Experience American agriturismo in Colorado at the base of Grand Mesa with a few days filled with fresh food and quiet scenery.
HOW, WHERE, WHY?
From SLC, take I-15 exit 258 toward Price to merge onto US-6 and keep on it until it meets up with I-70 Eastbound. Take exit 26 toward Grand Junction then turn right onto US-50 and follow it into the heart of Delta County.
Why Go Now
After the summer crowds leave and before snow covers the mountains, fall is the perfect time to visit this farming country and enjoy the fresh fruits of a harvest. September and October are ideal months to see the fall foliage September and October are ideal months to see the fall foliage, and Delta County offers multiple options for a casual drive through a number of brightly-colored canyons and countrysides. Plus, many of the surrounding orchards allow you to pick your own fruit right from the tree.
Where to Stay
Rent a room or even your own cabin at the historically-restored Smith Fork Ranch in Crawford (45362 Needle Rock Rd., smithforkranch.com). Soak in the views of mountains, lakes and rivers from the comfort of your private porch and enjoy an all-inclusive, farm-to-table dining experience at a streamside picnic.
YOUR THREE-DAY TRIP
Day One: Pick Your Own
Celebrate the local fall harvest in the city of Paonia. Start the day off by picking your own fruit at Delicious Orchards (39126 Highway 133, Hotchkiss, deliciousorchardstore.com) where you can select from a wide variety of apples including Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, Fuji and more. The orchard is also home to Big B’s—fresh pressed organic apple juices. Pick up unique flavors like spearmint apple, ginger apple and cherry apple cider. Head out to the Mountain Harvest Festival, which runs Sept. 27–29. Shop a farmers market, purchase handmade souvenirs by local artisans, and enjoy a glass of local beer or wine all while strolling to the accompaniment of live music. Friday night features a pub crawl and Saturday, a series of concerts (mountainharvestfestival.org).
Day Two: Farm for a Day
See firsthand where all that Delta County fresh food comes from. Take a tour of the greenhouses and barns at The Living Farm (12506 Crawford Rd., Paonia, 970-270-3338), where there’s everything from pigs and chickens to an entire greenhouse dedicated to tomatoes. Every Saturday, the farm hosts a farmers market complete with fresh produce, meat and eggs. Stop by the 35-acre Zephyros Farm and Garden (11466 3725 Rd., Paonia, zephyrosfarmandgarden.com) around lunch time for a taste of one of the garden’s many berry patches and some fresh goat cheese. A short drive to Hotchkiss will land you at High Wire Ranch (27497 Buffalo Rd., Hotchkiss, highwireranch.com), home to more than 200 elk and bison. Schedule a tour or order a cut of the quality, hormone-free meat. And don’t worry about packing it home; they’ll ship it for you.
Day Three: Eat and Drink Local
The Sunday brunch at the Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn (1978 Harding Rd., Paonia, freshandwyldinn.com) boasts fresh, organic options from local growers accompanied by live music from local artists and bands. Next, take a tour of the surrounding wine country. Visit the Leroux Creek Vineyards (12388 3100 Rd., Hotchkiss, 970-872-4746), Black Bridge Winery (15836 Black Bridge Rd., Paonia, 970-527-6838) and Terror Creek Winery (17445 Garvin Mesa Rd., Paonia, 970-527-3484) for a glass of Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot or Pinot Noir.
STAY ANOTHER DAY
Admire the best fall colors the area has to offer on a drive around the 205-mile West Elk Loop. If you care to tackle the entire drive, plan on a six to eight hour trek that winds through groves of aspen trees and continues past the Gunnison River. Of course, you'll want to stop to explore and snap a few photos of the fiery leaves, so pack a lunch and take your time.
Care to camp? Jeff Schwartz and his family run Delicious Orchards and Big B's Fabulous Juices, selling fresh fruit and juices made from their surrounding organic apple, cherry and peach orchards. There's a cafe, a tasting room, and you can pick your own fruit or pitch a tent (or tipi) at Delicious Orchards for only $10 to $20 per night. 39126 Highway 133, Hotchkiss, deliciousorchardstore.com