Weekend in Cortez
Looking for things to do in Cortez? Look no further - we’ve got a whole itinerary mapped out!
Lunch at Thai Cortez
Thai Cortez (opens at 11:30 AM) is a favorite restaurant in town. Great service, and great food make this a highly recommended spot.
Not into ethnic food? Try a burger, fries & beer at Main Street Brewery. The ambiance is one-of-a-kind, the beer is tasty and the burgers are juicy!
Explore the Cortez Cultural Center
The Cortez Cultural Center is the center for history and culture in Cortez. They have a small museum and artist galley inside which won’t take too long to walk around. The staff are also very knowledgable if you need other recommendations in the area. You can also shop for Cortez-specific gifts while you’re there!
Visit a Marijuana Dispensary
(When in Colorado!) Although I don’t smoke myself, if you’ve never been to a legal, recreational dispensary (*and you are of legal age to do so) I’d recommend checking it out. Even if you’re not a smoker, dispensaries are a cultural experience. If you suffer from physical pain you also might find a topical ointment to help you out while you’re in our state! My two favorite - for ambiance and that Colorado experience - are the Doobie Sisters, owned by a pair of local sisters and The Herbal Alternative. The Herbal Alternative also has its own grow facility and offers tours Monday-Friday at 1 PM.
Canyon of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum
Before you head off to the trails at Sand Canyon, it’s always a good idea to get your bearings a the Canyon of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum. At the top of the hill between Cortez & Dolores, not only can you see see incredible exhibits (including hands on experiences like traditional weaving), but you can hike to a take a small walk to a ruin & McPhee Reservoir Overlook. The Museum is $3 per person and is open everyday until 4 PM.
Hike at Sand Canyon Trail
This is by far my favorite hiking spot. The Canyon is beautiful and there are several neat ruins along the route. If you’re more into mountain biking, there are also designated trails for bikes. I prefer hiking, but I’ve been told it’s a beautiful and relatively simply ride. (For my “easy” hiking route, follow the orange trail, turn left for the 1 mile connector, follow green and then turn again for the 1.2 NO HORSE connector to return to the trailhead).
Caution: There are a lot of washes on this route and it’s easy to walk down what you think is a trail. Make sure you walk on MARKED areas only. And bring LOTS of water, just in case. Click HERE for a MAP and more info.
Enjoy at Wine Tasting at Sutcliffe Vineyards
After a hike, I always like to stop at Sutcliffe Vineyards for a glass of Colorado wine. The owner, John Sutcliffe, is rumored to be an English Lord and he certainly knows how to cultivate an experience. Tasting at Sutcliffe feels simultaneously rugged and refined; county & classy. Tastings are $10 per person for four wines (21+) and are offered daily until 5 PM. (Parents - there are several sweet dogs & 1 vineyard cat and small yard for kids to run around & play while you enjoy some much needed relaxation!)
Dinner at the Farm Bistro
The Farm is a local farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Cortez. They now offer dinner Monday-Friday evening from 5 - 8 PM. (This is also a great spot for lunch is you want to mix up the itinerary.)
Breakfast at the Pie Maker
Owned by a husband and wife, The Pie Maker is one of my favorite spots for breakfast. I highly recommend their Spudnuts (which are only served on the weekend) and the Fisherman Bagel. Pie Maker also just recently began inviting local bluegrass musicians to play in the morning. So, if you’re lucky you’ll get a free concert with your breakfast!
Go for a Bike Ride at Phil’s World
Honestly, I’m not one for mountain bikes - I typically use bikes as transportation and don’t have a lot of interest in hoping along rocks and over mountains on my bike. BUT, Phil’s World is incredible! (It’s rated #2 for mountain biking systems in the state and #10 in the World by the International Mountain Biking Association!) The RIB CAGE is the more advanced trail that Phil’s World is known for, but for the less experience biker I suggest staying with the easier trails.
Need a bike? Kokopelli Bike & Board in downtown Cortez rents bikes from $35 per 24 hours.
If you didn’t pack a lunch you can grab a quick bite from Once Upon a Sandwich in downtown Cortez.
Take a Brewery Tour
West Adventures & Tours (us, the people writing this blog) offer microbrew tours every Saturday afternoon. These are A LOT of fun, and best of all you don’t have to worry about driving! This is great way to see all of the crafted beverage options in Montezuma County and get a taste for the local flavor of each of our towns. Even locals love this tour! If you’re traveling with kids, we have options for the younger ones too! And, bonus, you’ll get 5 stamps in your SW Crafted passport!
Finish the evening with Cultural Dances
The Cortez Cultural Center in partnership with Ute Mountain Casino & Hotel hosts traditional Native American dances every night in the amphitheater behind the Cultural Center. These are FREE and a beautiful way to end your evening and understand the culture and history of this area. Definitely something you want to enjoy before you leave the area.
Eat Mexican on an Outdoor Patio
La Casita is one of the best Mexican restaurants in town (MI Mexico is also great), but the real reason I love it is the patio! (And, let’s be real, the margaritas.) The patio has a somewhat “kitchy” Western feel with old-timey decorations to feel like a ghost town. All the food is good, but I always love tamales.
Sunrise Tour @ Hawkins Preserve
Wake up early and watch the sunrise over Mesa Verde National Park & the La Plata Mountains! I absolutely love this tour, and guests tell me it’s a “great way to start the day.” We drive to Hawkins Nature Preserve on the southern edge of Cortez, walk about a half mile to Patrick’s Point to watch the sunrise while sipping coffee & eating a breakfast pastry from the PieMaker. After the sun is risen, we continue another 1.5-2 miles, stopping to talk about the history, culture & geology of Southwest Colorado and visit a 1,000+ year old ruin. You can get tickets HERE.
If you’re not interested in a tour, this is certainly an activity you can do yourself! Hawkins Preserve is FREE & open to the public!
Breakfast at Absolute Bakery & Cafe
Absolute Bakery & Cafe is one of the hottest places to eat in the Four Corners. Pulling locals & guests alike, ABC has incredible food. Personally, I like the “Veg Head” for breakfast, although lots of people go for the Eggs Benedict on a Sunday morning.
Visit Mesa Verde National Park (pack a lunch)
Mesa Verde is possibly the biggest draw to our area, and not something you want to miss. The entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is just 10 miles north of Cortez, but be warned the drive into the park is long & slow (in all, about 50 minutes from downtown Cortez).
Chapin Mesa is the most popular part of the park, and Cliff Palace is definitely an incredible place to see. I recommend taking a tour of Balcony House if you are able, and if you have time & gusto - visit the sites at Wetherill Mesa.
I’ve also written a short blog on hiking Petrogrlyph Point Trail in the park. This is a nice 2.4 mile loop trail near Cliff Palace that gets you “off the beaten path.”
Dinner at Loungin’ Lizard
Know for chill atmosphere, great mixed drinks and southwestern style food, Lounging’ Lizard is a local favorite. Just be warned - their plates can be spicy!