For over 14 centuries, the Ancestral Pueblo people thrived in Mesa Verde Country. The power of this magnificent landscape is still felt by a new generation of artists and poets; the farm fresh flavors can still be tasted in locally grown ingredients and vineyards. The call of the wild is answered in the same valleys and mountains today with bikes, kayaks and fishing lines. Their story is remembered and retold at cultural centers, museums, dances and demonstrations. Their craftsmanship displayed at trading posts, galleries and shops. All of this can be found in the Southwestern communities of Cortez, Dolores and Mancos – Mesa Verde Country, the highest concentration of archaeological sites in North America.
Mesa Verde National Park is just the beginning. Other world treasures are nearby. The 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 United States have received this special designation. Just a few miles from Cortez in a fertile valley with lush vineyards is Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, including Hovenweep and Sand Canyon. Here you can hike or mountain bike to numerous ancient sites, and then find thousands more just waiting to be discovered. Four Corners National Monument is a short drive from Cortez. Mark this one off your bucket list by standing in four states at the same time. Bring your camera!
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 quench your thirst. For Mesa Verde Country, agriculture is yet another cultural experience.
Outdoor enthusiasts love the variety of terrain in such close proximity – whether it’s hiking, biking, or camping. Bikers, if you’re looking to beat the crowds and enjoy uncrowded trails and scenic byways, Mesa Verde Country is your year-round biking destination. From single track to challenging hill climbs in the San Juan Mountains, Mesa Verde Country offers nearly 1,000 kilometers of mountain biking trails in the county, from canyon, slick rock, pinion and juniper to old growth forest.
Spring, summer and fall are best times to ride, but mid-winter fat biking is popular, and more trips are possible in the canyons. The higher elevations of the mesas and mountain trails offer incredible views, as well as respite from mid-summer heat.
Road cyclists and motorcyclists can take advantage of the two National Scenic Byways: Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway (the only one in North America dedicated to archaeology) and the San Juan Skyway “America’s Most Beautiful Drive.”
Traditions of the past aren’t just a memory in Mesa Verde Country, they are lived in the everyday – in the faces of locals, in the local artistry passed down through generations, in the celebration of community. They’re living in the warm canyon winds, in the sunsets, in the heritage in the rocks, trees and valleys.
One day just isn’t enough. Leaving becomes a fond goodbye, and returning is a see you later. Everyone who visits carries this memory with them.