Delta County, Colorado feels lightyears away from the big-city crowds of Denver even though it’s just a quick four-and-a-half-hour drive. While being surrounded by rugged peaks, deep canyons, and awe-inspiring desert landscapes is good inspiration and an amazing setting for outdoor adventure, that’s not your only option for entertainment. Whether you’re looking to meet like-minded bike lovers, see lavender in bloom, or try out the latest and greatest hard ciders Colorado has to offer, this little slice of the Centennial State is the place to visit.

Every year the county has a variety of festivals you can plan your trip around, and then stay to see all the best the Western Slope has to offer. Here are seven annual festivals hosted in Delta County, each of which would be the perfect reason to plan your next getaway.

1. Eckert Crane Days | March and April

Western Colorado is a major stop on the sandhill crane migration route, and every year, bird enthusiasts flock from all over (literally) to watch these majestic creatures. Eckert Crane Days is an informal gathering that takes place in the afternoons and evenings, when cranes are most likely to land, at Fruit Growers Reservoir. It’s a perfect time to meet up with other wildlife watchers. Birders regularly see counts in the hundreds during peak days, and dozens of other bird species—including golden and bald eagles, mergansers, hawks, and even an occasional snowy egret—are often spotted.

2. Smith Mountain Bike Rally | April

For fun on two wheels, look no further than the Smith Mountain Bike Rally, held during the spring before temperatures get too hot. The two-day rally shows off the future of mountain biking in Delta County and includes a short track event, a youth race, and a rally ride. Events start at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center, and participants will get to check out the Smith Mountain Loop and Sidewinder Trail. After the events, everyone shares a spaghetti dinner, and participants can show their bike plates at retailers around town to be eligible for great deals. There’s also cheap camping at the rec center, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to commune with fellow riders.

3. Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trial | May

There’s something mesmerizing about watching a talented, well-trained dog work its flock of sheep. The Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trial is a chance for spectators to watch some of the best teams around compete to be the best local team. During lunch each day of the trial, a narrated demonstration explains to newcomers exactly what’s happening and how points are awarded and deducted. Spectators are also welcome to bring their own pups, but since your own dog likely isn’t trained to herd sheep, the organizers ask that they’re kept on leash.

4. Crawford Pioneer Days | Early June

The tiny town of Crawford has a population of just a few hundred people, and its ranching history goes way back to 1882. For more than 40 years, the town has hosted Crawford Pioneer Days, a festival as Old West as it gets. You can sign up for the always-entertaining Outhouse Race—participants can build their own or use one of the extras the organizers have on hand—carrying a 75-pound bale of hay (bales provided) across the finish line, or simply watch the parade. There’s something fun for the whole family. Fireworks over the Crawford State Park round out the festival.

5. Lavender Tours & Festival | Late June

Lavender is so much more than just a pretty flower. Not only does it smell fresh and clean, but it’s also known for its medicinal properties and ability to make great-tasting foods. Neighboring Mesa County is famous for Palisade’s Lavender Festival, but Delta County has plenty of the aromatic herb, too. After you’ve toured the nearby festival, where you’ll check out artisan products and see the fields of lavender in bloom, head back to Delta County to take a tour of Conner Orchards in Hotchkiss. In Paonia, there’s also Lamborn Mountain Farmstead and Stanton Farms, where you can pick up the best local souvenirs.

6. Mountain Harvest Festival | September

Delta County has a rich agricultural history, and it knows how to celebrate that heritage. Like all good things, summer comes to an end eventually, and in Delta County, that means it’s harvest time. The Mountain Harvest Festival in Paonia includes a grape stomp and a chili cookoff, plus local farm and winery tours. There are 12 wineries in the area, so even the most well-traveled aficionados will find something impressive. There’s also tons of live music, curated harvest-to-table dinners, and the best farmers market of the season in Town Park.

7. Colorado Hard Cider Festival | Late October

Each fall, Delta County invites hard cideries from all over the state to bring their finest wares to the Hard Cider Festival, held at Big B’s Delicious Orchards. The orchard is the ideal spot for a cider event: It was planted in 1965, and it’s continued to grow a huge variety of apples, cherries, pears, peaches, plums, and nectarines in the intervening decades. The adults-only hard cider festival includes live music and camping packages for those who plan to indulge. As with all the best celebrations, you can expect a dance party. For those with kids in tow, Big B’s also offers U-pick options so the whole family can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Written by Emma Walker for Matcha in partnership with Delta County Colorado.

Featured image provided by Western Colorado Lavender Association

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