18 Best Things to Do in Cortez, CO

Cortez, CO
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Pack your bags, call your friends, and run to Cortez, Colorado.

This city is a little utopia concealed from the rest of the world for far too long.

Cortez is the seat of Montezuma County and its most populous municipality.

It's also self-governing.  

It housed the laborers who worked on the tunnels and irrigation ditches needed to divert the Dolores River into Montezuma Valley.

Likewise, the town gets its name from the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés!

Here are the best things to do in Cortez, CO:

Discover Ancient Sites at Mesa Verde

Cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde
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Mesa Verde National Park is a world-renowned American national park.

The park preserves over 5,000 archaeological sites, providing tourists with a fascinating glimpse into the past.

In 1906, Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt established the park in Cortez.

Over a thousand species call this World Heritage Site and International Dark Sky Park home, including several found nowhere else on the planet.

Close view of Mesa Verde's cliff dwellings
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The ancestral Pueblo people lived in prosperous villages on Mesa Verde's mesas and cliffs for almost 700 years.

Today, the park preserves the cultural history of 26 Pueblos and tribes while providing a breathtaking glimpse into the past.

Mesa Verde is most renowned for constructions like Cliff Palace, supposedly North America's giant cliff home.

Aerial view of Mesa Verde national park
Tristan Brynildsen / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at the Denny Lake Park

Denny Lake Park is a beautiful place not just for a family outing but for a sports event.

You can enjoy the park's picnic spots, playgrounds, and restrooms.

Fishing in the pond and kayaking are also popular activities in the area.

There are trails around the lake where you may stroll or run if you need a break.

Parking is plentiful at the park, so no need to worry about where to leave your car.

It's easy to see why Denny Lake Park has become one of the most popular attractions in Cortez.

Enjoy all these amenities for a minimal entry fee.

Experience Farm-To-Table Dining at the Farm Bistro

The Farm Bistro in Cortez is where to go if you want a unique and delectable eating experience.

This restaurant's farm-to-table cuisine served in a rustic-chic setting with a comfy lounge will leave you feeling fulfilled and eager to return.

The Farm Bistro includes a complete bar with an extensive range of microbrew craft beer, casual wines, and premium spirits.

The Farm Bistro is where to go if you want to try something different.

Are you searching for something out of the box?

Notah Dineh in Cortez is the finest site to start planning your adventure.

This location is proud of its displays of early Native American life and culture, such as sculptures.

Established in 1961, Notah Dineh honors the contributions of Native Americans to US culture.

Exhibits include historical weapons and beaded leather apparel, to name a few.

USA Today's 10 Best Readers' Choice Awards named Notah Dineh one of Colorado's top Western museums.

Join a Pottery Workshop at Cortez Cultural Center

Put Cortez Cultural Center number one on your travel list.

This site features early American Indian culture exhibits, including traditional dance and literature.

You can find Pueblo artifacts, particularly those from the Ute Mountain tribes, here.

During the summer, bring your family to experience a free native American show and other fun activities during a festival.

You can also enroll your children in a pottery class.

Learn to Quilt at Cortez Quilt Company

If you've always wanted to learn to sew but have no idea where to start, visit the Cortez Quilt Company.

Its central location in the picturesque town of Cortez makes it handy for both residents and visitors.

The Cortez Quilt Company is a leading quilt store that sells and services BERNINA sewing machines.

What about a customized present for your loved ones?

They provide workshops ranging from beginning quilting to advanced sewing skills and an extensive selection of fabric and notions.

Enjoy Organized Tours at Canyon Trails Ranch

Do you want to go horseback riding at the Canyons of the Ancients?

Canyon Trails Ranch in Cortez arranges guided equestrian rides to Four Corners and McElmo Canyon's picturesque attractions.

Paths wind through the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, providing views of several archeological sites.

Wagons and buggies are available on request.

This attraction is child-friendly, inexpensive, and perfect for a date.

Visit the Famous Cajon Group

Ruins of Cajon Group
kojihirano / Shutterstock.com

The Cajon Group is a small settlement situated at the head of a short canyon within the Hovenweep National Monument.

It was constructed similarly to other monuments' settlements, including Hackberry and Holly.

Aerial view of Cajon Group
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Hovenweep's ancestors, the ancient Puebloans, left behind a spectacular circular tower on the canyon's western side, evidence of their superior craftsmanship.

Only three structures remain, an oval pit house with an attached underground room on a platform, another pit house with a vast square kiva, and what looks to be an "outside" kiva or plaza area.

Twin towers ruin of Cajon Group
vagabond54 / Shutterstock.com

See Live Shows at the Sunflower Theater

The family-friendly Sunflower Theater of Cortez is a community theater that stages a wide range of shows.

For example, you can catch musicals, film screenings, and educational activities.

The 119-seat Sunflower Theater is also a multi-purpose venue that hosts various events.

The Sunflower Theater has state-of-the-art LED lighting and high-quality recording and broadcasting equipment.

You can rent Sunflower Theater to host parties, weddings, and other events.

Sip Fine Wine at the Sutcliffe Vineyards

McElmo Canyon's unique microclimate allows Sutcliffe Vineyards to produce world-renowned wines.

