Top Cortez attractions include Hovenweep National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, and the Notah Dineh Trading Company and Museum. Other fun things to do include playing a round of golf at the Conquistador Golf Course, exploring the area on a Canyon Trails Ranch guided horseback tour, or catch a show at the Sunflower Theater.
1. Hovenweep National Monument
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The Hovenweep National Monument features six prehistoric villages built between A.D. 1200 and 1300 that are spread over a twenty-mile expanse of majestic mesa tops and grand canyons along the Utah-Colorado border. Once home to over 2,500 people, the prehistoric, Puebloan-era villages boast multi-storied towers that are perched on canyon rims and precariously balanced on boulders, allowing visitors to marvel at the skill and motivation of their builders. Visitors to the Hovenweep National Monument can begin their journey at the Square Tower Group, which features a visitor center, a campground, and an interpretive trail. Browse our Weekend Getaways in Colorado guide for more ideas.
McElmo Route, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-562-4282
2. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
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Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a national monument that contains a considerable number of cultural and historic sites representing Ancestral Puebloan and other Native American cultures. Located in the southwestern region of Colorado, 10 miles west of Cortez, the Monument spans 176,056 acres and comprises more than 6,355 individual nationally significant archeological sites that have been recognized for their outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values. The sites reflect all the physical components of past human life, such as field houses, villages, cliff dwellings, agricultural fields, great kivas, sweat lodges, and petroglyphs.
27501 Highway 184, Dolores, CO 81323, Phone: 970-882-5600
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3. Dolores River Canyon
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The Dolores River Canyon is a beautiful 30-mile stretch of red rock canyon around the Dolores River, a tributary of the Colorado River, and is surrounded by 26,000 acres of pristine and spectacular wilderness. Named after the Spanish El Rio de Nuestra Señora de Dolores, River of Our Lady of Sorrows, the canyon and river are popular with outdoor adventure enthusiasts and offers excellent canoeing and kayaking on the river and hiking in the canyon. The Dolores River Canyon trail is a pleasant, reasonably simple hiking trail leading through a gorgeous red rock canyon with little elevation gain and after about three-and-a-half miles there are some fantastic petroglyphs to see. Adventurous hikers can continue into the continually narrowing box-shaped Dolores River Canyon.
Cortez, CO 81321
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4. Cortez Cultural Center
© Cortez Cultural Center
The Cortez Cultural Center is a community arts hub that is dedicated to Native American and Western art, dance and poetry. Located at 25 N. Market Street in the heart of Cortez, the Cortez Cultural Center is housed in a 1909 historic building and features a wealth of information on archaeology and American Indian culture through interpretive exhibits. Displays include information on the Basketmaker and Pueblo periods of the Ancestral Pueblo people, as well as the Navajo, Pueblo and Ute Mountain tribes. The center also hosts traveling exhibits and local artists' work in the art gallery, lectures, slide shows, workshops, and music programs, and Native American Dances on the plaza during the summer.
25 N Market St, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-565-1151
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5. Things to Do in Cortez: Notah Dineh Trading Company and Museum
© Notah Dineh Trading Company and Museum
The Notah Dineh Trading Company and Museum specialize in unique Native American art and features an outstanding collection of Pueblo pottery, Ute and Navajo pottery, hand-carved wooden kachinas, beaded baskets, sculptures, sterling silver jewelry, and more for sale and on display. Established in 1961 to preserve the honor and tradition of American Indian artists, Notah Dineh features the most extensive collection of Navajo rugs in the region, along with other traditional Native American weavings, along with ceremonial gloves and moccasins, beaded toys, and antique cradleboards. Artifacts from the Old West include beaded leatherwear, antique bits and bridles, fringed dresses, and historic firearms.
345 W Main St, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-565-9607
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6. Things to Do in Cortez: Sutcliffe Vineyards
© Sutcliffe Vineyards
Nestled between the sheer walls of the Battlerock and the Sleeping Ute Mountain in the ancient desert of Colorado's southwest, Sutcliffe Vineyards produces highly acclaimed wines in the unique microclimate of the McElmo Canyon. The first vines were planted in 1995, and the first wines were sold in 2001, and visitors can taste the award-winning wines in the tasting room, explore the vineyards, and soak up the beautiful scenery. Located at the estate vineyard, the Sutcliffe tasting room is open year round, and visitors can sample a daily selection of four wines against a background of spectacular panoramic views.
