Being close to Mesa Verde National Park certainly has its advantages. This beautiful, incomparable archaeological site, dedicated to so much human mystery, has a way of making Cortez, Mancos, and Dolores stand out.
But that’s not all there is to Mesa Verde Country – around Mesa Verde Country, you’ll find thriving communities filled with outdoor recreation, arts & culture, world-class cuisine, local wineries & breweries, and the warm, welcoming people of Southwest Colorado.
We invite you and your family to join us for a week full of adventure because one day just isn’t enough!
1. VISIT MESA NATIONAL PARK
Mesa Verde National Park is like no other park in the United States. It’s the only National Park dedicated to ‘preserving the works of man’ and combines natural beauty with the cultural of the Ancestral Puebloans who created a thriving civilization in the park’s valleys and cliff walls thousands of years ago. A trip to Mesa Verde National Park is an explorational learning experience for families and anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Countless relics and dwellings riddle the park’s lush yet aired landscape and have been preserved for your individual discovery. Explore kivas, trails, and famous sites like Cliff Palace, Spruce Tree House, Balcony House, and more.
Full of mystery, Mesa Verde National Park’s guided and interpretive tours take you back in time to see what everyday life was like for the ancient peoples who inhabited southwest Colorado. Most impressive, you’ll see the astounding dwellings built by hand that have stood the test of time and hold the stories and legends of the area’s ancestors.
2. UNCOVER THE HISTORY OF THE ANCESTRAL PUEBLOANS
Spend a day at Ute Mountain Tribal Park to see how modern-day descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans have kept their stories and rich history alive. Tours are guided by native members of the Ute Tribe, all of whom have a broad knowledge of the Ute peoples and Ancestral Puebloan cultures. The Tribal Park was set aside to preserve important cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, wall paintings, and other sacred sites so that future generations can experience an authentic Native American interpretation of their ancestral homeland. National Geographic Traveler called the Tribal Park one of “80 World Destinations for Travel in the 21st Century,” and the full-day tour involves rigorous hiking and climbing ladders, but is the only way to really see the cliff dwellings. The park is 20 miles south of Cortez, and bring some box lunches to go (there is no food or water at the Tribal Park).
After visiting the park, head to the Cortez Cultural Center by 7:00 p.m. to watch Native American dances or listen to Old West Heritage Tuesdays through Saturdays in the summer, free of charge!
3. EXPLORE BY MOUNTAIN BIKE
Imagine the fun, beauty, and exhilaration of single track mountain biking without the crowds. That’s what mountain biking in Mesa Verde Country is all about – solitary, challenging trails, fresh air, and scenic backdrops.
Whipping around berms and dropping small to medium ledges at Phil’s World Trail System is a perfect way to release the stress of city life and get grounded, or airborne! Just four miles east of Cortez, Phil’s World has 29 miles of trails built with the thrill of world-class mountain biking in mind. After a few hours kicking up dirt and flying over rocks and roots, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear, and hungry. Head to Dolores for old-fashioned hamburgers (beef, bison, or elk), or authentic Mexican food.
After lunch, take some turns at Boggy Draw – a delightful 8.7-mile loop perfect for beginner to intermediate riders. For a ‘ride through history’ cruise the 7.4-mile out-and-back Sand Canyon Trail at Canyons of the Ancients Monument. Here, you’ll ride over packed sand and smooth rock gardens among ancient cliff dwellings and other artifacts left by the ancient peoples.
4. PAIR ANCIENT HISTORY WITH GREAT WINE
Hike, mountain bike, and discover ancient ancestral puebloans’ (formerly known as Anasazi) dwellings at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. This beautiful landscape is home to more than 6,000 ancient dwellings and offers more than 175,000 acres to explore (it’s nearly three times the size of Mesa Verde National Park)! Pets – from leashed dogs to horses – are welcome!
Afterward, head to one (or both) of Southwestern Colorado’s finest wineries: Sutcliffe Vineyards and Guy Drew Vineyards. These local vineyards grow and harvest a variety of grapes – all organically – and are dedicated to preserving the countryside while making premium wines. Stop in the tasting rooms to sip everything from Merlots, Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons to Syrahs, Petit Verdots and more.
5. BE AN ARCHAEOLOGIST FOR A DAY
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center offers a full-day program (open to individuals, groups, and families) that features a tour of a working excavation site as well as a hands-on activity with artifacts. The experience helps demonstrate the chronology of the Ancestral Puebloans while providing insight into their complex culture. A tour of the laboratory and curation room reveals how artifacts are preserved, documented, and stored. Since Crow Canyon is located just a few miles northwest of Cortez, we suggesting sitting down to dinner at the Metate Room at Mesa Verde National Park for a contemporary menu inspired by the Ancestral Puebloans.