Get in touch with your inner archaeologist at Mesa Verde National Park, named a World Heritage Site for its well-preserved homes and artifacts of the Ancestral Puebloans. Visit the elaborate rock masonry dwellings they lived in centuries ago.
Phil’s World Trail System
Phil was a man with a mission: to create a place for Colorado’s best mountain bike riding. These trails are maintained by the local Kokopelli Bike Club. Mesa Verde Country bike shops can direct you to the right loop for your ability level, in this amazing 60-mile network of slickrock and singletrack.
Farm to Table Food: It’s a Natural
In Mesa Verde Country, we elevate the art of food to new heights with our organic and locally sourced eateries. Four farmer’s markets sell locally grown produce to restaurants, residents and visitors. When you come visit us, bring your healthy appetite.
More than twenty years ago, a happy accident occurred: the new owners of an old farm near Cortez, Colorado, planted grapevines on a whim. The climate, soil and growing season proved to be perfect for wine grapes. Now, Sutcliffe Vineyards produces award-winning wines that are sold and served locally…and globally! The original farmhouse at the winery welcomes visitors daily from noon to 5 p.m. for wine tastings.
Trail of the Ancients
We’re fond of saying, “One Day Just Isn’t Enough” in Mesa Verde Country. Take the 114-mile Scenic & History Trail of the Ancients Byway, for example. The journey is rife with national parks, national monuments, museums and cultural attractions. We recommend a four- to five-day road trip to take it all in.
Share Your Experience Keeping Tradition Going
When you visit here, your experience is defined by the culture and history of this magical place. But equally important is your home away from home; where you rest your head each night after a day of fun and adventure. Here, meet three of the people who define Mesa Verde Country’s hospitality legacy.
Life Imitates Art
Peggy Cloy was a single mom and established artist in Seattle. She was an unlikely candidate to purchase a 40-acre Mancos property with aging cabins. But 25 years ago, that’s exactly what she did.
“My friends in Seattle thought I was stark raving mad,” she says with a laugh. “It was pretty wild when I got here.”
Willowtail Springs, now a nature preserve, has a four-acre springfed lake and dozens of species of birds and wildlife. Peggy set about restoring the cabins and the outbuildings with the same gusto she brings to her painting and sculpture. Now married for 16 years to Lee, a martial arts master, the two run this destination bed and breakfast that includes three cabins and two studios: one for art and one for Thai Chi.
“The land and the buildings are united; it’s like they’re one,” says Peggy. “People feel like they’re in an altered universe.”
Dick Kirkpatrick, 85, started his second career in 1977 with the purchase of the Bel Rau Lodge, a Cortez motel that is now known as The Retro Inn. The family had regularly visited this Mom and Pop operation from Seward, Alaska—where he worked as superintendent for the Alaska Railroad—a 30-year career.
In fact, they felt so comfortable at the motel that they moved in permanently. Each family member had a hand in running the business, from front desk operations to housekeeping. “We hung our sheets on the line and people loved it,” says Dick.
Now under new ownership, the hands-on approach lives on with the motel’s reinvention as the whimsical Retro Inn. Vivid paint colors and throwback decor characterize each unique room. And a life-size replica of Elvis and the classic travel trailer out front make for fun family photos.
Tiffany Neely is a wife, mother and adventurer. She explains that she grew up in the lodging industry, where her mom was a head housekeeper. Now she’s the general manager of one of the most popular lodges in Cortez, the Turquoise Inn and Suites.
She and her family still visit Mesa Verde National Park regularly. They also love Hawkins Preserve and the Carpenter Natural Area. And speaking of family, Tiffany gives a nod to Best Western, a company that values a family-friendly lifestyle for its employees. She works from 7 a.m. until her seven- and ten-year-old get out of school.
“It’s my calling,” says Tiffany. “If you’re a people person like I am, there is no better career.”
Mesa Verde Country was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO). We’re using that money to create downloadable podcasts that will help you learn about the area’s rich archaeological history when you visit!
