Separated from Colorado's major cities by the mighty Rocky Mountains, the communities along the state's western edge are not only miles but also years away from the hustle and bustle of Denver and the California-style sophistication of Boulder. Even Grand Junction, the region's largest city, is an overgrown Western town, and the rugged canyons and stark rocky terrain make you feel like you've stepped into a John Ford movie. The lifeblood of this semidesert land is its rivers: The Colorado, Gunnison, and Yampa have not only brought water to the region, but over tens of thousands of years, their ceaseless energy has also gouged out stunning canyons that lure visitors from around the world. Colorado National Monument, west of Grand Junction, is remarkable for its land forms and prehistoric petroglyphs; Dinosaur National Monument, in the state's northwestern corner, preserves a wealth of dinosaur remains; and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a dark, narrow, and almost impenetrable chasm east of Montrose, challenges adventurous rock climbers and rafters.

But it's not all rocks and dinosaurs here. In and around the tiny community of Palisade, outside Grand Junction, is Colorado's wine country; and downtown Grand Junction boasts a continually changing and evolving outdoor art exhibit with its delightful Art on the Corner sculpture display.