Top Ways to Fall in Love With Southwest Colorado’s Mesa Verde Country & Be A Responsible Visitor This Autumn

 10/31/2022 | 09:55 AM 

Cortez, Colo. – Fall in colorful Colorado is particularly magical in Mesa Verde Country, located in the southwest corner of the state. The area is renowned for its culture and history, as well as its temperate climate, which makes it an ideal fall destination. Here are a few ways to enjoy fall in Mesa Verde Country, and some reminders about how to travel responsibly this fall (or any time of year).

  • Hiking 

    For adventurous hikers, Lizard Head Wilderness Area is one of the most rugged and pristine sections of Southwest Colorado where most of the hiking trails are near or well above timberline. There are three 14,000 ft. peaks within the area, with Mount Wilson (14,246 ft.) being one of the most difficult, requiring technical expertise and equipment. The eastern portion of the area is well hiked, with the Navajo Lake, Lizard Head, Bilk Basin, Cross Mountain, and Woods Lake Trails covering this territory. The McPhee Overlook Trail, which offers fantastic overlooks of the McPhee Reservoir, starts at the west end of the town of Dolores where there is lots of room to park. At Mesa Verde National Park there are a number of great hikes that are awesome in autumn (especially with the fewer crowds). The Hawkins Nature Preserve  is a valuable site of cultural resources, natural features and plant and animal communities within the Cortez city limits, which offers over three miles of easy hiking trails. Learn more about the many hiking options in Mesa Verde Country.  

  • Golfing
    Cortez is home to the Conquistador Golf Course, a professional-quality USGA-sanctioned, par 72 18-hole public course. Meticulously maintained with sweeping views of the La Plata Mountains, Mesa Verde National Park, and Sleeping Ute Mountain, it can be challenging to keep your mind on the game when playing at Conquistador! It stays open well into November, unique for a course at this altitude.  
  • Mountain Biking
    Mesa Verde Country – with its 600+ miles of trails – is one of the southwest’s most prized mountain biking destinations. Sand Canyon Trail at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument may be the only place in the world where you can ride single track and slick rock past ancient cliff dwellings. Whipping around berms and dropping small to medium ledges at Phil’s World Trail System is a perfect way to release the stress of daily life and get grounded (or airborne!). Boggy Draw, located near Dolores, offers 30-plus miles of trails in the shade of old growth forest that range from beginner to intermediate.  
  • Scenic Drives
    There are two scenic byways in Mesa Verde Country that put the fall colors on full display. The San Juan Skyway has been dubbed “America’s Most Beautiful Drive” and gives autumn drivers a true taste of colorful Colorado. The Trail of the Ancients – the only National Scenic Byway dedicated to archaeology – takes road warriors on a journey from the past to the future. 
  • Tips to Travel Responsibly
    When you travel to an area as special as Mesa Verde Country, it’s important to be a responsible traveler. The southwest is suffering an extreme drought so limit your water use by taking shorter showers and skipping daily housekeeping. Bring a reusable water bottle to cut down on plastic waste. Practice fire safety by obeying local laws, fire restrictions and bans. It’s common to come across archaeological sites and artifacts in Mesa Verde Country, but please leave these important historical artifacts where you found them. Also, keep in mind other “leave no trace” principles, including be respect wildlife, dispose of waste properly, and plan ahead and prepare. Lastly, be respectful of the exciting mix of peoples and cultures in Mesa Verde Country’s communities. Educate yourself before and during your travels and ask for guidance and/or permission when in doubt about how to interact with the tribes’ ancestral lands.  

    For more information on planning a trip to Mesa Verde Country, call 800-530-2998 or visit  

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