69 miles SE of Grand Junction, 51 miles NE of Montrose
Named by founder Samuel Wade for the Latin spelling of the peony flower, Paonia is enjoying a renaissance in recent years thanks to an enviable location in a fertile valley surrounded by a rugged mountain wilderness. Lined with trees and surrounded by orchards in the picturesque North Fork Valley, Paonia was settled by white pioneers who pushed out the Ute Indians in 1881. The economy has long been based almost exclusively on agriculture and coal mining, but it has grown increasingly diverse as young people priced out of the exclusive real-estate markets in the nearby resort towns have made Paonia their home in recent years. Today downtown Paonia is a vibrant place (the environmental-oriented publication High Country News calls it home, as do a number of interesting retailers), and easy access to outdoor recreation and a mild climate continue to attract newcomers. Tourism has also been growing, with the emergence of "agri-tourism" proving an especially good fit here.