Delta County, Colorado: Scenic Drives and Culture


From the iconic West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway winding past the towering San Juan Mountains to the shimmering waters of Blue Mesa Reservoir, Delta County has something for every type of traveler.


  • Delta County features stunning mountain scenery and unique geologic formations like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
  • Cultural highlights include Native American heritage sites, historic downtown areas, festivals, and culinary traditions.
  • Top activities include scenic drives on the Grand Mesa and West Elk Loop, hiking and biking on public lands, water sports on Blue Mesa Reservoir, and winter sports.
  • The area offers a variety of family-friendly attractions like dinosaur fossil sites as well as extensive outdoor recreation.
  • Plan your visit during summer and fall to take full advantage of seasonal activities and festivals.

Scenic Landscapes and Natural Wonders

Located in Western Colorado near Grand Junction, Delta County’s diverse landscapes range from high mountain peaks to red rock canyons and wide open mesas. The county’s natural crown jewel, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, unveils sheer cliffs plummeting 2,700 feet to the Gunnison River below. This dramatic canyon offers stellar hiking trails with jaw-dropping views.

Visitors can also explore the geologic wonders of the Grand Mesa, touted as the world’s largest flat-top mountain. Rising 6,000 feet above the surrounding valley floors, the Grand Mesa entices outdoor enthusiasts with over 300 sparkling lakes and 750 miles of streams just waiting to be fished.

Meanwhile, the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway delights road trippers with a 200-mile route wrapping around the West Elk Mountains. This byway treats travelers to golden aspen groves, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic vistas of the San Juans.

Immersing in Local Culture

Beyond its natural splendors, Delta County offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in local culture shaped by Native American heritage, Old West history, and modern-day traditions. The Ute people have called this land home for centuries. Some of the best places to experience Ute culture include the Ute Indian Museum or the annual Ute Mountain Ute Bear Dance.

Visitors can also step back in time by strolling through downtown hot spots like Paonia, Delta, or Cedaredge. These historic town centers still boast Old West storefronts and charming cafes perfect for trying beloved regional dishes like Pueblo green chile and Palisade peaches. To taste more local flavor, don’t miss festivals like North Fork Valley Cherry Days or the Mountain Harvest Festival.

Epic Scenic Drives Through Diverse Landscapes

One of the best ways to fully experience Delta County’s vibrant patchwork of ecosystems is by embarking on the area’s most iconic scenic drives. The 63-mile Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, the nation’s highest paved road, traverses aspen-filled national forests and the unique landscape of the Grand Mesa. Road trippers can pull over at scenic overlooks of the surrounding valley 10,000 feet below or go for a hike through wildflower meadows and crystal-clear lakes.

Meanwhile, the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway covers over 200 miles through the heart of the West Elk Mountains. Fall visitors will delight in the golden hues of aspen trees set against rugged peaks while winter snow transforms the Byway into a magical wonderland. Whether you seek towering vistas or glimpses of wildlife like bighorn sheep and black bears, these drives won’t disappoint.

The Best of Every Season

Throughout the year, Delta County comes alive with seasonal activities and festivals for visitors to enjoy. Summertime brings endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, from hiking and biking to boating on Blue Mesa Reservoir—Colorado’s largest body of water. Families can also cool off at the North Fork Pool.

Come fall, vibrant foliage sets the stage for popular harvest festivals like the Mountain Harvest Festival. Winter adventure seekers can hit the slopes at Powderhorn Mountain Resort or snowshoe through quiet, snow-covered forests. When spring rolls around, rafters flock to the Gunnison River’s frothy rapids starting in May. From summer concerts to fall harvests and powder days, Delta County serves up stunning nature settings year-round.

Outdoor Adventures for All

The boundless public lands surrounding Delta County offer limitless outdoor recreation opportunities, from heart-pumping adventures to peaceful strolls surrounded by nature. Top hiking and biking trails wind through vibrant wildflower meadows in the Grand Mesa National Forest and past cascading waterfalls in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

Adrenaline junkies can race down single-track mountain bike trails or scale sheer canyon walls on expert rock climbing routes. The area also boasts world-class fly fishing along the Gunnison and North Fork Rivers, known for their healthy trout populations.

When winter arrives, downhill and cross-country skiers take over the slopes at Powderhorn Mountain Resort outside Mesa. With endless options across 1.3 million acres of public land, Delta County delivers outdoor adventures for all ages and skill levels.

Family Fun and Kid-Friendly Activities

With its wealth of parks, unusual attractions, and outdoor recreation, Delta County offers many family-friendly things to do that educate and entertain kids of all ages. At the Dinosaur Journey Museum in the nearby town of Fruita, kids can check out dinosaur bones and fossils unearthed from the nearby Mygatt-Moore Quarry. This Jurassic-era site has yielded numerous bones and remains since its discovery in 1981.

Families can also try their hands at gold panning along Surface Creek or take a ride on the historic Ridgway Railroad steam train. After a day of adventure, Delta County offers plenty of camping options for families to roast s’mores under the stars.

Local Dining and Accommodations

After days packed with adventure, visitors can recharge by digging into Delta County’s hearty, homemade regional cuisine. Family-owned wineries and orchards offer tastings along the West Elks American Viticultural Area wine trail near Paonia. Foodies can sample creative farm-to-table fare or classic comfort foods at local restaurants in towns like Cedaredge and Hotchkiss.

For overnight stays, lodging options range from chain hotels in Delta to cozy mountain cabins and riverside campgrounds. The historic Bross Hotel in downtown Paonia treats guests to views of the majestic North Fork Valley. Whether you’re looking for luxury or rustic simplicity, Delta County offers diverse lodging to fit your needs.

Know Before You Go: Travel Tips and Resources

While Delta County offers stunning beauty year-round, visiting during fall provides optimal weather and opportunities to experience seasonal harvest festivals. Summertime also entices visitors with long days primed for outdoor adventures. Travelers should note that winter conditions can impact mountain road closures.

The area’s small towns are spread out across the county’s varied terrain, so having a car is essential for exploring Delta County’s iconic drives and attractions. Some key towns and entry points include Paonia, Hotchkiss, Cedaredge, Delta, and Crawford. Travelers can access information on local transportation, trip planning, and more through the Delta County Tourism website and visitor’s guide.

From sandstone canyons to colorful high-altitude mesas, lush forests, and gushing rivers, Delta County’s diverse landscapes astound with their beauty, adventures, and cultural traditions. Visitors who take the time to explore this lesser-known region of Colorado discover a world of natural and cultural wonders waiting to be uncovered in the state’s West Slope region.


What are the must-see attractions in Delta County?

Top attractions include the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Grand Mesa National Forest, West Elk Loop Scenic Byway, local wineries, and the Dinosaur Journey Museum.

When is the best time to visit Delta County?

Fall and summer provide the best weather and access to the most activities. Fall offers vibrant foliage and harvest festivals while summer offers long sunny days for recreation.

What is there to do with kids in Delta County?

Kid-friendly activities include exploring dinosaur fossil sites, gold panning along Surface Creek, riding the historic steam train, fruit picking at orchards, and camping under the stars.

Where are the best places to go hiking and biking in Delta County?

Top spots for hiking and biking include Grand Mesa National Forest, Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, and various trails and roads winding through the West Elk Mountains.

What kind of dining and accommodation options does Delta County offer?

Options range from family-owned orchards, wineries, and restaurants to local breweries, farm-to-table eateries, diners, hotels, cabins, guest ranches, and campgrounds scattered through small towns.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.