Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Paonia, CO

  • Published 2022/08/20

Paonia is a statutory town in Delta County, Colorado, and a natural paradise.

Legend says that Samuel Wade planned to name the town Paeonia after the Greek spelling of one of his favorite flowers, the peony.

Wade was one of the first settlers in the area, alongside Enos Hotchkiss and William Clark.

Whether done on purpose or by mistake, the town was incorporated as Paonia in 1902.

Paonia has become a distinct prosperous community thanks to its activists, artists, artisans, foodies, and farmers.

It’s a region known for lush landscapes, farmlands, orchards, vineyards, farm-to-table restaurants, a thriving arts district, and breathtaking mountain vistas.

It’s not surprising that Paonia has started developing into one of the top travel destinations in the state.

Here are the best things to do in Paonia, Colorado:

Prepare to Mingle at Paonia Park

Paonia Park is one of the highlights and social hubs of the town.

The park takes up a whole city block.

It also has facilities for people of all ages, such as picnic tables, a gazebo, and a skate park.

Likewise, you can play at the football field, check out the teen center and shelter areas, and see a striking canopy of various trees.

This canopy of trees has given Paonia the moniker “Tree City USA.”

Unwind under the soaring trees, explore the beautiful peony flowers and walk across the green grass in the town park.

Paonia Park also hosts numerous community events like the Cherry Days Festival, BMW Rally, Pickin’ in the Park, and more.

Sample Cheese at Western Culture Farmstead & Creamery

Visit Western Culture Farmstead & Creamery for a unique experience.

Tour the farm, sample small-batch artisan goat cheese, and even interact with the goats!

Western Culture Farmstead & Creamery is a USDA-licensed farm in Paonia raising pasture-fed goats and making farmstead cheese.

Meet the goats, see how farmhands milk them, and learn how they make the cheese on a farm tour!

You may sample and buy cheese at the farm store; pick from various kinds of cheese like Feta, Manchego, and Parma-style.

Other products available are all-natural, handmade goat milk lotion and soap.

The Western Culture Farmstead & Creamery is certainly worth a visit!

Enjoy the Waters of Paonia River Park

The Paonia River Park is the best location to experience the North Fork Gunnison River.

This 1,857-acre River Park allows you to enjoy both water and land.

Indulge in various fun activities or relax and watch the rush of waters of the river.

The Paonia River Park was once a gravel mine, thanks to the efforts of the North Fork River Improvement Association, now the Western Slope Conservation Center.

They worked long and hard to recover the river, rebuild habitats, and transform it into a family-friendly leisure park.

At present, the Paonia River Park is one of the few public access locations to the North Fork Gunnison River.

This location makes it a well-liked destination for all nature lovers.

Paonia River Park offers boating, hiking, picnicking, relaxing, and swimming regardless of your preferences.

However, the park prohibits camping and overnight parking.

Either way, you can still do more than enough activities to keep the whole family occupied.

The clear waters, stunning mountain views, wildflowers, and peaceful setting will surely leave you feeling recharged.

Experience Farm Life at the Orchard Valley Farms and Market

Paonia is a haven for agriculture, teeming with farms and orchards.

The 80-acre Orchard Valley Farms and Market is one of the best family-friendly farms to visit in town.

Founded in 1976, the farm and market is a supplier of western Colorado’s wholesale fruit packing businesses.

Orchard Valley Farms & Market is a fantastic opportunity to experience farm and rural life.

It’s the source of sustainably-grown, newly-harvested local produce.

Spend a day on the farm, pick your produce, or enjoy the scenery while strolling around the gardens overlooking the gorgeous West Elk Mountains.

The farm offers fresh raspberries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, bell peppers, pumpkins, and cucumbers.

You can also buy wines from their vineyard (Black Bridge Winery), infused olive oils, balsamic vinegar, jams and jellies, pickles, sauces, and beef.

Although the Orchard Valley Farms and Market sits a little further than your local supermarket, the views and the farm experience make the trip worthwhile.

Shop for Flowers at Zephyros Farm and Garden

The Zephyros Farm and Garden is another farm you must check out in Paonia, especially if you enjoy flowers!

Spanning 35 acres, Zephyros Farm and Garden is a small diverse family farm in the North Fork Valley of Colorado’s Western Slope.

The Zephyros Farm and Garden started more than 17 years ago as a modest certified organic farm.

At first, it was something they did on the side.

However, their passion for flowers eventually made them one of the top producers of cut flowers on the western slope.

