Exploring the Towns Near Mesa Verde National Park: A Guide to Hotels, Restaurants, and Local Cuisine
Bordering the stunning landscapes of southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park is famed for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Visitors from around the world come to explore its rich historical treasures. Yet, beyond the archaeological wonders, the region offers a taste of local charm through its nearby towns, each featuring cozy hotels, appetizing restaurants, and unique regional dishes. Here’s a look at what the towns around Mesa Verde National Park have to offer.
Cortez is the closest full-service town to Mesa Verde National Park, located only about 10 miles west of the park's entrance. As a hub for travelers, Cortez provides a variety of accommodations, ranging from rustic inns to well-appointed hotels. Two popular choices are the Retro Inn at Mesa Verde, with its retro-chic vibe, and the Holiday Inn Express Mesa Verde-Cortez, which offers modern amenities.
The dining scene in Cortez is a melting pot of cuisines, with a focus on Southwestern flavors. One must-try dish is the Navajo Taco, served at many local eateries. This dish features fried bread topped with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and either beef or mutton. For a taste, the Pepperhead restaurant is a great choice.
Nestled just 8 miles east of Mesa Verde National Park, Mancos is a small, artistic community with plenty of character. The quaint town offers bed-and-breakfasts such as the Abode at Willowtail Springs for a more intimate lodging experience.
When it comes to food, Absolute Bakery & Café is a beloved spot for breakfast and lunch items, featuring freshly baked pastries and bread. For dinner, Olio is known for its locally sourced ingredients and a fine dining experience with an eclectic mix of world-inspired dishes.
In addition to the Navajo Taco, another local specialty to try is the Colorado Lamb, which is often prepared roasted or grilled to perfection and can be enjoyed at Olio among other regional restaurants.
Approximately 35 miles east of Mesa Verde National Park lies the historic and vibrant town of Durango. Thanks to its size, Durango boasts an array of hotels, including the Strater Hotel, an iconic establishment dating back to 1887. For a more budget-friendly option, the Durango Downtown Inn offers comfortable accommodations with easy access to Durango's main attractions.
Durango excels in offering a lively culinary scene. For Southwestern cuisine, check out the James Ranch Grill, which serves up pasture-raised beef burgers and artisanal cheese platters produced from their own ranch. Another Durango specialty is the Rainbow Trout, often caught fresh from the nearby Animas River and served in local establishments such as The Ore House.
Dolores, a small town located about 26 miles northwest of Mesa Verde National Park, offers tranquility and a taste of local life. Nestled along the Dolores River, it provides a charming escape with the Dolores River Campground and Cabins or the sophisticated Dunton Hot Springs resort.
In terms of dining, The Dolores River Brewery is a local favorite where you can savor handcrafted pizza along with a selection of artisanal beers. Cooking with indigenous beans, like the Anasazi bean, is a regional tradition here, and you can indulge in dishes incorporating this ingredient at area restaurants.
The towns around Mesa Verde National Park, each with their distinctive character and offerings, ensure that your visit is not just limited to archaeological enlightenment but extends to immersive cultural experiences, relaxation, and culinary delights. When planning your trip, be sure to consider local lodgings and eateries, and open yourself to trying regional specialties – they are, after all, an integral part of the journey.
To aid in your endeavors, here are a few helpful websites:
- Mesa Verde Country Tourism Information: Visit Mesa Verde
- Cortez Lodging and Dining: Cortez Chamber of Commerce
- Mancos Valley Resources: Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Durango Travel Information: Durango Area Tourism Office
- Dolores Visitor Information: Town of Dolores
These resources can provide in-depth information on accommodations, restaurants, and activities to enjoy during your time around Mesa Verde National Park.