Cortez, CO

10 Fun things to do in Cortez CO

Welcome to my Hometown Tourist Project!  Each week we will be treated to a new blogger giving us a tour of their hometown.  Throughout the year we will be going all over the country and even up into Canada!  Today I am pleased to introduce you to Julie Gropp who blogs at Our Provident Homestead.  Julie’s blog is about cultivating timeless skills in the modern era.  But, today Julie is going to introduce us to her hometown of Cortez and share her favorite things to do in Cortez CO.

Cortez, CO map, things to do in Cortez CO

Cortez, Co ~ Why You Need to Visit & What to do

By: Julie Gropp

Hello! My name is Julie.  Cortez, Co is one of those places that I thought we were only going to stay in for a couple of years and now it has been 12 and counting.  We moved to Cortez because of my husband’s job. He works for the Indian Health Service as a pharmacist. His current position is the CEO of an IHS clinic on a nearby reservation.

Cortez is in the Four Corners Area of Colorado. It is a modern-day Cowboys and Indians story, with beautiful mountains and open spaces in the background.

6 Reasons Cortez, CO is a Great Place to Live

Before we get into all the fun things to do in Cortez, CO, let me share why I think Cortez is such a great place to live.

1. The weather is good 

We are considered high desert here, which means the climate is dry, sunny and fairly mild. We get snow in the winter and heat in the summer, but even in the heat of July, the nights are still cool. It’s wonderful.

2. It is a fun small town

There is a small town feel here in Cortez that you just don’t get in bigger places. Because we’re a small town, there are lots of fun things to do in Cortez, CO that you might not get in a bigger city. We have parades for 4th of July (and fireworks in the park), Veterans Day, Homecoming and a Parade of Lights at Christmas time. There are family-owned businesses on the main street and lots of activities in the park in the summertime.

3. There is a lot of history here

Many people come to this area for Native American history. There are many archaeological sites and Native cultural experiences you can discover.

4. There is a high priority on local & homegrown food

We have several farm-to-table restaurants in the area and a large farm community. They have an Ag Expo each spring and County Fair each summer. There is also a summer and winter farmers market to buy local food and crafts.

5. We are in driving distance to 8 National Parks

Within a 4 hour drive are 8 National Parks and even more National Monuments: Mesa Verde NP, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Grand Canyon NP, Great Sand Dunes NP, and Petrified Forest NP. There is also Lake Powell and Monument Valley within that range as well. So many things to explore in this area of the country.

6. People are very interested in being outside and living a natural lifestyle 

There is a large portion of the community that is interested in outdoor recreation. There are great hiking and mountain biking trails, rafting along the Dolores and Animas rivers, and many camping locations nearby.

Cortez, Co mural image

A Short History of Cortez, CO

In 1886, the town was built to provide housing for the men working on the tunnels and irrigation ditches required to divert water out of the Dolores River and into Montezuma Valley. The town was named for Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.

There have been both booms and busts in dairy, uranium and natural gas.

The town currently has about 9,000 people and gets most of its business from farming, tourism and government (national forest, national parks and government agencies).

Things to Do In Cortez CO

Mesa Verde National Park 

One of the favorite things to do in Cortez CO is to visit National Parks. The entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is only 10 miles outside of Cortez. In the park, you can tour ancient cliff dwellings and see how the people lived thousands of years ago. {CLICK HERE to learn more}

Anasazi Heritage Center

Learning about the indigenous people is one of the things to do in Cortez CO. And, the Anasazi Heritage Center has artifacts and information about the Anasazi Indians and how they lived in the area many years ago. {CLICK HERE to learn more}

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

One of the more hands on things to do in Cortez CO is at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. This location has several Native American ruins and hands-on learning about their history and how they lived in the area many years ago. {CLICK HERE to learn more}

Four Corners Monument

One of the most popular things to do in Cortez CO is the Four Corners Monument. This monument is home to the only place in the United States where 4 states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah) meet together. You can lay in all 4 states at the same time! {CLICK HERE to learn more}

Farmers Market

One of my favorite things to do in Cortez Co is the Farmer’s Market. Cortez has a farmers market each Saturday in the summertime (June to October) with local food, handmade items, music and more. In the winter there is a smaller farmers market located at a nursery just north of town.

City Rec Center

For a small town, Cortez, CO has a great community rec center. They have a pool, a large slide, lazy river, large lap pool, basketball courts, racquetball courts, weights and workout area, an indoor rock wall, and an indoor track. For locals, this is definitely one of our favorite things to do in Cortez.

Mesa Verde at night image

Things to do near Cortez CO


At only 45 miles away from Cortez, Durango is an easy day trip. Durango is a beautiful, historic mining town with hiking, shopping, white water rafting, and skiing.


About an hour and a half away from Cortez, is Telluride CO. Nestled in the mountains, this scenic town has amazing skiing in the winter and fun festivals and hiking in the summertime. They have a free gondola year-round to see the sites of the town from above.


2 Hours Northwest of Cortez is Moab UT. It is a desert playground with the Colorado River running through it. You can hike, bike, see 2 National Parks, and go river rafting. It is an outdoor lovers dream!

San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway

Just outside of Cortez, you can hop on this highway that makes a loop in the San Juan mountains through beautiful mountain scenery and cool towns like Durango, Silverton, Ouray and Ridgeway, CO.

It is especially beautiful in the fall when the aspen trees are yellow and brilliant fall colors can be seen for miles. There are also several mining ghost towns you can explore on this drive.

So Many Reasons to Visit Cortez, CO

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of my small town. As you can see, there are so many reasons to come spend some time in Cortez. There are so many things to do in Cortez Co and the surrounding area.

We would love for you to come to visit sometime and take in all this area has to offer.

About the Author

My husband and I live on a 4-acre plot of land in Southwestern Colorado with our 3 teenage sons. We love this part of the country with its mountain views and beautiful seasons. We have been homesteading for about 10 years with a large garden, orchard, chickens, rabbits, and bees.

Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by gardening, raising animals, preserving the harvest, emergency preparedness and learning time-honored skills to become more self-reliant. If you are interested in starting your own garden this year, I offer a free beginner gardening course called “Starting Your First Garden”. You can check it out here—> Starting Your First Garden.

Garden image

You can get social with Julie at:



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  1. I spent a night in Cortez once! Our car broke down in the Four Corners parking lot on the first day of a planned 14 day road trip. We got towed back to Cortez that night, sold our totaled car the next morning and hitched a ride with the sweetest, most generous strangers all the way back to Missouri. Now you make me want to visit when I have time to explore, Julie!

  2. Oh my goodness! What timing! We are actually in Cortez as I type. We have been here a few days and are excited to back to Mesa Verde NP tomorrow for a tour we booked to see the cliff dwellings!! It’s definitely beautiful here!

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