The “Ancient Voices” audio driving tour will share information about the many archaeological attractions in Mesa Verde Country, as well as local history, Western stories, botany, cosmology, music and life in ancient Puebloan times. Now, you will have even more resources available to enjoy the rich archaeology in our area. As we like to say, “one day just isn’t enough!” to see all of this.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is the rugged and breathtaking 176,000-acre landscape that contains the highest-known density of archaeological sites in the U.S. Lowry Pueblo is the only developed recreation site within the monument. It features 40 rooms, eight kivas and a Great Kiva.
Hovenweep National Monument includes six prehistoric villages built between A.D 1200-1300. A variety of structures include the multistory towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on borders. Experts think these were used as celestial observatories, defensive structures, storage buildings, homes or a combination of these things.
The 125,000-acre Ute Mountain Tribal Park offers tribal member-guided tours of the pictographs, cliff dwellings, surface ruins and artifacts. This park was named by National Geographic Traveler as one of the “80 World Destinations for Travel in the 21st Century” – one of only nine U.S. destinations to receive the designation.
At the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, you can tour a real archaeology dig for the day! Experiences include visiting a current excavation site, touring a working archaeology lab, and exploring the fascinating history of the Ancestral Puebloans. New in 2017, participants can be among the first to excavate at the Haynie site near Cortez and help researchers understand the Chaco influence in the Mesa Verde region. The new multi-year study features two Chaco-period Great Houses.
The visitors center for Crow Canyon is the remarkable Anasazi Heritage Center, which is also a museum of the Native cultures in the Four Corners Region. Many of the exhibits – like weaving on a loom, grinding corn into metate and handling real artifacts – are interactive.
Restaurateur Desmond Calhoon is a betting man.
Because of a longstanding wager with his sibling—and a little serendipity—Blondie’s Trophy Room in his hometown of Cortez, Colorado, came to fruition.
“My sister and I had a bet that if she ever had a kid I’d move back home,” Desmond says. “That was five years ago. I had to hold up my end of the deal.” He returned to Cortez from an established career as a chef for professional sports teams and sports arenas in San Francisco, Phoenix and Minneapolis. “Once I got home I couldn’t find work I was excited about so I ended up buying Blondie’s.”
Fast-forward to 2017, and Desmond is an esteemed uncle to Kaydence, his four-year-old niece who calls him “Buncle”. And just as family is important to Desmond, so is community. His Cortez, Colorado eatery is an important gathering place for locals and visitors alike, that serves up fresh, hearty, locally sourced pub-style food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In March, his reinvention of Blondie’s celebrates a four-year anniversary. A passionate outdoorsman, Desmond set about changing the character of the restaurant right away. Blondie’s has a snug lodge theme that reflects his love of hunting and fishing. The jukebox and regular live music make for a lively atmosphere.
And as for his food, Desmond looked for local and regional supplies as a foundation for his menu. He sources beef from nearby Monticello, Utah for his renowned hamburgers, and fresh chicken for the celebrated wings at Blondie’s. In fact, Blondie’s has earned the award for Best Wings from the community for five years running. “We get as much locally as we can,” says Desmond. “I have a bias for fresh over frozen.”
The very extensive burger menu includes inventive twists on the original, like the Caesar Salad Burger and the number one seller: the Fried Pickle Burger. Residents plan ahead to hit the restaurant on Mondays, when burgers are always five bucks.
What else will you find at Blondie’s? Prime rib sandwiches. Ten Colorado beers and several Colorado spirits. Breakfast quesadillas, chicken and waffles, and the Southwest Benedict with Hatch Green Chili. (Desmond shares his recipe for this distinct specialty below.)
The combination of his natural creativity and trained dedication to his craft have paid off. “Our clientele is growing and evolving every day as people come to find out we have really good food,” says Desmond. “The best part of running this restaurant is being right downtown in the heart of the community. And we sponsor lots of teams and organizations to give back to the same people who’ve helped us be successful all year.”
In that vein, if you time it right, you may catch the Cortez Idol Competition. It’s where local talent ages 12 to 92 try out for this musical extravaganza, then participate in a six-week elimination competition to search out the best singer in town. Blondie’s puts up the $1,000 prize money.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and entertainment at Blondie’s: It’s a safe bet.
