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Outdoor Beauty and Recreation

Mesa Verde National Park, with its cliff dwellings and mesa top sites, is just the beginning of what this region has to offer. Nearby Ute Mountain Tribal Park was selected by “National Geographic Traveler” as one of “80 World Destinations for Travel in the 21st Century” (only nine places in the U.S. have received this special designation). Also close is Mancos State Park, which draws kayakers, canoeists, boaters and anglers, who find the Jackson Gulch Reservoir stocked with perch and trout. For more adventure on the water, head to McPhee Reservoir, the perfect place for tubing and swimming.

Vast San Juan National Forest sweeps through the southwest corner of Colorado and includes scenic byways, historic sites and unparalleled wilderness areas. Head to the forest’s Boggy Draw area to find roads, trails and welcoming campsites. Experience the region’s environmental diversity at Hawkins Preserve, the Cortez Cultural Center’s natural museum, which is divided into seven distinct ecological zones. If you’re into mountain biking, don’t leave the Four Corners area without a stop at Phil’s World, which offers 45 kilometers of desert single-track, catering to all skill levels.

 

Rich History

Just a few kilometers from Cortez in a fertile valley with lush vineyards is Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which includes Hovenweep and Sand Canyons and features 6,000 ancient sites, among them Lowry Pueblo, original location of an 11th century pueblo. Stop in to the Anasazi Heritage Center, a museum that explores Ancestral Pueblo culture and operates as a visitor’s center to the Canyons. A short drive from Cortez brings you to Four Corners National Monument. Mark this one off your bucket list by standing in four states at the same time. Tour Crow Canyon Archaeological Center’s replicated Native structures and learning centers, just 24 kilometers from Mesa Verde National Park.

 

Culture & Cuisine

After a great day of history, venture into town for art galleries, museums, farm-to table cuisine, local brews and shopping. The Ancestral Puebloans farmed the valleys and mesas of southwest Colorado, including current-day Mesa Verde National Park, until around 1300 AD. Growing corn, beans and squash, they laid the agricultural foundation for today's farmers, ranchers and vintners who carry on this long tradition. Four local breweries and two vineyards are available to quench your thirst. For Cortez, agriculture is yet another cultural experience.

Fun Fact

Pretty view of McPhee Reservoir, which conceals a ghost town
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Beneath McPhee Reservoir rests a ghost town.

Photo: LeeAnn Ramsey

The sun sets on another pleasant day
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Mesa Verde Country enjoys 240 sunny days per year.

Photo: Lapito Arviso

Hovenweep National Monument in Colorado
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There are over 6,000 excavated and undiscovered sites in the region.

Mesa Verde National Park
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Nearby Experiences
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Official Cortez Travel Site

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The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cog Railway travels to Pikes Peak’s summit

Destination

Colorado Springs

Denver Union Station at dusk

Destination

Denver

The historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train hugs a mountain

Destination

Durango

Winding road through the Colorado National Monument landscape

Destination

Grand Junction

View out from Balcony House, a 13th century cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park

Destination

Cortez

Hiking along the Blue Lakes Trail in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness area

Destination

Telluride

Fly-fishing on the East River

Destination

Gunnison Valley