Cortez Travel Guide

The small southwestern Colorado community of Cortez is one of the main towns in America’s scenic and historic Four Corners region. Just minutes from several Native American tribal areas, archeological sites and wilderness preserves, Cortez borders a remarkable number of tourist attractions considering the remoteness of the town.

Cortez has an atmosphere reminiscent of an old Western movie, with a quirky blend of Native Americans and pioneer-minded whites wandering around its wide, relatively deserted streets. Laid out in a logical grid, the town can be explored on foot though it’s likely any visitor to Cortez will have arrived by car as all of the real highlights are found in the surrounding desert.

Besides the thousands of ancient Native American archeological sites in the region, Cortez is the best base for exploring the wonderful San Juan Mountains, McPhee Lake and the Dolores River. The pueblo cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park are certainly the most popular attraction, but don’t miss the Anasazi ruins at Hovenweep or the newly established Canyons of the Ancients National Park.


Cortez Cultural Center: a good place to get your bearings is this informative Native American information center, which also has a half-decent museum on site.

Anasazi Heritage Center: next to the remains of 12th century cliff dwellings is this wonderful museum dedicated to the ancient and mysterious Anasazi people.

Mesa Verde National Park: this is the largest archeological preserve in America, containing the most impressive cliff dwellings in the Southwest among its staggering 4,000 discovered sites.

Ute Mountain Tribal Park: ancient petroglyphs, rock art and cliff dwellings make this pleasant site a relaxed but engaging version of the super-popular Mesa Verde Park.

Canyons of the Ancients National Park: one of America’s newest national parks may end up having the highest concentration of archeological sites in the US and is a truly incredible place to explore.

Hovenweep National Monument: right on the Colorado-Utah border is this striking and secluded site which was once the home of the Utes, a Native American tribe who mysteriously vanished from records around 1300.

Four Corners Monument: marks the spot where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona meet.