If you want to have a variety of experiences on your next vacation, head to Four Corners area. The Four Corners, as it is often called, is the only spot where you can stand in 4 states (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico) at the same time. In my book, that’s pretty cool!
After standing in 4 states, what’s next? Plenty. In fact, there is so much to see and do in this region that it would be impossible to do it all in a week long vacation. So don’t wear yourself out trying. Instead, just know that you’re going to want to go back!
Using Cortez, Colorado as a home base, here are 4 experiences each with its own flavor.
- Hovenweep National Monument – About an hour from Cortez, Hovenweep includes groups of structures built over 800 years ago by the ancestral Puebloans. The visitor center is located by the most notable group of referred to as the Square Tower Unit. A nice hiking trail meanders along a small canyon with structures dotting the rim. It seems quite solitary and it is hard to envision as many as 2500 people living in these communities.
- Mesa Verde National Park – Visiting Mesa Verde’s dwellings, also constructed by the ancestral Puebloans, is a very different experience than visiting Hovenweep. This area, located only 15 minutes from Cortez, is quite vast with expansive scenic vistas and over 600 cliff dwellings. These structures are quite sophisticated in their design and location within the cliffs. You might even see some wildlife (mule deer, foxes, horses, etc.). I recommend taking one of the ranger led tours of the sites (for an extra fee) to get an up close and personal view, but be prepared for some climbing! Practically speaking, the fact that the inhabitants scaled these cliffs on a daily basis carrying out their activities is simply amazing!
- San Juan National Forest – The San Juan National Forest is huge – over 1.8 million acres! This national forest offers a wealth of outdoor recreational activities including hiking, fishing, climbing, horseback riding, and more. A quick 20 minute drive from Cortez thru Dolores will yield beautiful mountain scenery. If you are traveling with children, be sure to make time for the Dolores playground – it is probably one of the most amazing playgrounds I’ve seen!
- Monument Valley – Monument Valley is one of those places that you must visit intentionally as it is a bit out there, geographically speaking. (Consider the fact that the nearest Walmart is 2 hours away!) From Cortez, you can reach Monument Valley in about 2 hour and 15 minutes. And trust me, it is well worth it! If you have ever seen a western, then you’ve likely seen Monument Valley. It is probably the most iconic location in the Wild West and as such, it attracts a lot of international visitors! Monument Valley is on Navajo Tribal Lands, so you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide. Plan ahead, and use a site like TripAdvisor to book your tour.
The 4 Corners is a culturally rich and beautiful area with so much to see and do. When you post your photos, your friends will wonder just how far you traveled on one vacation! The good news is that you can see so many different sites without changing hotels!