If you go:
45 E. Main Street
Open 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Seven Days a Week
Reservations not required
Southwest Benedict with Hatch Green Chili
Hot buttered housemade biscuits, corn cob smoked pork ham and poached eggs are topped with a heavenly helping of green chili hollandaise sauce for a Blondie’s breakfast favorite. Serve with roasted potatoes for mopping up the extra egg yolk and green chili hollandaise.
4 egg yolks
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pinch ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup Hatch New Mexico roasted green chilis diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
8 ounces corn cob smoked ham
4 housemade biscuits, split
2 tablespoons butter, softened
To make hollandaise: Fill the bottom of a double boiler part-way with water. Make sure that water does not touch the top pan. Bring water to a gentle simmer. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, white pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon water.
Add the melted butter to egg yolk mixture 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking yolks constantly. If hollandaise begins to get too thick, add a teaspoon or two of hot water. Continue whisking until all butter is incorporated. Whisk in salt and green chilis, then remove from heat. Place a lid on pan to keep sauce warm.
Preheat oven on broiler setting.
To poach eggs: Fill a large saucepan with 3 inches of water. Bring water to a gentle simmer, then add vinegar. Carefully break eggs into simmering water, and allow to cook for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes. Yolks should still be soft in center. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and set on a warm plate.
While eggs are poaching, brown the ham in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and toast the biscuits on a baking sheet under the broiler.
Spread toasted biscuits with softened butter, and top each one with a slice of ham, followed by one poached egg. Place two biscuits on each plate and drizzle with green chili hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with dried parsley and serve immediately.
Just because the snow is flying doesn’t mean the fun ends in Mesa Verde Country! In fact, Mesa Verde Country has snow, mountains, sunshine and everything you need for the perfect cold-weather getaway at an affordable price. And, it’s all within driving distance of Denver, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Play: Mesa Verde Country serves as your perfect home base for a snow trip. Three ski areas are located within easy drive distance – Telluride, Hesperus and Purgatory. You can find cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails, as well as snowmobiling and ice climbing outfitters nearby. In Cortez, downhill and cross-country skis and snowshoes rentals are available at Slavens. Kokopelli Bike & Board rents out snowboards, as well as fat bikes (learn more about this below!).
Explore: Mesa Verde is growing in popularity for its mountain biking. And fat biking is a local favorite and must-try wintertime activity in Mesa Verde Country. Boasting warmer temperatures than most mountain towns, many of our area trails are free of snow after a little sunshine. That makes them perfect for hiking, biking and exploring the countless ancient sites located around the region.
Dine & Drink: A cold beer at one of several local breweries is just the ticket after a day outdoors. The only thing to do next is fill up with a hearty meal from any of the unique dining establishments around town.
Stay:The towns of Cortez, Dolores, and Mancos have everything you and your family need to rest and recharge. They offer a variety of lodging options, including cozy cabins, lodges, vacation rental homes, hotels and motels.
Request your copy of the Mesa Verde Country Travel Planner to start getting your trip on track today!
Mesa Verde Country is an incredible place to visit any time of the year. But winter can be particularly spectacular when the area is carpeted in snow. And special events like this one make it even more magical!
On Friday, Jan. 6, Mesa Verde National Park is hosting a free, all-ages moonlight snowshoe and ski event. It’s part of the park’s Winter Fest. The Morefield Campground winter trails will be open from 6-10 p.m. for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
This is a wonderful opportunity to experience the trails by moonlight. Participants should dress for the cold, bring their skis or snowshoes, dress appropriately in outdoor gear, and pack a headlamp or flashlight. Snowshoes are also available for check-out if you don’t have your own.
Glow sticks will be set up to lead you to complimentary hot beverages and a campfire. Rangers will also be on hand to offer a telescope viewing (conditions permitting) and storytelling.
Morefield Campground is located four miles past the park entrance, on the right-hand side. Parking will be at the Morefield Store. This event is subject to cancellation should Mother Nature not cooperate.
Learn more about Mesa Verde National Park.