View out from Balcony House, a 13th century cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park
Dramatic skies over Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument rising up from the desert landscape
Casting a line into the Dolores River
Panorama of Cliff Palace
Scaling a rock face in Hawkins Preserve
A well-constructed Balcony House passageway at Mesa Verde National Park
Fresh, locally-grown salads
Starry skies over Hovenweep National Monument
Mountain biker preparing to take on a hill along the Phil's World Trail
Modern pastimes at an ancient Pueblo site in Mesa Verde Country
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.
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.
Beneath McPhee Reservoir rests a ghost town.
Photo: LeeAnn Ramsey
Mesa Verde Country enjoys 240 sunny days per year.
Photo: Lapito Arviso
There are over 6,000 excavated and undiscovered sites in the region.