A Springtime Trip to Southwest Colorado

Find adventure and escape mud season in these two Rocky Mountain spots

Locals who live in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains call spring “mud season,” the time of year when the melting snow turns the earth damp and squishy. Some Colorado ski resorts all but close down during mud season; slopeside restaurants take a month or so break until the sun dries up the ground and the summer tourists arrive.

So where can you go to escape the mud this season? Head to southwest Colorado.

Durango, Colorado

April blossoms in Durango [Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer]

In the springtime, Durango is one of the prettiest places on the planet. Due to its location in southwest Colorado, spring comes early; I’ve seen trees in full bloom in early April.

There are plenty of options when it comes to staying in Durango. There are many historic hotels downtown that will tickle the fancy of history buffs. We’ve stayed at The General Palmer, Strater Hotel and Rochester Hotel—all are beautiful properties with their own unique stories to tell.

Burger with a view at James Ranch [Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer]

It’s worth driving to Jame’s Ranch for a burger at Harvest Grill. Their Signature Burger with the ranch’s own Belford cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce and rosemary garlic mayo is absolutely delicious.

From December 30 through Memorial Day, the Harvest Grill is open Saturdays only, but from Memorial Day through the second week of October it’s open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Jame’s Ranch is a real working ranch, and during the summer you can take tours of the operation. Be sure to stop in the market that sells fresh produce, eggs, cheese and more.

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park [Photo courtesy National Park Service]

One of Colorado’s most fascinating attractions—Mesa Verde National Park—is just 40 minutes southwest of Durango. In the spring, the park is less crowded and the weather is perfect.

Once home to the Ancient Puebloan people, the park has more than 4,700 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, but there are many more sites sprinkled around the region. For instance, visiting Hovenweep National Monument is another terrific opportunity to be exposed to the ancient life of the Ancestral Puebloans.

There are three charming communities near the park: Cortez, Dolores and Mancos, and each has its own individual personality. Dolores is tucked into the mountains next to the Dolores River and offers lots of outdoor recreational activities. Mancos is an artsy and agricultural community with a fabulous bakery called Absolute Bakery & Cafe and plenty of galleries to browse.

Gary Adams, owner of Canyon of the Ancients, walking with two of the ranch's bottle-raised lambs [Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer]

At a population of around 9,000, Cortez is the largest town in the area. Here you’ll find authentic Mexican restaurants and a smattering of farm-to-table bistros. Stay at the affordable Retro Inn, an old-fashioned yet updated throwback motel. For a more upscale and out-of-town experience, stay at Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch, a property I’ve written about previously in The Heidi Guide.

Anasazi Heritage Center [Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer]

Be sure to start your visit to this area with a tour of the Anasazi Heritage Center. This museum will give you a good, broad understanding of the enchanting country you’ll be exploring.SaveSave

Categories: The Heidi Guide