Recently, my family accidentally stumbled across the adorable town of Cortez, Colorado. We had planned on taking another route entirely and changed our plans at the last minute. Boy, are we glad we did. We fell in love with this spot and plan to return sometime in the near future.
Wondering what on earth could be so great about a spot that so few people know about? Below are the top 5 reasons we adored this hidden gem and why we hope you will go check it out for yourselves.
1. The views are amazing
Let’s begin by discussing the first thing you notice when driving into town: the views. The mountainous backdrop of the town is incredible.
Additionally, the bright green colors found around every corner are not only lovely but also a wonderful change of pace when driving in from the south or the north, which are both quite sandy, brown places with a completely different kind of beauty.
This area offered the most gorgeous views we’ve seen in 3 years of full-time travel, and that’s saying something. If the scenery found here isn’t postcard-worthy, I don’t know what is.
2. There are incredible historic sites to visit
As we travel, we like to learn as much as we possibly can along the way. This means visiting as many museums, zoos, cultural centers, and parks as possible.
This particular town was a haven for seekers of knowledge such as ourselves. It’s close to not just one, but three different historical sites. On top of that, each of these sites are linked together, meaning that by visiting all three, a person can get a very in-depth history lesson.
The first and most well-known of these sites is Mesa Verde National Park. Just as one might expect from a national park, this place is stunning in terms of the landscape. However, the real reason to visit is to check out the awe-inspiring ancient structures nestled into the cliffsides, which are unbelievably well-preserved thanks to the shelter offered by the landscape.
Even just looking at these pueblos is enough, but for those who want to get up close, you can take a tour through several of the settlements. This is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
After visiting the national park, you can dive deeper into the history of the Pueblo people by visiting one of the two nearby national monuments.
The first of these is Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which features a very well-put-together museum that is better than the visitors center at Mesa Verde. Besides checking out the museum, visitors can also choose to hike to an ancient Pueblo structure, which they can explore on a self-guided tour.
The second monument to visit is Hovenweep National Monument. This attraction is located a bit outside of town but is worth the drive.
Here you will find even more structures created by the Pueblo people who lived in the Hovenweep villages sometime between 1200 and 1300 A.D. These structures are just another amazing peek into the past and yet another great way to learn about the lives of ancient people.
3. Lots of great restaurants to choose from
Getting hungry? If you happen to be in Cortez this is no problem at all. The town is brimming with incredible places to eat, and many of these are serving up the best Mexican food you’ll ever have the pleasure of dining on.
In fact, the majority of these Mexican eateries are so well rated that attempting to choose one based on reviews is nearly impossible. For this reason, we recommend simply picking the one closest to you, with the knowledge that it will be superb.
Don’t want Mexican? No worries. There are other options as well. Below are some of the best restaurants in the area, both Mexican and otherwise:
- Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant
- The Farm Bistro
- Loungin’ Lizard
- Thai Cortez and Sushi
- Jack and Janelle’s Country Kitchen
- La Casita De Cortez
- Gustavo’s Mexican Restaurant and Bar
4. The cozy coffee shops
Beside having some excellent food spots, this area is also home to some cute and tasty coffee shops. For us, this is a major bonus, and if you’re at all into coffee and getting a feel for the local vibe, you’re sure to appreciate it too.
Try one of these coffee options each morning to get a jump start on your day:
- Bean Tree Coffee
- Silver Bean (Coffee served out of an Airstream-style trailer. Perfect for the RVer!)
- Loop’s Coffee House and Bistro
5. The area is very RV-friendly
Last, but most important of all, the town is very RV-friendly. There are several RV parks and campgrounds in Cortez, and a few belong to Passport America, making it easy to save some money.
Additionally, we saw numerous RVs parked at the Walmart in town, meaning if you’re just looking for a quick, one-night stay, you could always hop over there and sleep for free.
Want to see Mesa Verde National Park without having to pay for a campsite just to drop your trailer? There’s a special trail parking lot outside the park where you can drop your trailer off for the day while you go sightseeing!
All in all, we consider Cortez to be a wonderful stop between Gallup, New Mexico and Moab, Utah. If you happen to find yourself in the area (and you should make a point of visiting this area of the country), be sure to make a stop in Cortez and check it out.