Located on the Western Slope of the Rockies at the base of the largest flattop mountain in the world, Delta County, Colorado, is filled with natural beauty just waiting to be explored. Public lands cover 72 percent of the county, and there’s a little bit of everything, from deep canyons to tall mountain peaks and mighty rivers to babbling creeks. There is no shortage of ways to experience the beauty for yourself, so whether you’re looking to go hiking, biking, fishing, or skiing, you’ll find it in Delta County.

At a Glance

The county itself spans 1,149 square miles and has long been known for agriculture, mining, and land and water development. It is located just south of I-70 and includes the western Colorado towns of Cedaredge, Crawford, Delta, Hotchkiss, Orchard City, and Paonia. The eastern side of the county has the mountains and Grand Mesa, while the western side is home to desert lowlands in the Uncompahgre Valley.

Delta County has a relatively moderate climate, which is why there are more than 1,200 thriving farms, ranches, orchards, and wineries in the area. The climate is also one of the big reasons that the county is a mecca for outdoor adventure—even though it can get into the high 80s in the summer, it’s easy to head to higher elevations to cool off. In the winter, highs hover in the 40s, but again, it’s easy to find snow in the mountains if you’re looking for powder.

The Highlights

It’s no secret that Colorado is a beautiful state. Many towns and counties offer access to mountains or forests or bodies of water, but Delta County is the only place in the Centennial State where you’ll find all that and more.


Hiking the Gunnison Route in beautiful Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

John and Jean Strother

Escalante Canyon in Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park might both have canyons, but they couldn’t look more different. Escalante Canyon is in the western part of the county and looks like something you’d find in the neighboring state of Utah—red rock walls with sandstone bluffs that the Ute tribe once called home. This area on the Uncompahgre Plateau is known for fantastic rock climbing but is also rich in history and other outdoor adventures.

On the other hand, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is in the southern part of the county, with dark, rugged cliffs that tower up to 2,500 feet above the floor. The Gunnison River rushes through the dramatic canyon, and it’s considered one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the state. Most of the activities here are for experienced adventurers due to the challenging terrain.


Eastern Delta County is home to the West Elk Mountains and the highest peak in the county, Mount Lamborn. Rising up to nearly 11,400 feet, the trail up to the top is one of the best hikes in the area for sweeping views of the valley and towns below.

For more great views, head north to Grand Mesa, the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. It tops out around 11,000 feet, and there are plenty of ways to explore the mountain and the surrounding national forest. During the winter, Powderhorn Mountain Resort is a family-friendly spot with more than 1,600 acres of terrain, and 70 percent of the runs are for beginner or intermediate skiers and snowboarders.

Rivers, Lakes, and Streams

Fish for trout, tackle technical whitewater, or take a leisurely float trip on the Gunnison River.

Bureau of Land Management

There are two major rivers in Delta County: the Gunnison and the Uncompahgre (a tributary of the Gunnison). Running through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, 40 miles of the Gunnison River are designated as Gold Medal waters that are teeming with rainbow and brown trout. The Gold Metal water is accessible by vehicle at the national park’s East Portal, and if you make the trip you’ll be rewarded with as many as 10,000 fish per river mile.

Keep in mind that the portion of the Gunnison river in the national park is exceptionally difficult to float, and only expert kayakers can navigate it. Nearly all of the boating on the Gold Medal Waters of the Gunnison River occurs within Gunnison Gorge NCA.

Covering 62,844 acres in west-central Colorado, the Gunnison Gorge NCA includes the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness, Flat Top-Peach Valley, and Gunnison River Recreation Area. It’s known for its pristine backcountry areas and cultural features, including prehistoric rock art and historic mines.

The Gunnison Gorge NCA is also considered an excellent destination for whitewater boating. As the Gunnison River flows through the conservation area it forms wild rapids, and the North Fork of the Gunnison near Paonia is one of the best whitewater sections on the entire river. It’s a great place to catch the high spring flows.

For a calmer paddling trip, head to the Lower Gunnison River and float the part that runs from Delta to Whitewater in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. At the end of the float, you might encounter several hikers and boaters camping near the mouth of Dominguez Canyon. But, for the most part, this lesser-known stretch of water has all the scenery of more popular spots, but smaller crowds.

When it comes to lakes, there are many scattered throughout Delta County (Crawford Reservoir, Confluence Lake, and Sweitzer Lake are a few of the more notable ones), but there are more than 300 lakes and streams sitting atop Grand Mesa alone. The mesa’s average elevation of about 10,000 feet means mostly mild days and cool nights in the summer, which is perfect for spending the day fishing or paddling around. Several lakes are accessible right off the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, and ice fishing is popular in the winter.

Adobe Badlands

The Adobe Badlands Wilderness Study Area is unlike any other place in the country. Wind and water have carved out unique rounded mesas, canyons, washes, and ravines. The sandy-brown landscape has some low-lying vegetation and is home to rare plants such as the Colorado hookless cactus, which has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1979. The area is part of the Mancos shale formation that was once part of the Cretaceous North American Inland Sea, which means there are numerous ancient fossils in deposits throughout the area. The northern section of the WSA offers views of the San Juan Mountains in the distance, and the area can be explored by foot or on horseback.

If you’re looking for a place with genuinely unique natural beauty, Delta County has plenty of opportunities to get out and explore all that the area has to offer and then head back to town for a warm bed to lay your head at night. For more information about planning a trip to Delta County, pick up a Visitor's Guide.

Written by Abbie Mood for Matcha in partnership with Delta County Colorado and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by jimsawthat

[+] Site Map