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Grand Valley: This corner of Colorado is quickly becoming a must-visit spot

Peaches are a standout crop in Colorado's Grand Valley. It's also a wine-growing region.

Palisade, Colorado (CNN) — Colorado’s iconic destinations have seemingly been around forever, and we know their names by heart: Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge, to name a few, along with Denver, a city that has exploded in the past decade.

For something new, a traveler must go farther west in the state, where a budding yet still relatively unknown region called the Grand Valley has become Colorado’s next must-visit destination.

Located on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, four hours west of Denver (which is on the eastern side, or Front Range, of the Rockies), the valley contains three distinct cities: Palisade, Grand Junction and Fruita.

These three destinations individually and collectively offer much to experience, including a laid-back fruit and wine region, river activities and access to a unique combination of mountain and desert terrain for hiking, biking and scenic drives.

Come along as we break down and explore this up-and-coming area of Colorado.

Palisade: Fruit, wine and agritourism

A horse-drawn carriage goes clippity-clop down Palisade’s rose-lined streets, past farm stands and wine tasting rooms bursting with color. The landscape is dominated by peach orchards, vineyards and, depending on which way you look, a memorable combination of mountain peaks and desert canyon cliffs.

James Sanders, a long-time peach farmer, waves to neighbors sitting on their front porch as he drives his yellow and blue forklift piled high with local fruit from his nearby fields to his farm market, the Palisade Peach Shack, located right at the entrance to town.

Moments later, he appears again, this time on a tractor, towing a trailer of smiling guests to his peach orchards for a u-pick tour.

It’s just another summer day in Palisade, a fruit and grape growing community of not quite 3,000 people, where visitors come to escape city life and indulge in the local food, fields and wine.

Peaches are a standout crop in Colorado’s Grand Valley. It’s also a wine-growing region.

Julia Cavalieri/Tropical Disco Media

“There’s something about this place,” Sanders said. “Putting your feet up on a porch, getting into a glass of wine, having sticky hands after eating a peach, knowing that all the farmers and locals are really nice people and easy to talk to. … That’s the life we’re living here.”

Palisade’s acclaim began in the late 1800s when its early farmers planted the area’s first peach trees. Nowadays, the Palisade Peach is arguably Colorado’s most famous crop,…

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