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Paonia, CO

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39845 Mathews Lane, Paonia, CO 81428 United States


Short description

Solar Energy International’s industry recognized PV Lab Facility in Paonia, Colorado is located on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains along the North Fork of the Gunnison River and at the base of the 11,395 foot tall Mt. Lamborn. Our educational center offers students an unparalleled opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom in a beautiful location.

Staff consider our location a little piece of heaven, and the best kept secret in solar.

Travel information

Paonia is located on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, at 5,645 ft. in elevation. Along with Hotchkiss and Crawford, Paonia is one of the small towns that make up the North Fork Valley. The North Fork of the Gunnison River flows through Paonia and the valley. On both sides of the valley are higher mesas offering panoramic views of the West Elk Mountains, Ragged Mountains, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and San Juan Mountains.

The North Fork Valley is well-known for its fruit (pears, apricots, cherries, peaches, apples), grass-fed beef, vineyards and wineries, goats and goat cheese, and organic vegetables. Visit Black Bridge Winery and Delicious Orchards to pick your own produce and sample some of the valley’s award-winning wines. If you are a road biker, check out the Chamber’s website for a list of bike routes along our beautiful back roads to some of these farms and vineyards.

orchards and local produce in Paonia, CO

The North Fork Valley is a designated Creative Arts District by the state of Colorado. Scores of artists, authors, musicians, and craftsmen reside here. You can enjoy their work at our local art centers–the Creamery Arts Center in Hotchkiss or the Blue Sage Center in Paonia. Check out the local radio station, KVNF’s, events page for events happening while you are here.

Students are turning their solar training experience with SEI into both a training and vacation destination. Read more about your train-cation here.

For more information about Paonia and the North Fork Valley, visit the Paonia Chamber of Commerce.

For a more detailed look at the weather, click here.

Our small town has a number of different restaurant, coffee shops, and even a couple different food trucks! Check out this map for area offerings.

Lodging recommendations

Paonia is a charming, small town nested at the base of Mt. Lamborn, surrounded by farms, orchards, ranches and vineyards. The nearest traffic light is 30-miles away, as is the nearest chain hotel. The up-shot of that is that their aren’t traffic jams (unless you’re caught in a cattle drive) and there are a lot of quaint, local lodging options available, including bed and breakfasts (B&B), farmhouses, motels, and camping options.

We encourage you to visit the Paonia Chamber of Commerce’s lodging list. Several establishments offer local deals for SEI students. Mention that you are an SEI participant when booking:


The Bross Hotel Bed and Breakfast is an historic hotel in downtown Paonia, built in 1906. It was completely refurbished in the mid-90s and now features modern amenities, such as wireless internet. Breakfast is served in a spacious dining room. Each room is unique, with its own theme. Most rooms have a full bath. Proprietor Linda Lentz offers SEI students the fifth night for FREE.

redwood arms

Redwood Arms Motel and RV Park is a family-owned, long-time Paonia business. Located on Hwy. 133, it’s a quiet spot about a half mile from downtown Paonia. Redwood Arms will offer SEI students $10 off per night if you stay more than one night. They offer smoking and non-smoking rooms, plus free wireless internet. Plenty of off-street parking.


The Living Farm Inn is located directly above the Living Farm Café in an historic building on Paonia’s main street (Grand Ave). They offer five cozy rooms, three with private baths and two that share a large, pleasant bath across the hall. Each room has one queen bed. Breakfast is included in the price. The Gillespie family, who own both the Cafe and Inn, will offer SEI students the 6th night free including breakfast. The Café offers farm-to-table food.


Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn is tucked into a serene corner of the North Fork Valley, just outside the Town of Paonia. Built in 1908, it was restored as a Bed and Breakfast. The 4-acre estate is a great way to unwind yourself while enjoying a rural lifestyle in total comfort. SEI students will receive 15% off if you stay more 3 nights. If you elect not to have the breakfast (though we encourage you to have it because it is delicious!) you will receive 20% off if you stay more than 3 nights.



Paonia is at the foot of 11,400 ft. Mt. Lamborn and is the gateway to the West Elk Wilderness. To the northeast is the Grand Mesa, the highest plateau in the world, with over 3,000 lakes. To the south are the deep canyons cut by the rivers coming out of the Rockies, including the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  All of this means the opportunity for recreation:  hiking, biking, fishing, horse-back riding, white-water rafting, and hunting. Paonia has some of the best mountain bike trails in the state (….shhhh!). Staff is happy to point in the direction of your adventure.



Upcoming Events

April 2015
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