The Carpenter Natural Area is a 72 acre area on the north and west side of Cortez in southwest Colorado. The area features a broad paved trail with a network of primitive trails along a creek with rocky mesas on the north and south sides.
Officially, the sidewalk heading north along the west side of Mildred Road from Empire Street is the beginning of the east side trail access, but anywhere in the Parque de Vida could be used as a starting point.
I started in the parking area for the Cortez Recreation Center and hiked past the pond on the west side. In mid November dozens of Canada Geese are grazing on the grassy lawn and floating in the pond.
I didn’t see a sign but the sidewalk route turns west at Hospital Drive and continues past the south side of the hospital complex downhill following a drainage. At the east end there is a small pond surrounded by cottonwood trees with cattails on the edges of the pond. Most of the natural area appears to be sagebrush fields with scattered Junipers and other desert grasses and shrubs.
At the entrance it is noted that the trail was made possible by the City of Cortez and the Colorado Dept. of Transportation. There is a plaque near the pond commemorating the donation of the land by the Chism Family.
Past the pond a mesa top area appears along the north side. Most of the primitive trails that branch off the paved trail explore the mesa top area.
I followed the paved trail to the west end, where there is a parking area and followed a side trail that circled around the mesa top and climbed along the north side. It appeared that most visitors use the west side access that is along Lebanon Road north of Highway 491.
From the mesa top area there are good views toward the LaPlata Mountains and Mesa Verde. The mesa top area looked like a good location for an Ancestral Pueblo ruins site, but I didn’t see anything.
My total round trip hike from Parque de Vida took 1:30 hours for about 3 miles. It was a 45 F degree sunny mid November day. In the fall of course, no flowers are in bloom and not many birds are active, but the paved trail probably makes this a good all season short hike.