They produce organic flowers and grow vegetables, herbs, fruits, and perennials for florists, restaurants, and farmers’ markets in Western Colorado.

They also offer flower arrangements for special events by their flower growers through their design studio, Studio Z Flowers.

Enjoy a Glass of Beer at Paonia United Brewing Co.

Paonia United Brewing Co. is a local brewery and pub specializing in producing and selling top-notch, small-batch handcrafted beer.

Both local customers and tourists of the North Fork Valley can sample their hand-crafted ales and lagers on their patio, beer garden, and tasting room.

Paonia United Brewing Co. aims to foster a friendly and inclusive atmosphere by featuring live music and community-focused events.

You can try the beers on tap like the “Paonia E.S.P.” Extra Special Pale Ale, “Close to Home” Colorado I.P.A., “Barley Pop” Golden Ale, “Porterhouse” Porter, and “The Gringo” Pineapple & Chili Ale.

Drop by after a long day, grab a few beers, and share the moment with friends or family!

Unwind at Stone Cottage Cellars

Paonia is in the center of the West Elks American Viticulture Area, a recognized wine-growing region.

Among the many vineyards and wineries in Paonia is the Stone Cottage Cellars, a family-run business established in 1994.

Owners Brent and Karen bought one of the highest altitude vineyards in the world out of their passion for fine wines.

Wines from Stone Cottage Cellars reflect the Colorado mountains’ crispness, vigor, and minerality.

Their wines achieve this flavor thanks to the grapes on their sustainably grown vineyards, rising between 4,500 to 6,500 feet.

Come over, grab a chair, and enjoy a glass of crisp wine while listening to the rustle of the wind.

Enjoy the scenic view of the vineyard and mountains at Stone Cottage Cellars.

Book a Stay at the Bross Hotel Bed & Breakfast

Exterior of Bross Hotel Bed & Breakfast

Jeffrey Beall from Colorado, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1906, the Bross Hotel Bed & Breakfast is a lovely historic hotel on Colorado’s breathtaking western slope.

Check out its elegant early 20th-century design, rocking chairs on the porch, and balcony on the second floor.

The inn offers a warm welcome to visitors planning to stay the night, weekend, or the entire week!

Enter the parlor, which will lead you to the dining hall with large windows and an 18-foot historic back bar.

Each of the ten guest rooms upstairs has a private bathroom, comfortable beds, and different room decors.

Breakfast at Bross often consists of a hot breakfast entrée, pastry or other baked treats, and fresh fruit.

The breakfast meals use only the available seasonal products sourced locally.

The Bross Hotel Bed & Breakfast is just a block from Grand Avenue, Paonia’s central commercial district.

Guests enjoy easy access to restaurants, retail shops, theaters, and entertainment venues.

It is the ideal home base for exploring all that Paonia offers.

Celebrate the Paonia Cherry Days Festival

The Paonia Cherry Days Festival is one of Colorado’s oldest-running festivals, celebrated for over 75 years.

Cherries are the primary harvest in Paonia.

So, the town celebrates this delicious tart fruit for three days on the Fourth of July weekend.

Besides various cherry-related activities, Paonia Cherry Days feature many fun events where the entire community can join.

Among the festival’s highlights are the parade, carnival, beer garden, and artisan and food stalls.

Visitors can easily get into the holiday spirit.

If you’re into sweets, the cherry baking competition and cherry pit spitting contest might interest you!

The Paonia Lions Club founded this event in 1946.

Today, the town’s community volunteers handle the event.

Learn Art at the Blue Sage Center for the Arts

The Blue Sage Center for the Arts is a non-profit group committed to giving the community a chance to create and enjoy art in any form.

They provide a range of creative mediums, including readings, creative writing, and concerts featuring jazz, classical, and other types of music.

These events meet the demands and preferences of a growing artistic and diverse community.

You can find the Blue Sage Center for the Arts in two historic buildings in Paonia: the Curtis Hardware Store and the First National Bank Building.

The center started in 1994 as the Blue Sage Dance and Movement Center.

A group of teachers rented space in the heart of Paonia and gave the locals regular dance, tai chi, yoga, and movement classes.

They eventually changed the name to Blue Sage Center for the Arts in 1998.

Despite the emergence of rival venues throughout the years, the Blue Sage Center for the Arts continues to be a mainstay for classical music concerts.

It remains open for various classes.

Likewise, it holds arts outreach programs in nearby schools, and events.

The center also hosts gallery exhibits and offers venue rentals.

Currently, the Blue Sage Center for the Arts serves around 10,000 members of the North Fork Valley every year.

