Nestled in the heart of the Four Corners region of the United States, Cortez, Colorado, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Surrounded by stunning natural beauty and steeped in rich history, this small town offers a plethora of exciting activities for travelers of all interests. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history buff, or a lover of local culture, Cortez has something to offer everyone. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the top things to do in Cortez, Colorado.
1. Mesa Verde National Park
A visit to Cortez wouldn’t be complete without exploring Mesa Verde National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its remarkably well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Take a guided tour to delve into the history of these ancient civilizations and witness the stunning architectural marvels carved into the cliffs. Don’t forget to capture breathtaking photos of the panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes from the park’s numerous overlooks.
2. Hiking and Outdoor Adventures
Cortez is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The region boasts a myriad of hiking trails, from easy walks to challenging treks. Notable trails include the Phil’s World Mountain Biking Trail System, which is perfect for mountain biking, and the Sand Canyon Trail for hiking, where you can explore ancient ruins and pristine wilderness. For those who prefer a slower pace, there are opportunities for birdwatching, wildlife photography, and star-gazing in the nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
3. Cortez Cultural Center
Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the Cortez Cultural Center. Here, you can explore Native American art, crafts, and historical artifacts, all of which provide insight into the area’s rich cultural heritage. The center often hosts cultural events, workshops, and exhibitions, so be sure to check their schedule to see what’s happening during your visit.
4. Anasazi Heritage Center
The Anasazi Heritage Center is another must-visit destination for history buffs. Located in nearby Dolores, this museum showcases the history and culture of the Ancestral Puebloans. The center features interactive exhibits, archaeological artifacts, and a scenic walking trail that takes you to an ancient Ancestral Puebloan village site.
5. Winery Tours and Tastings
Cortez and the surrounding area are home to several wineries and vineyards. Take a day to explore local wineries like Sutcliffe Vineyards and Guy Drew Vineyards. Enjoy wine tastings, tours, and breathtaking vineyard views. It’s an excellent way to unwind and savor the flavors of the region.
6. Explore Canyons and Ruins
Besides Mesa Verde, the Four Corners region offers numerous other archaeological sites and canyons to explore. Canyon of the Ancients National Monument is a vast area with over 6,000 recorded archaeological sites, including cliff dwellings, rock art, and pottery shards. Canyons like Sand Canyon and McPhee Reservoir provide opportunities for exploration and appreciation of the area’s natural beauty and history.
7. Culinary Delights
Don’t forget to savor the local cuisine. Cortez has a thriving culinary scene with a wide range of dining options. From farm-to-table restaurants to classic diners, you can find delectable dishes that cater to all tastes. Be sure to try the locally sourced ingredients and traditional Southwestern flavors.
8. Antique Shopping
Cortez is a haven for antique collectors. Explore the town’s many antique shops and flea markets where you can discover unique and valuable treasures. It’s an excellent way to take home a piece of the town’s charm.
9. Cortez Farmers Market
If you happen to visit Cortez during the summer months, make sure to stop by the Cortez Farmers Market. This vibrant market features a wide array of fresh, locally grown produce, artisanal foods, handcrafted goods, and live entertainment. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience the local community and stock up on delicious, farm-fresh products.
10. Mountain Biking
Cortez is a fantastic destination for mountain biking enthusiasts. With numerous trails and bike rental shops in the area, you can explore the breathtaking landscapes while getting your adrenaline fix. Phil’s World is renowned for its challenging trails, but there are also options for beginners and families looking for a more leisurely ride.
11. Fishing and Boating
If you’re a fan of fishing and boating, the McPhee Reservoir, located just a short drive from Cortez, is the place to be. This expansive reservoir offers opportunities for fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and other water-based activities. It’s also surrounded by scenic picnic areas, making it an ideal spot for a relaxing day by the water.
12. Canyoneering and Rock Climbing
Cortez and the surrounding region provide ample opportunities for canyoneering and rock climbing. Exploring the region’s canyons and rock formations is an exhilarating way to connect with the landscape. You can join guided tours for safety and expert guidance or opt for self-guided adventures if you have experience.
13. Dolores River Brewery
Take a break and enjoy a craft beer at the Dolores River Brewery. This local brewery offers a selection of beers brewed on-site, and it’s a fantastic place to unwind after a day of exploration. The brewery often hosts live music events, making it a great spot to soak in some local culture.
14. Cultural Festivals
Check the local event calendar for cultural festivals and events that might be taking place during your visit. Cortez hosts various festivals and celebrations throughout the year, such as the Mesa Verde Country Indian Arts and Culture Festival. These events provide unique opportunities to experience Native American traditions, art, music, and cuisine.
15. Visit Nearby Towns
Cortez serves as an excellent base for exploring nearby towns. Durango, with its historic downtown and scenic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, is just a short drive away. You can also venture further to towns like Telluride, Pagosa Springs, and Silverton, each offering its own set of attractions and charm.
16. Horseback Riding
Discover the beauty of the Southwest on horseback by taking a guided trail ride. Local outfitters offer horseback riding adventures that take you through picturesque landscapes, offering a unique perspective of the region’s natural beauty.
The clear skies of Cortez and the Four Corners region make it an ideal destination for stargazing. Head out to the surrounding areas for some of the best stargazing experiences, or inquire about local astronomy events or observatories for a guided tour of the night sky.
In conclusion, Cortez, Colorado, is a destination that offers a blend of history, culture, and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re exploring ancient ruins, hiking through breathtaking landscapes, or immersing yourself in local culture, there’s no shortage of things to do in this charming Southwestern town. Make Cortez your next travel destination and unlock the hidden treasures of the Four Corners region.