Is it culture you seek? Food? Shopping? In Mesa Verde Country, there’s something for everyone. Visit the trio of Colorado cities – Cortez, Mancos and Dolores – where you will find four farmer’s markets, five breweries, two wineries and two cideries along with numerous restaurants, shops and natural wonders.

The rugged La Plata and San Juan Mountain Ranges, plainly visible from town, also makes Cortez the gateway to the mountains. Cortez, Colorado rests on that imaginary border between mountain and desert, close enough for high elevation views, but low enough to experience the arid environment of the high desert. Photos by Cynthia Calvert

Mesa Verde Country is located in southwest Colorado near the entrance to the magnificent Mesa Verde National Park. The area is loaded with other archaeological attractions: Hovenweep National Monument, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, the Anasazi Heritage Center, and the Cortez Cultural Center.

The Elvis room at the Retro Inn; all the rooms have themes.
No working during drinking! Visitors to the Lounging Lizard Chophouse, a pleasantly funky old stone building with great, high-walled booths and wonderful smells, know the rules!

 

ACCOMMODATIONS

While at the Retro Inn, remember before computers? Do more than reminisce. Enjoy lawn games, horseshoes, lawn bowling, badminton, volleyball, giant chess, and board games. You can also grill and chill in one of their picnic areas.

Retro Inn
Travel back in time at the Retro Inn! With colorful, retro-inspired rooms and a variety of lawn games like horseshoes and badminton, you can leave the 21st Century behind. The Retro Inn is located in Cortez. WiFi and breakfast is included and pets are welcome! For more information, visit retroinnmesaverde.com.

 

FOOD

The Farm Bistro
The Farm Bistro came into creation after two New Mexico transplants decided to open a restaurant as a way to sell more from their farm. Fast forward and today they are serving lunch and dinner at their restaurant Monday through Friday and even offer catering. The menu here features seasonal items and changes twice a year. For more information, visit thefarmbistrocortez.com.

Loungin’ Lizard-Chophouse
At the Loungin’ Lizard, the signature dish is the cinnamon chili pork tenderloin. This family-friendly establishment is owned and operated by an Air Force brat turned chef. After serving as a chef for six years he decided to try his own thing. Upon opening, there was no intention to start a restaurant but things just happened. Swing by for a prickly pear jam margarita to see what the buzz is all about! For more information, visit lounginlizardcortez.com.

Absolute Bakery and Cafe
Seat yourself at this lively coffee bar. Browse their wall of books while waiting on fresh, delicious food from their scratch kitchen. At Absolute Bakery and Cafe, only fresh, natural and local ingredients are used. Here they are dedicated to the art of food! For more information, visit absolutebakery.com.

The Pie Maker offers a soul-satisfying variety of hand-crafted baked goods to pair with breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The Piemaker
Tim Stubbs and his wife, Shani Winer, opened this bakery nearly three years ago. Winer is a culinary-trained baker and the pair began their shop at the local farmermarket, eventually opening a retail establishment. The Pie Maker offers a soul-satisfying variety of hand-crafted baked goods to pair with your breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are a small-batch bakery, which means that they bake everything fresh daily.

Moose and More Ice Cream
Handmade chocolates, artisanal ice cream and locally sourced produce – all in downtown Cortez and every bite scrumptious! Moose and More is owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Brent and Rachel McWhirter.

Bessie White and her sister, Velma, started the Farmer’s Market nearly 40 years ago
 
The Cortez Farmers Market is held Saturday mornings, June 2nd through Oct. 27, from 7:30 a.m. through sellout. 

 

SHOPPING

Browse art, shop in downtown Mancos, and Dolores.

Artisans of Mancos
This lovely shop offers arts and crafts, jewelry, watercolors, ceramics and more. The shop has been open for 12 years and is housed in an old historic bank building where 19 artists take turns working and displaying their art. Each artist is local to Durango. For more information, visit artisansofmancos.com.

Kilgore American Indian Art
Here you will find both vintage and new pieces like Navajo rugs, kachina dolls, pottery and paintings. Owner Kelly Kilgore now runs the store which was previously a trading post in the late 1950s. Kilgore speaks Navajo and took over the store after her parents ran it for 30 years. Originally filled with aisles of groceries, now the aisles are filled with beautiful American Indian art. For more information, visit kilgoreamericanindianart.net.

Veryl Goodnight Gallery
The great-grand niece to famed American cattle rancher Charles Goodnight, Veryl Goodnight started creating art at the young age of three when she drew her first horse. Today she is a successful sculpturist and painter, taking her love of animals and turning it into a work of art. For more information, visit verylgoodnight.com.

ACTIVITIES

Mesa Verde Stables
Hop on the back of a horse and head out to see the sights at Mesa Verde Stables. Opt for a two-hour ride or an all-day adventure where you can expect to see anything from cliff dwellings to herds of wild horses. Children ages 6 and up are welcome. For more information, visit mesaverdestables.com.

You can view this native American ‘kiva’ at the Anasazi Heritage Center.

Anasazi Heritage Center
The ancient people in the Four Corners Region left evidence of their existence all over the Southwest. Today, the Anasazi Heritage Center is helping to preserve the history and traditions of the 25 tribes who trace their origins to the region. Visit their museum to see ancient artifacts up close, practice weaving on a loom, or grind corn meal using stone tools. For more information, visit blm.gov/learn/interpretive-centers/CANM-visitor-center-museum.

Mesa Verde National Park
Inside the park you will find five different cliff dwellings dating as far back as the 1190s. Ancestral Puebloans of the region first settled here and began constructing the amazing structures – from single-unit dwellings to entire villages on the cliffside, containing as many as 150 rooms. See these man-made wonders up close and personal on a trip to Mesa Verde National Park. For more information, visit nps.gov/meve/index.

Just a short drive from the Four Corners Monument, Mesa Verde Country is centrally located on two national scenic byways – The San Juan Skyway and Trail of the Ancients. Wide-open vistas, hiking rugged canyon or mountain trails and browsing the area's exceptional trading posts keep visitors of the area busy throughout the year.

To learn more about Mesa Verde Country, visit mesaverdecountry.com. Be sure to download the free audioguide from the homepage to fully enjoy your visit.

 

Cynthia Calvert
Author: Cynthia CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Owner
A trained journalist with a masters degree from Lamar University, a masters from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as extensive coursework toward a masters of science in psychology from the University of New Orleans, Calvert founded the Tribune Newspapers in 2007. Her experiences as an investigative, award winning reporter (She won Journalist of the Year from the Houston Press Club among many other awards for reporting and writing), professor and chair of the journalism department for Lone Star College-Kingwood and vice president of editorial for a large group of community weeklies provides her with a triple dose of bankable skills that cover every aspect of the journalism field. Solid reporting. Careful interviews. Respect and curiosity for people and places.

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