Southwestern Colorado nearly swept this year’s “Best of Colorado” contest.
While we know from experience that there are amazing businesses, products, places to visit and more all over the Centennial State, readers who love the southwestern corner of the state made their preferences known and took several of the categories in this annual readers’ choice event.
Thanks to everyone who shared their favorites and made this list possible. Three lucky entrants also won a $100 gift card in a random drawing among those sending submissions. They are consumer-members Rylie Gardner of Grand Valley Power, Randy Brockett of Mountain View Electric and Debie Schmitt of Empire Electric.
Now find your favorite among these Best of Colorado winners.
Notice: Due to Covid-19 restrictions, some of these businesses may not offer their usual accommodations. Please contact the business with any questions.
BEST SPOT FOR A DAY AT THE LAKE:
McPhee Reservoir, Dolores
Boating, camping, fishing, hiking and biking beckon all at McPhee Reservoir, and Colorado Country Life’s readers think it’s the “Best Spot for a Day at the Lake,” according to our 2021 Best of Colorado nominations.
The San Juan National Forest Service keeps the lake loaded with warm- and cold-water fish, including walleye, bass, trout, crappie and more, with a public fish-cleaning station for your day’s catch. Bring your motorized or non-motorized boat — both are welcome.
Take a 1-mile hike along the area’s Can Do Trail to Ridge Point Overlook, or ride your mountain bike up the McPhee/House Creek bike route to capture the picturesque views.
Want to stay longer than a day? McPhee will accommodate RVs (up to 50 feet), has space available for tent camping, and has limited cabins for guests to reserve. The summers get hot, so be sure to bring plenty of water and a shade.
Open season is May through September. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/3e71LrM.
Enstrom Toffee & Confectionery, Grand Junction
Enstrom’s buttery, rich toffee, topped with chocolate and crushed almonds, has been bringing sweet smiles to customer’s faces since 1960. That’s when founder Chet Enstrom perfected his delicious candy treat after more than 30 years in the ice cream and candy business in Grand Junction.
Chet and partner Harry Jones opened their ice cream shop in 1929 shortly before the stock market crashed. They kept the business going through the Great Depression, thanks to Chet’s outside work as a refrigeration expert. And they kept it going through World War II’s butter and sugar rationing by making candy for the troops using the butter and sugar brought in by the soldiers’ parents.
Then, in 1960, while working on toffee to stir into a butter brickle ice cream, Chet perfected the recipe for what is now Enstrom’s world-renowned almond toffee.
The original store at 701 Colorado Avenue in downtown Grand Junction is still there, under the direction of a third generation, and the business has expanded to include two other Western Slope retail stores and three Denver metro area stores and a fourth generation of family.
Visit one of the stores for some toffee or gourmet chocolates or order online at enstrom.com.
Photo courtesy of Enstrom.
BEST JEWELRY CRAFTSMAN:
Chipita Accessories, Walsenburg
Chipita Accessories designer and owner Joan Eagle enlists the services of local artisans to complete her studio’s jewelry collection. Meticulously designed using materials such as Swarovski crystals, vintage glass, precious and semi-precious stones, and sterling silver, the local talent fashions eye-catching necklaces, earrings and bracelets with the tiniest details in mind.
From vibrantly adorned accoutrements that provide that wow factor to simple yet stunning treasures, you’ll repeatedly and proudly put on your one-of-a-kind Chipita jewelry for a special night out or just a trip to the local market. Creating unique jewelry for 40 years, it’s no wonder Chipita earned CCL’s Best Jewelry Craftsman award.
For more information, visit chipitajewelry.com.
BEST MOUNTAIN BIKING TRAIL:
Boggy Draw Trail, Dolores
While there are countless magnificent mountain biking trails in the Centennial State, Boggy Draw Trail in Dolores scored highest with CCL’s readers in our 2021 Best of Colorado survey.
Fairly flat with some areas of moderate climbing and easily identified signage, the trail is just under 9 miles long with cool stretches of shade, a beautiful backdrop and occasional glimpses of wildlife. Portions of the trail are groomed by cows grazing in the area, so you may need to dodge the occasional “meadow muffin” while on your adventure, although this doesn’t seem to be a sticking point for most visitors.
“Boggy Draw has the capability of wrapping the young through the old, and riders of all levels, in wooded beauty,” says a local resident who uses the trail. “Its trails undulate and roll out like a never-ending red carpet.”
For more information, visit trails.colorado.gov/routes/75.
BEST HISTORIC SITE:
Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde
Tucked into the cliffs of the deep canyons below the expansive mesas of Mesa Verde National Park between Mancos and Cortez are hundreds of ancient cliff dwellings inhabited by Ancestral Puebloans about 1,000 years ago. This park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers fascinating tours and amazing views of these cliff dwellings, as well as tours of the pithouses, pueblos and masonry towers preserved on the mesas.
The park provides a look into the lives of these ancient people who abandoned the Four Corners region in the late 1200s leaving behind what are now some of the most notable and well-preserved ruins on the North American continent.
A modern visitors center at the gateway to the park features exhibits, original art and information on the park’s research collection.
Learn more at nps.gov/meve.
Secret Stash, Crested Butte
Escape the ever-so-quaint Elk Avenue in Crested Butte and dive deep into a red, vibey pizza underground to enjoy what was voted as the Best Pizza in Colorado by CCL readers. And CCL has had the pleasure of eating there, too.
The funky, soft interior of the Secret Stash is a whole mood. And it’s perfect for après ski lounging where you can enjoy choice, handmade, custom-flavored and witfully-named pizzas such as the “Notorious F.I.G.” Or try what its website describes as a “local favorite,” the “Mac Daddy,” which is a pizza-take on the “big one” at the burger chain no one likes to mention, slathered with thousand island dressing and pickles.
But first? Secret Stash Crack Fries. You’ll thank us later. For more information, visit secretstash.com.
Photo courtesy of Secret Stash.
BEST PLACE FOR LIVE MUSIC:
Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison
Let’s face it: Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison may have had an unfair advantage in this category. Headliners sometimes can’t even compete with the unique, natural beauty and the thrill of the iconic outdoor concert venue that was voted number one by CCL readers.
It seems like all Coloradans have a Red Rocks story. And that’s part of what makes it so special. There’s nothing like singing along to your favorite band’s number one radio single with more than 9,500 of your fellow devotees beneath the stars or a full moon on a warm summer night.
Red Rocks brings fans together to enjoy the simple pleasure of live music. Our tastes in music may change over the years, but the grandeur of Red Rocks and the exhilarating energy created during a concert certainly won’t.
And if you don’t have a Red Rocks story, go get one. The Summer 2022 concert lineup can be found at redrocksonline.com.
BEST ARTS AND CRAFT FAIR:
Third Thursdays, Cortez
This is not your average arts and crafts fair. From June to September, attendees are entertained with live music, dancing, giveaways, raffles, concessions and several vendors, including several products from local artisans.
Third Thursdays has grown substantially since its launch in 2016, bringing in more than 1,000 attendees at their latest event in September 2021 where Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand graced the Montezuma Park stage.
“It’s so wonderful to just see so many of our community from different walks of life come together in the park to enjoy time with each other!” says City of Cortez Communications and Events Manager Jonathon Brooks. “We are excited to hear that Colorado and the community are recognizing what a fun community event it is!”
For more information, visit shopcortez.com/third-thursdays.
Be sure to look at our Discoveries section to see CCL staff’s favorite Colorado products and places.