12174 County Rd G, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-565-0825
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7. The Sunflower Theater
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The Sunflower Theater is a family-friendly community theater in Cortez that presents a diverse variety of dramatic, musical, cinematic and performing arts shows, as well as and educational events for audiences of all ages. Set in the recently renovated, historical, Montezuma Valley National Bank Building on the historic Main Street in downtown Cortez, the 119-seat Sunflower Theater is designed for multiple uses, and showcases live music, films, lectures and theatre performances throughout the year. The Sunflower Theater features a proscenium stage, a level main floor that can seat up to 80 people, and a balcony that seats up to 27 people, along with high-quality recording and broadcasting capabilities, high efficiency LED lighting. The theater is available to rent for special events and functions.
8 E Main St, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-516-1818
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8. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
© Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is a 170-acre research center for archaeological research, education, and preservation of the history of the Ancient Pueblo peoples. The center also serves as a ‘living classroom’ which offers a wide range of experimental and hands-on education programs for both students and adults to experience archaeological excavation of Native American sites. The mission of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is to preserve and protect the rich heritage of the ancient Pueblo Indians and to educate and inspire an interest in the preservation and protection of the precious archaeological resources in the area. Visitors to the center can visit a current excavation site, tour a working archaeology lab, and explore the fascinating history of the ancestral Pueblo Indians.
23390 C R K, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 800-422-8975
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9. Canyon Trails Ranch Guided Horse Tours
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Canyon Trails Ranch Guided Horse Tours offer scenic backcountry horseback rides in the spectacular McElmo Canyon near Mesa Verde. Located near the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Canyon Trails offers half-day and full-day horseback rides through canyons sprinkled with archaeology sites from the ancestral Puebloan People and explores several attractions such as the beautiful red-rock canyons of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, ancient ruins left by the ancestral Puebloan People, and the awe-inspiring landscapes of Mesa Verde. Canyon Trails Ranch Guided Horse Tours also offers horse and RV camping with water and electric hookups and private corrals for the horses, as well as buys, sells and renovates horse-drawn wagons and buggies.
13935 C R G, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-565-1499
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10. Things to Do in Cortez: Cajon Group
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The Cajon Group is a small village in the Hovenweep National Monument that is situated at the head of a small canyon and was once home to up to 100 people. Constructed in the same configuration as other villages in the monument such as Hackberry and Holly, the Cajon Group features several small structures tucked beneath a ledge, along with several pictographs painted in the Mesa Verde pottery style, and an earthen dam built to store water. The remains of a remarkable circular tower stand on the western slope of the canyon and demonstrate the expert skills of the ancestral Puebloans that lived at Hovenweep.
McElmo Route, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-562-4282
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11. Conquistador Golf Course
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The Conquistador Golf Club is a par 72, 18 hole championship golf course in the Four Corners area in the southwest corner of the state that features rolling hills, attractive water features, large trees panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Boasting an elevation of 6,200 feet and cool temperate climes, the course offers a challenging game for golfers of all skill levels. The Conquistador Golf Club also offers an instruction and fitness program for all levels from juniors to veterans, including lessons and tips on game improvement. The Conquistador Golf Club hosts a variety of tournaments, golf days and other events throughout the year, and can be rented for special occasions and celebrations.
2018 N Dolores Rd, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-565-9208
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12. The Farm Bistro
© The Farm Bistro
The Farm Bistro is a charming eatery that serves creative, farm-to-table cuisine in a rustic-chic space with a comfortable lounge. Open for lunch and dinner, The Farm Bistro’s menu features delicious, freshly prepared dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, including fresh salads and homemade soups, gourmet sandwiches, fresh seafood, chicken and prime meat plates, house-made pasta, wood-fired pizza, and decadent desserts. The full-service bar offers an extensive menu of micro-brew craft beer, casual wines, and top-shelf spirits, along with a martini and tapas menu for lighter bites. The Farm Bistro is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
34 W Main St, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-565-3834
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13. La Casita De Cortez
© La Casita De Cortez
La Casita de Cortez is an authentic Mexican restaurant on Main Street that serves a menu of traditional fare and tequila. Opened in 2012 and located 10 miles outside of Mesa Verde National Park, La Casita de Cortez features indoor and outdoor seating and a comfortable, friendly ambiance and is a favorite spot for both locals and visitors who want to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine. The menu features unique dishes such as appetizers of Shrimp Ceviche, Camarongos, Quesadilla, Nachos, and Campechana, along with La Casita Chef Creations of Steak and Chorizo Fajitas, Azteca Pollo Colorado, Tampiquena, and Cortez Steak.
