About Paonia and The North Fork Valley
Paonia is situated at the east end of the North Fork Valley in western Colorado, nestled up against the foothills of the West Elk Wilderness. The North Fork of the Gunnison River runs through the bottom of this valley. The natural beauty of its countryside, clean air and water and surrounding majestic mountains offer an endless combination of outdoor lifestyles. Neighboring towns in this valley include Somerset, Crawford, and Hotchkiss.
Paonia sits at an elevation of 5,645 feet with approximately 1,500 residents. Another 6,000 inhabit the surrounding mesas. The valley’s economic base consists of ranching, coal mining, organic farms, orchards and vineyards. Local ranchers raise cattle, horses, sheep and hay. In recent years, some have found their niche with llamas, alpaca, emu, buffalo and domestic elk. Many artists, craftspeople and musicians make their home in Paonia, creating one of the more culturally diverse and open communities in the county. The beauty of our area brings people from all over the world. – the quality of life is why they stay. Paonia is home to KVNF, a local NPR radio station, Solar Energy International, the publicly owned movie/live performance venue the Paradise Theatre, celebrated and established High Country News, The Blue Sage Center for the Arts, Paonia Bicycle Co-op, and a number of artisan beer, wine and spirit producers, gift shops and restaurants. Last but not least Paonia’s town park hosts live music and summertime festivals. It’s also a serene, cool, and peaceful spot to take a nap or play with the kids.
Somerset, located just over the county border in Gunnison County, is a historic coal mining town that has survived the closure of its coal mine. Historic cottages originally built for miners sit across from the railroad tracks and overlook the North Fork of the Gunnison. Somerset is tiny and quiet and peaceful, its neighbors a close-knit community.
Neighboring Crawford to the south is a small town with western charm and family appeal. Funky and off-beat, Crawford is home to the annual Pioneer Days festival which includes events such as the Outhouse Races. It’s not uncommon to see cowboys driving cattle straight through the middle of town. Crawford Reservoir is a local summertime favorite for swimming, boating and fishing; head south over Black Mesa for even more water fun at Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is Colorado’s largest body of water, boasting several marinas and restaurants. A five-minute drive out of town will take you directly to the base of the often-photographed Needlerock and Saddle Mountains. The flats to the west of Crawford are home to thousands of cattle and acres of hay.
Hotchkiss is a crossroads town, triangulated between Paonia, the county seat Delta to the west, and Crawford to the south. Here you’ll find the bigger grocery store, the walk-in medical clinic, the FedEx pickup spot as well as other stores. Homes range from the historic wood frame and brick houses to brand new homes in Willow Heights to large-acreage properties up on the surrounding mesas. Hotchkiss has deep connections with cowboys, ranchers and farmers alike, hosting the Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trials and the Delta County Fair each year. Head out of town and within 15 minutes you can be at one of several celebrated area wineries. Hotchkiss has some unusual attractions; visit the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, then head over to Pleasure Park, a campground/rafting outfitter/fishing guide/bar situated on the riverbank at the north end of the Black Canyon.
The North Fork Valley offers a unique lifestyle for its inhabitants. The mid-level altitude and soil type allows for abundant, rich agriculture and orchards, and supports outdoor living almost year-round. Access to the great outdoors is virtually unlimited, and locals and visitors alike take advantage of the natural beauty and proximity to national forests, wildernesses, rivers and monuments. The small town vibe is strong, with summertime festivals and fairs gathering community members together to enjoy each other’s company, good music, healthy foods and deep artistic and cultural roots. Contact our RE/MAX Mountain West office in Paonia for more information today!