In 1995, they established their first vineyard.

Six years later, they began selling their first bottles of wine.

They have since produced award-winning wines, which you can purchase in their tasting room.

Besides tasting four different wines each day, visitors can tour the vineyards and enjoy a panoramic view of the countryside.

Open year-round, the tasting room at Sutcliffe Vineyards offers visitors a tranquil setting that will keep them coming back for more.

Join an Educational Tour at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is a must-see for anybody interested in archaeology and history.

The facility allows visitors to learn about archaeology firsthand through excavation programs and hands-on educational activities.

Participants learn about archaeology and indigenous knowledge firsthand through research programs and hands-on educational activities.

You can work alongside professional archaeologists in the field and in the lab, travel with world-class scholars, earn college credit through the Field School, and more. Advanced registration is required.

Prepare for your journey by tapping into their free weekly Discover Archaeology webinar series or subscribe to their YouTube Channel to view the recordings.

Test Your Golfing Skills at Conquistador Golf Course

Are you prepared to test your golfing skills?

If yes, then go to the Conquistador Golf Club.

The championship golf course is a par 72 layout with scenic water features and undulating hills.

At 6,200 high, the weather is ideal for sports.

Golfers of all ages and skill levels can join an education and fitness program at the Conquistador Golf Club.

The Conquistador Golf Club hosts several competitions for special holidays and celebrations.

Enjoy Mexican Cuisine at La Casita de Cortez

La Casita de Cortez, a Mexican restaurant located on Main Street, features a menu of classic Mexican dishes and tequila.

La Casita de Cortez is a popular destination for residents and tourists who want to eat traditional Mexican cuisine.

Unique delights include appetizers such as shrimp ceviche, camarongos, and nacho campechana.

You can also try their entrees, such as chorizo steak fajitas, Azteca pollo Colorado, and tampiquena.

Try the steaks such as the Cortez steak from the La Casita Chef Creations menu.

Enjoy an outdoor lunch in a casual setting while taking in the stunning views of southern Colorado.

Enjoy Pad Thai at Thai Cortez & Sushi

Established in 2015, Thai Cortez & Sushi introduced authentic Thai cuisine to the Four Corners region.

They provide many options for hungry diners and sushi enthusiasts.

A few of the restaurant's most popular dishes include nigiri, sushi rolls, curries, pho, and pad Thai.

They have also received the "Best Service" award, thanks to support from loyal diners.

Have Breakfast at the Pie Maker Bakery

Since 2012, the locally owned Pie Maker bakery has served breakfast to diners in Cortez.

This bakery is the best spot to spend your morning with a friend or loved one.

They specialize in savory and sweet pastries and handcrafted bagels.

Each of their baked items is handcrafted from scratch with premium ingredients.

Their bread flour is organic and unprocessed.

Likewise, Cortez Milling manufactures their all-purpose unbleached flour.

They exclusively use organic butter and hand-formed dough for baking their pastries.

You can also bring home a treat to your family or friends.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Go Sightseeing at Hovenweep National Monument

Daytime view of Hovenweep National Monument
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

The Hovenweep National Monument is an ideal spot for admiring Cortez.

You can view the aged multi-story structures, built on top of stones, dating from 1200 AD.

Welcome sign of Hovenweep National Monument
Jeffrey M. Frank / Shutterstock.com

Although this location is halfway between Cortez, Colorado, and Blanding, Utah, it has a similar culture and attitude that you will enjoy.

Begin your journey at Square Tower.

You can continue exploring this historic area on foot or car with your friends.

Desert canyon at Hovenweep National Monument
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Try Canoeing at the Dolores River Canyon

Aerial view of Dolores River Canyon
Serj Malomuzh / Shutterstock.com

The Dolores River Canyon is a breathtaking natural wonderland full of exciting activities.

Find it in Dolores, Colorado, 15 minutes away from Cortez.

It's a stunning area to go hiking, canoeing, or kayaking in the Dolores River Canyon, a 30-mile stretch of a red rock canyon.

This canyon in Cortez is also surrounded by 26,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness, making it an ideal location for hiking.

The Dolores River Canyon Trail passes through a stunning red sandstone canyon with a slight rise.

Hikers with a sense of adventure might continue exploring the Dolores River Canyon.

Learn about the Ancient Southwest at the Canyons of the Ancients

Daytime view of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Traveller70 / Shutterstock.com

If you want to experience how people lived in the ancient Southwest, check out the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Dolores, Colorado.

It's 21 minutes away from Cortez.

President Clinton first declared the region a national monument on June 9, 2000.

It covers 176,056 acres in Montezuma County.

Site of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
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The Bureau of Land Management oversees the monument.

The vastness of the monument covers tens of thousands of sites, many of which Native Americans still use today.

You can also view some outstanding examples of Ancestral Puebloan cliff homes and other buildings.

After a long day of touring, there are plenty of trails, hiking paths, and even picnic places for you to enjoy.

Escalante ruins at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
MLMarkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Whatever your interests, Cortez is where you can truly relax and enjoy yourself.

It provides a convenient location for cultural education, too.

Besides the friendly locals and delicious cuisine, the attractions in Cortez provide only the best travel experience.

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