After leaving Cedaredge, I ran into Colorado Route 92, and headed east for a while. Large mountains loomed far ahead — the mountains that surround Crested Butte. While 92 was scenic (see the Drivelapse video below), I didn’t find any excuse to pull off and take a picture until after passing through the town of Hotchkiss, where CO 133 and the West Elk Loop Byway begin.
Route 133 stays close to the North Fork River, as it passes through the North Fork Valley. This area is filled with picturesque farm scenes, like this one. I was a little disappointed to have such hazy, milky skies for this picture. On a clear blue day, this red barn would have been even more beautiful. Watch for it about halfway between Hotchkiss and Paonia, on the south side of the road.
You’re getting close to Paonia, when you see the sign for the town’s old drive-in theater. The Paonia Drive-In went dark quite a few years ago, and the old theater lot is now used by a construction company.
Downtown Paonia is just off Route 133, and is worth, at the very least, a brief leg-stretching stop. Storefronts are lined up along Grand Avenue. At the end of the street, a hill is emblazoned with a giant letter “P”.
If you have the time, unpack a lunch and relax beside this mural, painted on the side of one of downtown Paonia’s buildings.
Here’s a time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive through Paonia and up McClure Pass: