Cortez Attractions

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

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Cortez, Colorado is an archaeologically rich town in southwest Colorado. The ancient Pueblo Indians once made this area their home and now artifacts from their era are still being uncovered.

A tour group hikes past pictographs in Ute Tribal Park. (Colorado Tourism Office)

Take you next vacation here in the Four Corners Region of Colorado to go on an archaeological dig, go hiking in the serene Colorado wilderness or just to catch some fish in the nearby McPhee reservoir.

Affordable lodging is available in several Cortez hotels, all with further information about local excursions and restaurants. Just ask!

Read below for descriptions of a few of the Cortez area attractions:

Mesa Verde National Park
This is the United State’s largest archaeological preserve, with over 4,000 sites and 600 cliff dwellings of the ancient Pueblo Indians. The American Indians lived there for eight centuries. A short hike inside the park will take you to a spectacular petroglyph. Group tours are available with park rangers as guides. The Chapin Mesa Museum is located in the park and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (6:30 p.m. in the summer). Enter the park on US 160. Hiking is available on marked trails.

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
This center is a non-profit research center that offers visitors either a day trip for a glimpse of their work or a weeklong excursion that teaches about the site and includes actual digging for artifacts in an ancient Anasazi city where the Pueblo American Indians once lived. They train you to recognize artifacts before and then have professionals guiding the digs at the active site. Very unique outing!

Ute Mountain Tribal Park
Come here and learn about the Ute Native Americans. Their Ute guides will teach you about the culturally diverse homelands of their people. You will learn about their history, view ancient pictographs and visit geological land formations that were significant to the Ute. Ancestral Pueblo petroglyphs, artifacts and dwellings are also within the tribal park. Half-day or full-day trips available.

San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway
This scenic highway runs from Durango to Cortez, leading up to Mesa Verde National Park. It is a steady climb on this paved road with beautiful scenery to Cortez.

San Juan National Forest
This big national forest is northeast off Cortez, taking either 145 northeast or 160 east towards Durango. Backpacking, camping, hiking, mountain biking, climbing and just about every other outdoor activity can be practiced in this mammoth Colorado wilderness area.

Cortez Cultural Center
This center tells the story of the Anasazi people using interpretive exhibits, an authentic Navajo hogan and photographs. Performances of the traditional Pueblo Indian dances and WWII Navajo code talkers also make appearances at the cultural center. The center is free and open to the public.

McPhee Reservoir
This body of water is located north of Cortez, close to Dolores on the southwest edge of the San Juan National Forest. Camping is available on a mesa about 500 feet above the reservoir, the second largest in Colorado. There are 76 campsites, some with scenic vistas. Hike the Can Do Trail to reach the Ridge Point Overlook for 360 degree views and information about the area. There is also a bike path- The McPhee/House Creek Bike Route- which follows both paved and gravel roads. Then explore the 50 miles of coastline below, or take your motorboat to get to know the water itself. The reservoir is stocked with warm and cold water fish.

Colorado Rockies Activities

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