Truth be told, one day isn’t enough time to experience Mesa Verde Country, but if that’s all the time you have, take a look at our itineraries below for ideas to make the most of your 24 hours.
Each of the itineraries is tailored to different tastes, but if you have more than one day to visit Mesa Verde Country, we suggest taking several days to check off each activity on all three of the itineraries.
For the History Buff
Morning: Grab a scone or breakfast burrito to-go in Cortez or Mancos and make your way to Mesa Verde National Park. Stop at the Visitor Center for suggested routes and specfic sites to see within a 2-hour period. We suggest stopping by the Montezuma Valley Overlook on your way to tour the self-guided Spruce Tree House followed by a stop at the Cedar Tree Tower.
Mid-Day / Afternoon: Grab a bite in the Park or as you pass through Cortez on your way to the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum in Dolores. Not only does the Canyons of the Ancients Visitors Center and Museum house a museum chalk full of information about the Ancestral Pueblanos and ancient artifacts, it’s also the visitor center for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument – think Mesa Verde National Park but much more rugged.
Evening: Now that you’re in Dolores, stop by the quirky Galloping Goose Museum to see the Galloping Goose No. 5 and a replica of original Rio Grande Southern Railroad depot, which played a major role in Colorado’s rich mining history.
For the Outdoor Adventurer
Morning: Stop by the Kokopelli Bike & Board shop in Cortez to rent a mountain bike and hit Phil’s World Trail System – a mountain bike trail system that rides more like a roller coaster. You’ll find enough trails here to suit all skill levels.
Mid-Day / Afternoon: If you’re not ready to dismount the saddle yet, load up the bike and venture to the Boggy Draw Trail system in Dolores. Shaded by Ponderosa Pines, you’ll stay cool while exploring miles of easy-to-ride singletrack. Boggy Draw is also a major draw for hikers. It’s also a great place for a picnic lunch. Find a trail map here.
Evening: Backtrack a few miles and line your spin of the fly rod to rip some lips fishing on the mighty Dolores River. You can also find great fishing at McPhee Reservoir, the second largest in Colorado. Additionally, you can kayak, canoe, and rent boats on McPhee.
Something for Everyone
Morning: Because Mesa Verde Country is largely known for its rich archaeological and Ancestral Pueblano cultural history, you can’t stop here without experiencing a bit of our history. Start by spending a few hours on a guided tour in Mesa Verde National Park or tour Hovenweep National Monument. Six prehistoric villages with towers and kivas rest throughout Hovenweep waiting for you come and admire what was built thousands of years ago.
Evening: Time to visit Mancos: Where the West Still Lives! You might not expect to find a designated arts district, or one this impressive, in Southwestern Colorado, but there’s a reason artisans flock to Mancos – the natural beauty and tranquility of the land. Walk along Grand Avenue to stop in different galleries or find a piece of authentic western Colorado craft to bring home. Cap off the day with a farm-to-table dinner and specialty drink at the local distillery.
Other Activities to Enjoy in One Day
- Crow Canyon Archaeological Center Day Digs
- Ute Mountain Tribal Park Tours
- Drive the San Juan SkyWay or Trail of Ancients Scenic Byway
- Horseback riding through Canyons of the Ancients
- Western and Native cultural programs at the Cortez Cultural Center