The Lands End Road portion of this journey is closed during winter, so plan accordingly.
All those lakes you see are the top reason the area is so lush with vineyards, orchards, farms and ranches.
Make sure to fill up on gas in Cedaredge as there isn’t a gas station until the end of your byway journey in Palisade. There are EV-charging stations in both towns and in between.
Your first stop on the byway is Cedaredge, where the Grand Mesa’s southern slopes meet the Uncompahgre and Gunnison River valleys. In addition to glimpses of orchards and stately groves of white ash, this hospitable town offers cozy, rustic rooms and access to dozens of trout lakes. Late fall also brings bushels of apples that hang heavy on the town’s trees — keep an eye out for the area’s many farm stands. Stop in at the log-constructed Grand Mesa Visitor Center to learn more about the area and ask any questions regarding your journey.
Take a tour and grab a tasting of Stoney Mesa Winery’s high-altitude vino. Before heading out of town, travel back in time with a visit to the Pioneer Town Museum. Stroll on the wooden boardwalks of the Old Main Street and see the American Indian museum, blacksmith shop, train depot and more. You will learn exactly how people lived when Cedaredge was just getting its start. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t miss the Chapel of the Cross summer concert series.
The byway veers west and travels to the top of the Grand Mesa, where the Lands End Overlook has views as far-reaching as the Sneffels Range. Looking over the horizon, it’s hard to tell if it’s the more-than-6,000-foot altitude or just the views of the Rocky Mountains and evergreen forests that take your breath away. Before heading down, check out the Lands End Observatory — an older ranger observatory on the edge of the Grand Mesa where the scenes of the San Juan Mountains, Colorado National Monument and more will be worth the drive.
Returning down the mesa, then heading north, you’ll reach the tiny town of Skyway, tucked into the Grand Mesa National Forest. While in the national forest you can hike, bike, fish and — in winter — snowmobile. Head east of town to visit the well-frequented Grand Mesa Lakes. Around the lakes, you can follow the Colorado Birding Trail. Look for American three-toed woodpeckers, gray and Steller’s jays, Clark’s nutcracker and maybe even a white-winged crossbill.
In downtown Mesa, a few cafes, gift shops and a country market supply all travel necessities. Stop into any store for a brochure on Mesa’s self-guided driving tour of many old barns in the area.
On the outskirts of town, you’ll find acres of open space and miles of trails. In addition, more than 200 lakes are buried within picturesque pine forests. The Raber Cow Camp Interpretive Hike is a loop trail to the historic cabins that were once part of a camp. It’s an example of what life was like in the 1940s and 1950s, the heydays of cow-camp life on the mesa. The cabins are in the National Register of Historic Places and make for a fascinating learning experience for the whole family.
You’ll end your Grand Mesa journey in Palisade, known for its peaches in the summer and wine all year long. With a charming downtown and plenty of scenic drives, fishing and hiking, it’s the perfect place to stop off for a night, or more. Pop into Peach Street Distillers, which uses locally grown fruit to produce delectable spirits.
Hop on another byway — the Palisade Fruit & Wine byway — to try more than 20 area wineries and spot even more orchards.
Hit the slopes or go to ski school at Powderhorn — a 45-minute drive from Cedaredge.