Cortez, Colorado

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Thursday, March 4th, 2010

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Cortez, Colorado is a gateway city to Mesa Verde National Park, an archeological treasure with more than 4,000 sites and 600 cliff dwellings. The area is where the ancient Puebloans lived for eight centuries and is now the largest archaeological preserve in the country.

Chimney Rock, an abrupt butte, juts skyward near Cortez. (Colorado Tourism Office)

Many Cortez attractions have to do with the rich archeological heritage of the area, both at Mesa Verde and the Crow Canyon Archeological Area, where the story of the Puebloans is still being studied.

Day excursions to Crow Canyon take you on an archaeology crash course, while week long programs will have you excavating for artifacts at a working site.

The Ute Mountain Tribal Park is also very close to Cortez. The Ute Mountain Casino is a huge draw to the Indian reservation. Visit the Cortez Cultural Center to learn about current American Indian culture through free dances and cultural programs spread throughout the year. In the summer, an outdoor drama is performed six nights a week from the center.

Outdoor recreation in Cortez takes place on its 116 acres of parks and trails for hiking and biking. There is also an 18-hole golf course in town, the Conquistador Golf Course.

Stroll through downtown Cortez along the Crossroads Culture Walk to learn about the history of the town via its 1890s-1930s historical buildings.

An archeologist demonstrates her craft near the southwest Colorado town of Cortez. (Colorado Tourism Office)

Outside of town, check out McElmo Canyon, an up-and-coming viticulture center. Go wine tasting at one of the bodegas!

Restaurants range from burgers and fries to fine dining. Cortez lodging is exceptionally affordable in chain hotels like Holiday Inn, Econolodge and Best Western.

Make sure you stop in one of the trading posts while you’re in the Cortez area- they have been around for generations and have contributed to the town’s history as a trading center for the past 1,000 years.

Durango is to the east of Cortez, about 45 miles away via the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.

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