Mancos: Between Mesa Verde and the Mountains

At the foot of Colorado’s La Plata Mountains, and just outside Mesa Verde National Park, the historic town of Mancos, Colorado, population 1,300, runs by a different clock. Founded in 1894, here, cowboys and farmers hold court over coffee, and a recent artistic boom has added a fresh coat of color.

It’s a town where you still might see a cattle drive, and in between art galleries, you might see a dog riding a cow. If you find your self passing through, try sticking around. There’s plenty of Western flare in this quaint little piece of history.

1) Get absolute

Talk about eating local – that tasty burger at the Absolute Bakery and Cafe was raised and grass-fed down the valley, and the cookies and pastries under the counter just came hot out of the oven. Nestled in among local art and shelves filled with books, the food is all homemade. The breakfast and lunch, fresh breads, hand-whipped butter, fruit and nut bars are all made in the kitchen. We recommend the lavender lemonade.

2) “Tastes like Friday”

Tucked down an old brick alley off Grand Avenue, you’ll find Mancos Valley Distillery, makers of fine southwestern rum. Born of the flavor and fortitude of the old west, the distillery was pieced together by spare parts and recycled equipment, where you’ll find Ian James’ homemade concoctions in two styles, rum and spiced rum.

“It’s a place to solve the worlds problems,” they say.

3) Now on tap

“We aim to be a true public house,” say the owners of Mancos Brewing Company. As the only brewery in town, they meet their mark, calling themselves a nano brewery, meaning that all six of their brews are made in single-barrel small batches.

For a kick in the saddle, try the Dizzy Blonde pale ale, made with citrus hops with a crispy malty flavor. At 6.9 percent alcohol, you just might feel a few.

4) Cooperate with the Artisans of Mancos

At this creative cooperative in a cornerstone brick building downtown, you’ll find the works of 20 or more local and regional artists: oil paintings, photography, wood art, fabric and textiles, furniture, ceramics and more. And since the artists themselves share in running the coop, there’s always a talented eye on hand to help.

5) Pedal and paddle in the park

At Mancos State Park, you can set up shop in a yurt, and then set sail on the water.

Hike more than five miles of trails, or just keep going on the Colorado Trail, and keep an eye out for summer song birds, known to gather in the area. Launch your water craft – motorized or not – into the 217-acre wakeless Jackson Reservoir for some smooth sailing. Sail the glass or tour by kayak, canoe or SUP.

Camping at the park makes a great base camp for local attractions like Mesa Verde National Park and the San Juan National Forest.