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Last Updated on August 1, 2023

Colorado is known for its mountains, but the state also has a number of desert towns that are worth visiting.

These desert towns offer a unique blend of desert beauty and mountain adventure, making them a great destination for travelers who want to experience the best of both worlds.

Grand Junction, Colorado, United States
Grand Junction, United States

1. Grand Junction

Located where the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers meet, Grand Junction is a vibrant desert town that offers stunning scenery and a rich arts scene.

The surrounding natural beauty is best experienced at the magnificent Colorado National Monument, where you can explore numerous hiking and biking trails amidst towering red-rock canyons and unique geological formations.

After a day of outdoor adventures, take a stroll through downtown Grand Junction, known for its charming art galleries, boutique shops, and lively cultural events.

For food lovers, Grand Junction boasts a thriving culinary scene featuring farm-to-table restaurants that highlight local ingredients. Indulge in a variety of cuisines, from Southwestern-inspired dishes to international flavors. Additionally, the town’s proximity to some of Colorado’s best wineries makes it a perfect destination for wine enthusiasts. Embark on a wine tour and savor the rich flavors of the region, including its renowned varietals like Cabernet Franc and Viognier.

If you’re interested in history and culture, Grand Junction has a wealth of attractions to explore. Visit the Museum of the West to learn about the area’s fascinating heritage, or catch a show at the historic Avalon Theatre, which hosts a range of performances from live music to theatrical productions. The town also hosts various festivals throughout the year, including the Grand Junction Art & Jazz Festival, which showcases local artwork and live music performances.

2. Palisade

Nestled among lush orchards and vineyards, Palisade is a hidden oasis in the Colorado desert. Not only is it home to the magnificent Colorado National Monument, but it is also renowned for its exceptional wine-tasting experiences. Take the time to explore the charming streets of Palisade, lined with historic buildings and small-town shops. Immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere and embrace the region’s agricultural heritage by sampling delicious local produce.

In addition to wine-tasting, Palisade offers a range of outdoor activities that allow you to fully experience the area’s natural beauty. Rent a bike and cycle along the Palisade Fruit and Wine Byway, a scenic route that winds through vineyards, orchards, and breathtaking landscapes. For a more leisurely experience, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the picturesque countryside, stopping to enjoy scenic views and visit local farm stands.

For those seeking adventure, Palisade is a gateway to the great outdoors. Embark on a thrilling river rafting excursion down the Colorado River, or hike one of the nearby trails that offer panoramic views of the surrounding mesas and canyons. If you’re visiting in the fall, don’t miss the opportunity to participate in the Colorado Mountain Winefest, a celebration of the region’s winemaking tradition featuring tastings, food pairings, and live entertainment.

3. Fruita

Known as the “Capital of Colorado’s Western Slope Fruit and Wine Country,” Fruita is a paradise for fruit and wine lovers alike. With its proximity to the Colorado National Monument, Fruita offers an abundance of outdoor adventures. Explore the network of hiking and biking trails that wind through the dramatic red-rock landscape, or cast a line into the nearby rivers for a relaxing day of fishing. Immerse yourself in the region’s rich history by visiting the Museum of Western Colorado or take in a performance at the historic Avalon Theatre. Lastly, don’t miss the opportunity to browse the local art galleries and witness the vibrant arts scene that thrives within this captivating desert town.

Fruita is also known for its unique festivals and events that showcase the town’s culture and agricultural roots. One popular event is the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, which commemorates the bizarre true story of a chicken that lived for months without a head. The festival features live music, food vendors, and quirky contests that are sure to entertain visitors of all ages.

For food enthusiasts, Fruita offers a variety of dining options that highlight the region’s fresh produce and local flavors. From farm-to-table restaurants to cozy cafes, you’ll find plenty of delicious meals to satisfy your cravings. Be sure to try the famous Palisade peaches when they are in season, as they are considered some of the best in the world.

4. Glenwood Springs

Nestled in the picturesque Rocky Mountains, Glenwood Springs is a haven of relaxation and natural beauty. Start your day with a visit to the iconic Glenwood Hot Springs, where you can soak in the warm mineral waters surrounded by breathtaking mountain views.

Take a rejuvenating hike through the Glenwood Canyon or venture further into the Rocky Mountains for a thrilling skiing or snowboarding experience in the winter months. When you’re ready to explore the town, wander the charming streets and discover unique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes.

While in Glenwood Springs, make sure to visit Hanging Lake, a stunning turquoise lake perched on a cliff. This natural wonder is considered one of the most beautiful hikes in Colorado and requires a permit to preserve its pristine beauty.

Another must-visit attraction is the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, where you can take a guided cave tour, ride thrilling amusement park rides, and enjoy panoramic views from the park’s observation deck.

Glenwood Springs is also known for its rich history, as it was once a popular destination for wealthy visitors seeking the healing properties of its hot springs. Learn about the town’s past by visiting the Frontier Historical Museum or take a stroll through the historic downtown area, where you can admire beautifully preserved Victorian-era architecture.

5. Ouray

Nestled amidst the majestic Rocky Mountains, Ouray is a picturesque town with Victorian architecture and a fascinating history.

Outdoor enthusiasts will be in their element here, as Ouray offers an array of hiking and biking trails, including the famous Perimeter Trail that offers unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains. In the winter, hit the slopes at the nearby ski resorts or embark on a thrilling ice climbing adventure.

After a day of outdoor exploration, unwind in one of the natural hot springs that the town is famous for. Immerse yourself in the local arts and culture scene by visiting the Ouray County Historical Museum or catching a performance at the historic Wright Opera House.

Ouray is also known as the “Switzerland of America” for its stunning alpine landscapes and charming architecture. Take a leisurely stroll along Main Street, where you’ll find art galleries, boutique shops, and tempting restaurants. Don’t forget to sample some of the town’s delectable homemade fudge, a sweet treat that has become an Ouray tradition.

For history enthusiasts, a visit to the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine Tour offers a glimpse into the area’s rich mining history. Descend into a real mine and learn about the mining techniques that shaped the region. As you explore Ouray’s fascinating past, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the town’s unique charm and character.

These Colorado desert towns offer a unique blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and small-town charm. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, outdoor activities, or a taste of local culture, these towns have something for everyone. Visit them and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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