Paonia lies on the North Fork River at the base of 11,400 foot Mount Lamborn, near the head of the North Fork Valley. Warm air flowing up the valley at night, and cool air from the mountains during the day, have created the perfect environment for agriculture, earning Paonia’s reputation as Colorado’s “farm to table” capital. The town supports a thriving arts community, and has been designated part of the state’s official North Fork Valley Creative District. Bicycling, hunting, fly fishing the Gunnison River, and you-pick orchards make Paonia a special place to live.
Paonia is a Statutory Town, with a population of approximately 1,500 (3,000 including the surrounding mesas.) The Town maintains water, sewer and trash services, a police department, fire and ambulance and senior services including the Paonia Senior Center. North Fork Valley Airport is co-owned with Delta County.
Paonia is home to a wide variety of businesses and services, including banks, post office, library, grocery stores, professional services, restaurants, bakeries, artist retreats, wineries, breweries, galleries, clothing shops, and business support and co-working space. Assisted living facilities are located in town, and Delta County Memorial Hospital is only a short drive away.
High Country News is based in Paonia, reporting on the Western U.S., with a focus on environment, land use, and public land issues. Community radio station KVNF provides news and an eclectic mix of music. Coal mining in nearby Somerset, agriculture – peaches, apples, cherries, plums and pears, traditional cattle and sheep ranching, plus new ranches for elk, buffalo, ostrich and llama are mainstays of the local economy.
Paonia is the proud Home of the Eagles. Part of the Delta County Joint School District, the town is home to Paonia Elementary School (K – 6) and Paonia Junior-Senior High School. The elementary school offers a full program of academics and athletics, activities, and a jump-start summer school program. With a mission of “Caring! Challenging! Learning! Every Student! Every Day!” the junior-senior high school provides a full range of academics, athletics and activities, including band and choir, team sports for both boys and girls, track, drama, National Honor Society, newspaper and yearbook. The school is also part of the Flight of the Eagle Project, a tax deductible project to build a community track and field venue, including an 8 lane all-weather track northeast of the school.
The Paonia branch of Delta County Libraries maintains a varied collection of books, audio and visual materials, periodicals and downloadable materials, as well as a schedule of engaging programming for children, teens and adults.
Events and Attractions
The historic Paradise Theatre is a venue for current-run films, in addition to live performances, music, and special community events with a goal of elevating community culture through diverse, quality art and entertainment. The Paradise is also home to the annual Paonia Film Festival, celebrating local and regional filmmakers, western Colorado, and the rich and diverse stories of the people who live there.
The Cherry Days Festival is held in conjunction with the 4th of July. A parade is followed by a carnival, arts, crafts, and food booths, class reunions, and music, celebrating the sweet red cherries.
Paonia sits in the middle of the West Elks AVA (American Viticultural Area), boasting the highest vineyards in North America. Its wineries and vineyards offer tastings and galleries during the warmer parts of the year.
At the end of September, the Mountain Harvest Festival is a fun-filled weekend of music, poetry, an art show, chili cook-off and wine tasting, followed by a mountain-style street dance.
Bicycling is a popular pastime in Paonia. Trails range from 3 to 20 miles, and all levels of expertise. Valley and farm land views can be seen from paved roads, gravel roads, and hard-packed dirt road trails.