellent information for out of doors lovers who wish to discover a selection of terrain.
Located on the northeast corner of the Colorado Plateau, the Grand Valley is the place the Rocky Mountains converge with the Southwest’s desert canyons, supplying the adventurer quick access to drastically completely different landscapes by way of climbing, biking and scenic drives. An out of doors fanatic might be in a red-rock canyon within the morning, a pine forest path after lunch and on the river to finish the afternoon.
Colorado National Monument options crimson rock canyons close to Grand Junction.
Start your journey on the east gate in Grand Junction and take Rim Rock Drive west, stopping alongside the best way at trails and overlooks akin to Devil’s Kitchen, Ute Canyon and the Independence Monument viewpoint.
You’ll get expansive views of the Grand Valley as you exit the west gate in Fruita. Then, do because the locals and prime off with beers and the Grand Valley’s greatest pizza at Hot Tomato in downtown Fruita.
This high-alpine mountain recreation space, east of the Grand Valley, is house to dense pine forests, aspen groves and greater than 300 lakes. It’s thought of to be the biggest flattop mountain on this planet and boasts myriad campgrounds, cabins and climbing and biking trails.
For the enduring Grand Mesa expertise, sort out the Crag Crest Trail and luxuriate in its panoramic views; to see a string of backcountry lakes, hit the brief however candy Land O’ Lakes path; and spend the night time in a mountain cabin at Alexander Lake Lodge or Mesa Lakes Lodge, the place you possibly can hire canoes, kayaks or fishing gear.
On these longer summer time days, cool off on the Colorado River and float your manner by Palisade, Grand Junction or Fruita with a rafting, tubing or paddleboarding journey from Paddleboard Adventure Company or Centennial Canoe. End your day with a drink on the The Sneak Line in Palisade to swap tales with different river-goers.
For lodging with persona, the Wine Valley Inn in Palisade is a sensible choice.
Will McGough/Wake and Wander Media
Where to remain and getting there
Main Street in Grand Junction presents a choice of chain lodges for level collectors (together with two Marriott properties), and related, acquainted lodging may also be present in Fruita.
But if you happen to’re on the lookout for native lodging with persona, Palisade is the place.
For wine nation mattress and breakfast vibes, stick with Dave and Michelle on the historic, antique-filled Wine Valley Inn (adults solely), or get pleasure from a resort expertise on the Wine Country Inn simply up the highway.
The alternative for bikers and out of doors adventurers is simple: The Spoke & Vine Motel, the place locals collect for drinks each Monday. Want to camp? Grab a tent website or cabin at Palisade Basecamp, situated proper alongside the Colorado River.
To entry the area, you will fly into the Grand Junction Airport (GJT), topped the Colorado Airport of the Year in 2021.
Despite its location in distant western Colorado, most individuals in America can arrive within the Grand Valley with just one connection. There are direct flights from main hubs akin to Denver, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.