Things to Do While in the North Fork Valley
And Much More…
Come visit the North Fork Valley of Western Colorado, a part of Colorado unlike any other.
The reality of this valley runs in contrast to much of what the casual armchair traveler might expect. Though it is bounded on the east by the gorgeous West Elk Mountains, this is neither a true alpine community, nor one defined by ski culture… and it is certainly far from the metropolitan experience of the front range of this fine state.
The physical setting of the Valley –– tucked between the mountains to the east, the Grand Mesa to the North, and the canyons and high desert of the southwest and west portions of the county make this a distinct sliver of paradise — and one with its own identity.
The Valley had been the longtime home of the Ute Indian people prior to their 1881 “relocation” to a barren reservation in northern Utah, following the Meeker Massacre.
The first Anglo settlers of this valley immediately recognized its agricultural promise – with its potential for irrigation, rich bottomlands and mild climate – and set about planting extensive orchards.
The first fruit trees were planted in the early 1880’s and by the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair, Paonia fruit was already winning top prizes.
While much has changed in the past century and a quarter, the importance of “the land” has remained a constant.
Authentic (non-Hollywood-style) cattle ranchers, cowboys, and sheepmen still care for their herds much as did their forbearers. While cattle and sheep still dominate, a closer look will reveal diversification, in some instances, into buffalo and elk.
And along with diversification in livestock ranching, there has been a strong trend in crop and fruit farming towards the “organic”. Growers are finding that small-scale farming can be profitable with the right mix of creativity and niche identification.
Refinery is located in the heart of Paonia, a unique town settled by farmers, ranchers and miners, now home to artists and outdoor lovers as well.
Paonia is naturally air conditioned by warm air flowing up the valley at night and cool air from the mountains during the day resulting in optimal conditions for growing cherries, apricots, grapes, peaches, plums, pears, nectarines and apples. The oldest continuous outdoor community celebration in Colorado is Paonia Cherry Days held over the Fourth of July holiday. Paonia is a real hotbed of organic farming, sustainably raised meats, value added products, organic hops and a truly remarkable wine industry. You will eat some of the highest quality, cleanest food in the world when you visit this Valley.
Paonia is a focal point of back roads and trails leading into the forest, attracting hunters, hikers bicyclists and cross-country skiers. Hunters outfit themselves in Paonia before setting out to get their elk, deer, and bear. Few places offer such a wonderful combination of climate, scenery, lifestyle and recreation.
The art scene is alive and well in Paonia. The North Fork Valley is a “Certified Colorado Creative District,” and home to many creatives, including painters, jewelers, dancers, actors, musicians and other artisans.