One Perfect Day in Paonia, CO
Take in the mountain scenery and fresh, local eats in Paonia, Colorado.
Why go now: A recent organic farm boom has made this town (and the North Fork Valley in general) a major player on the locavore food and wine scene, and fall is the best time for a taste.
A-list harvest: The valley’s five-star fruits and veggies—this month apples, grapes, and pumpkins—give neighbor Grand Valley a run for its money, and are now showing up at swanky Aspen restos.
Banana-belt bonus: The warm climate gives the valley its bounty, and cool nights give wine grapes their zing.
Elevation: 5,674 ft.
Population: Around 1,600
Who’s here: Ranchers, coal miners, hippies, and young urbanites ditching the city for cheap, fertile land and mountain scenery.
Main drag: Walkable Grand Ave. is lined with shops and restaurants, plus the indie Paradise Theatre (where movies still cost $7).
Know the skyline: That’s Mt. Lamborn (11,396 ft.), Landsend Peak (10,806 ft.), and the hill with the painted white “P” is P Hill, naturally.
Sweet side trip: Hike the rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, an overlooked national park 40 miles away ($15/vehicle; nps.gov/blca).
Pick a bucket of forbidden fruit: It’s hard not to get apple-greedy at Delicious Orchards, where rows of tempting fruit dangle in front of Mt. Lamborn. Pick organic Macs till you’re pooped, then head to the farm’s shop—a locavore’s Christmas with Colorado wines, artisanal cheese, local honey, and jugs of Big B’s organic apple cider. West of town at 39130 State 133; 970/527-1110.
Welcome to Farmville: It’s a sweet life for the East Frisian sheep, Angus cattle, and heritage turkeys at the Living Farm, who munch away on 212 acres and pay no mind to the stunning mountain views in the distance. Stop by the Saturday farm market and take home some fresh eggs, salad greens, squash, or even a pair of handmade wool socks. 9–12; farm tour ($6); 12506 Crawford Rd.; thelivingfarm.org
A brewing revolution: A church turned brewpub, Revolution Brewing follows the same local ethos this town swears by, with tasty seasonal beers made from Colorado malt and local hops. In the backyard beer garden, try the sweet and hoppy Miner’s Gold, with a beer-boiled brat on a whole-wheat bun. $; 325 Grand Ave.; 970/260-4869.
The best (fall) dinner in town: Farfalle, linguine, gemelli, rigatoni: The homemade pasta at the Flying Fork Cafe & Bakery never disappoints. But neither does the stone-ground whole-wheat pizza or the Colorado lamb shank, thanks to chef Kelly Steinmetz. Nab a seat in the garden if you can, and on your way out, pop into the bakery for a loaf of artisanal bread to take home. $$; Third Ave. at Main St.; 970/527-3203.