332 E Main St, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-565-0223
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14. Things to Do in Cortez: Beny's Diner
© Beny's Diner
Beny’s Diner is a classic American diner that serves traditional American and Mexican food for breakfast and lunch, seven days a week. Boasting a cozy atmosphere with classic car and Route 66 décor, the family-friendly restaurant serves a range of favorite breakfast items such as bacon, eggs, hash brown, and sausage combos served with stacks of pancakes, biscuits and gravy and warm toast, along with homemade oatmeal, waffles, and omelets with various fillings. Lunch options include gourmet sandwiches, nachos, tacos, hamburgers and fries, taco salads, burritos, and fresh salads, and Mexican plates include fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, and more. Beverages include a fountain and soft drinks,
200 W Main St, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-565-5337
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The top attractions to visit in Cortez, Colorado near me today according to local experts are:
Attraction Spotlight: Yucca House National Monument in Cortez
The Yucca House National Monument is a large unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site that preserves one of the most important archaeological site in south-western Colorado. Located in Montezuma County between the towns of Cortez and Towaoc in Colorado, the United States National Monument is situated on 34 acres of land at the foot of Sleeping Ute Mountain in the Montezuma Valley that is home to a diverse array of fauna and flora. Called the ‘mountain with lots of yucca growing on it’ by the Ute people, the Yucca House National Monument has remained largely untouched for the past 800 years.
Architecture and History
The site of the Yucca House is one of many Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) village locations in the Montezuma Valley occupied by various tribes between AD 1100 and 1300. Two unexcavated settlement areas include a western compound made from adobe with up to 600 rooms and ten kivas, and a lower L-shaped pueblo with a plaza, eight rooms, and a large kiva. Nearby the two settlements are the ancient pueblo village of Mud Springs, which is situated at the head of McElmo Canyon and Navajo Springs. The Yucca House Pueblo dwellers abandoned their homes like the other nearby ancient Pueblo peoples, but an excavation of the area is yet to be completed.
The West Complex is a horseshoe-shaped dwelling that is cut by a spring and includes the Upper House and two enclosed kivas. Boasting a similar layout to those of a variety of late Pueblo III period villages (built post AD 1200), including the Sand Canyon Pueblo, the West Complex features multiple room blocks, several towers, a large central kiva and more than 100 smaller ones, and a circular two-walled structure.
The Lower House is an L-shaped, rectangular room block that features eight rooms on the first floor and several rooms on the second floor. A plaza is located south of the of the L-shaped room block and is defined by an earthen berm along the southeast edge and flat masonry walls on the south and west. The center of the plaza features a large kiva.
Archaeological studies and excavations were conducted by various people including William Henry Holmes in 1878, J. Walter Fewkes in 1918, and Earl Morris from the Museum of Natural History in New York in the late 1910s. Studies found that the Ancestral Puebloans built their villages around springs that were used for drinking, irrigating crops, and making mud mortar for their dwellings. The springs also attracted a diverse variety of fauna and flora, and today the monument preserves and protects the local vegetation, which includes cacti, four-winged saltbush, sagebrush, and several species of grasses, as well as mule deer, bobcats, rattlesnakes, and songbirds.
The Yucca House National Monument was proclaimed a National Monument by President Woodrow Wilson on 19th December 1919 as a research monument to preserve the animals, plants and ancient ruins in the Yucca House area. Hallie Ismay was the unofficial steward of the Yucca House site for more than 60 years. Today, Yucca House is surrounded by rolling farmlands and boasts beautiful views across the Montezuma Valley.
The Yucca House National Monument is located at 19751 Road B in Cortez and is set in the middle of private land, so instruction needs to be obtained from the Mesa Verde National Park. There are no facilities at Yucca House, so visitors need to bring their food and water, which can be purchased at the nearby town of Cortez, which is about 10 miles away. The Yucca House National Monument is open year-round, and admission is free.
19751 Road B, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-529-4465