It also hosts the annual Paonia Holiday Arts Festival.

See a Show at the Paradise Theatre

The Paradise Theatre is a historic arts and entertainment venue for film, live music, theater, and educational events.

Built in the summer of 1928, the theater stood on Paonia’s Grand Avenue.

It opened for the first time in October 1928.

The theater features a stage, a hardwood dance floor, two balconies, and fixed seating that can accommodate 200 people.

You can rent the theater for private and public events, equipped with a complete sound system and a digital projection system.

These audiovisual systems enable both DVD format and laptop projection.

In 2015, the Delta County Board of County Commissioners approved the application to designate the Paradise Theatre as a Historic Landmark.

Drive the West Elk Loop

If you’ve got more time on your hands and enjoy exploring places on wheels, drive the West Elk Loop.

See some of Colorado’s most impressive backcountry views and landmarks from your car.

Shaped like a lasso, the West Elk Loop byway connects three distinct mining settlements.

It also passes by five separate wilderness areas and stops in the mountain towns of Crested Butte, Carbondale, Gunnison, and Paonia.

Starting from Carbondale, the West Elk Loop has a total distance of about 205 miles and will take approximately seven to ten hours to complete.

If you’re traveling from Paonia, take the road to Hotchkiss, Gunnison, Almont, Crested Butte, and end at Kebler Pass.

The byway is stunning in the summer.

However, it gets even more beautiful in the fall, when the leaves turn from succulent greens to vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows.

Depending on the time of year, you might encounter wildlife along the byway, such as beavers, bighorn sheep, black bears, elk, and more.

The route is open throughout the year, except for a 31-mile stretch across Kebler Pass, which they close during winter.

Visit the Paonia Museum

The Paonia Museum consists of two museums, the Paonia Museum and the Bowie Schoolhouse.

The North Fork Historical Society operates both museums near Paonia River Park.

Each museum has distinct features that offer visitors the chance to learn the histories of Paonia, Bowie, Somerset, and the North Fork Valley.

Built in 1904, the Paonia Museum was the family home of James Parks.

Children of the miners at Bowie Mines went to school at the Bowie Schoolhouse, built in 1907.

They moved the building from its original location in Bowie, Colorado, to its current position in 1979.

The home displays furniture and culinary utensils from the North Fork, while the school still has the original blackboards, desks, and teaching materials.

There’s also a sizable collection of black and white photos from the 1800s and the history of local families, companies, churches, and other entities.

Join a Retreat at Elderberry’s Herbal Education and Retreat Center

Elderberry’s Herbal Education and Retreat Center sits on a lovely four-acre farm in Paonia.

It offers apprenticeships, herbal workshops, and immersions.

The farm at Elderberry is unique because of the rich soil that fosters the abundant production of organic vegetables, vines, and fruits.

Nestled on the farm are the eye-catching, periwinkle-blue farmhouse and apartments built in 1908.

You can also find a small house, an herbal lab space, and a sacred yurt space.

This botanical refuge is on the outskirts of Paonia amid a quiet, tranquil, and varied terrain.

You can see enormous Cottonwood trees sheltering the lawns, a creek, and breathtaking vistas of the Rocky Mountains.

Find your space among the therapeutic waters.

Melted snow from the mountains and the Minnesota Creek merge, nourishing the earth and relaxing the body, mind, and spirit.

Elderberry’s Herbal Education and Retreat Center is the perfect setting to restore your energy and escape the bustle of daily life.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Camp at Paonia State Park

Scenic view of Paonia State Park

Nina B /

Paonia State Park is a 1,500-acre Colorado State Park in Somerset, Colorado, 28 minutes from Paonia.

Established in 1964, the Paonia State Park features natural beauty, fauna, and flora, including wildflowers.

This park is a must-see destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

The 330-acre reservoir is the park’s focal point, where visitors can go boating, fishing, jet skiing, and water-skiing.

The waters of Paonia State Park

Rachele A. Morlan /

There are two campgrounds with thirteen sites, picnic areas with grills and tables, and boat access.

However, Paonia State Park is a rather primitive park without any hiking trails.

It’s also worth noting that water isn’t available at the park.

So, you should bring your own.

Restroom at Paonia State Park

Linda Armstrong /

Final Thoughts

Paonia is a small town bursting with enormous opportunities for nature and wildlife exploration.

The town has also become a hub for artists and musicians!

People from all over refer to Paonia as Colorado’s farm-to-table capital.

Plan your trip today and discover the best things to do in Paonia!

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