6 Reasons to Drive to Palisade, Colorado
This small town rivals Napa’s wine scene and has Mile High adventure.
Trade in the Rocky Mountains for the high desert, about three-and-a-half hours west of Denver. Only 40 miles out from the Utah border, the terrain will begin to change as you zig-zag through Mesa County’s massive canyons. Tucked in between Mt. Garfield and the sprawling Grand Mesa, Palisade, The Peach Capital of Colorado, is calling your name. While this may not be everyone’s favorite fruit, the fresh peaches are worth a pitstop, and the miles of vineyards, orchards, and trails are reasons to stay a few days.
Break up the trip by stopping in Glenwood Springs, the home of Doc Holiday, to enjoy the mineral hot springs and impressive Hanging Lake Hike, or make it a full blown roadtrip on your way out to Moab. Either way, here are six reasons why Palisade should be on your to-hit list:
Sip your way around Colorado’s ‘wine country’
Home to 33 vineyards (that’s over a quarter of Colorado’s wineries) there is no shortage of top-tier wines in this town. Situated in the Grand Valley Viticultural Area, a designated wine grape-growing region, the winemakers in Palisade are churning out quality blends and using some unique grapes you won’t find elsewhere. You’ll be surprised to see the uncommon Cabernet Franc on several menus. “It’s Colorado’s grape,” explained Juliann Adams, owner of Vines 79, “because it grows especially well in this area, taking on a vegative taste, which is why so many of the local spots use it to really capitalize on that earthy, true, Coloradian taste.” Be sure to sample it, and a few other classics, at Vines 79 Wine Barn. The 100-year-old peach-packing barn, located in the Vinelands, plays up a Western flair with their rustic tasting room and outdoor patio.
If you really want to take your tastebuds on a trip, a stop at Winery of the Year, Sauvage Spectrum, is a must. Winemaker Patric Matysiewski comes from a brewery background, which shows in the brand’s line of funky sparkling wines. Matysiewski and grapegrower Kaibab Sauvage are juicing pure creativity, challenging the industry on what Colorado wine truly is while staying true to their high desert fruit roots. On their menu you’ll find cold hearty hybrid grapes like Verona and Petite Pearl, but we’d encourage you to try something super unique like the Natural Sparkling Tasting Flight, which features funky hazy natural wines with flavors like orange rind, honeydew, and tart berry and a skin-contact Rosé.
Next, kick it into high gear above the Colorado River at Restoration Vineyards, a chic, car-themed winery with incredible views of the Grand Mesa and Bookcliff Mountains. When the owner was laid off from his job at Mercedes-Benz, he and his wife turned their passion for wine, Palisade, and restoration projects into this retirement project. You have to take home a bottle (or box) of their non-traditional red wine, Barbera—they’re one of only two vineyards to grow it and the only one to bottle it.
Swap out the grapes for a cold one
Not a wine lover? Not a problem. Head across the river and up the road to the mecca, Talbott’s Farmstand where you’re sure to find something to fall in love with. Since 1907, the farmstand has managed 350 acres of peaches, pressed fresh apple juice and stocked locally grown fruits, vegetables, preserves, and more in their zero-waste facility. Now operated by sixth-generation Charles Talbott, the farmstand has expanded into a Hard Cider Tap Room with an outdoor music venue and incredible lineup of hard ciders that really tip a glass to Colorado, like the Alpine Start, Rafter IPC (a take on an India Pale Cider), ColoMosa, and the Summer Sunset, canned to perfectly depict the Palisade sun setting over Mt. Garfield.
Downtown, Peach Street Distillers and Palisade Brewing Company are also best in class for those seeking a non-wine option. Conveniently located on The Happiest Block in the West, the two institutions are in good company with a dispensary, winery, and tasting room all within a minute walk of each other.
Embrace the outdoors
There’s no better way to sweat out your hangover (or avoid one altogether) than heading out on one of Palisade’s various trails.
Biking is by far the best way to get around town whether you are cruising between wineries, along the Colorado river, or exploring the outskirts of town in the East Orchard Mesa Loop. The Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway is a great place to get a taste of it all. Separated into three different routes you’ll pass various orchards, vineyards, fresh fruit stands, and get a tour of the historic downtown. Head to Rapid Creek Cycles to rent E-bikes, beach cruisers, road bikes, mountain bikes, and for those who are really looking for a thrill, sign up for the shop’s Palisade Plunge shuttle which takes you to an elevation of 10,700 feet on top of the Grand Mesa. The famous 32-mile mountain bike trail weaves you 6,000 feet down into town offering stunning views of Palisade and Mt. Lincoln.
For sunrise hikers (if you’re not a morning person you may want to become one on this trip because the temperatures heat up fast), Mt. Garfield or the 8.8 mile Palisade Rim trail are ideal ways to start your day. And if it’s so hot that gazing at the Colorado River isn’t reprieve enough, then hop in and raft it or rent a SUP.
Indulge in peach pie, peach cobbler, peach everything, plus an esteemed culinary institution
Peach shacks line the streets of Palisade selling fruit fresh off the tree in baskets, as well as pies, breads, jams, salsas, ice cream, and just about every variation you can imagine.
Once you’ve had your fill of fruit, head downtown to the new hautespot Fidel’s Cocina & Bar. Their spicy cucumber margarita, extensive tequila collection, and a la carte tacos make this the perfect spot to get a group together for happy hour or a laid back dinner.
If you really want to make your trip to Palisade one to remember, a coveted reservation at Pêche. Restaurant will do just that. The owners wear their Michelin-starred background lightly. With a bustling, exposed kitchen and humble menu that turns simple ingredients into stunning dishes, Pêche. Restaurant is a must-hit for a thick loaf of sourdough bread topped with fresh Palisade heirloom tomatoes… to start.
Stay in a quaint local spot or camp out
After pulling off I-70 you’ll be instantly greeted by The Wine Country Inn, and we suggest pulling over if you want to stay in Palisade’s most accommodating establishment. Surrounded by vineyards, the Victorian-style hotel makes guests feel as though time has slowed down, with their rocking chair-lined patios, top-of-line-breakfast buffet, and daily complimentary wine tastings.
For a more modern stay, despite the name, is the Spoke & Vine Motel. Renovated in 2019, the motel wins guests over with its minimalist approach and attention to detail—think locally roasted coffee, a light breakfast delivered to your door, local artists on display, and of course, a beer garden.
But if you came to Palisade on a mountain biking, river rafting mission then Palisade Basecamp RV Resort or the North Fruita Desert Campground are the top spots for camping, pulling up an RV and kicking back with fellow adrenaline junkies.
Plan a trip around one of the town’s acclaimed food, drink and music festivals
If those five reasons weren’t enough to get you on the road, then plan a trip around one of their famous fests:
Colorado Mountain Winefest, voted one of the best wine festivals in the country, happens in mid-September. Aside from the festival’s wine tastings, chef demos, and live music, this is a great time to pop into Palisade since all of the surrounding wineries have their own sets of programming, specials, music lineups, and more to celebrate this yearly event.
The Palisade Bluegrass & Roots Festival, taking place at the beginning of June right along the river, is a great way to kick off summer jamming out to some of the country’s most talented bluegrass artists without any obligation to imbibe in a single style of beverage.
And just when you didn’t think Palisade could get any peachier, the annual Palisade Peach Festival will prove you wrong. As you can imagine, the weekend-long event celebrates farmers and business owners that give Palisade its reputation as The Peach Capital of Colorado. Eat, drink, dance, and don’t miss the annual crowning of the Peach Queen & Peach Court.