It's amazing to see the detail and complexity of the sandstone cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. One of the more remarkable things here is how well the dwellings are preserved; It makes it that much more interesting to learn about the communities that lived here thousands of years ago. As a climber, you can really appreciate how the Pueblos created and traveled around the cliff communities. You can literally see some of the routes where the natives free climbed in and out of the dwellings left cliffs. Tours are a fun and engaging way to experience the various dwellings, but there are some self-guided options too. Some require ladders and small tunnels, so if you’re worried about heights or tight spaces, ask before you book or head out on a tour. The campground is surprisingly neat as well… Mule deer love to come to say hello to campers!
“Discover the ancestral Pueblo people!”
Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. About 1,400 years ago, long before Europeans explored North America, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde for their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Then, in the late A.D. 1200s, in the span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away. Mesa Verde National Park preserves a spectacular reminder of this ancient culture. Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park. It has 150 rooms, plus an additional 75 open areas. Twenty-one of the rooms are kivas, and 25 to 30 rooms have residential features.
This is a 5. Why go?
- It's the largest archaeological preserve in the U.S.. some of the best-preserved ancient dwellings in the world, and the only archaeological national park in the U.S.--not to mention inhabited 1,400 years ago for a span of over 700 years.
Driving up to M.V. it's unassumingly flat, and then in the distance you see a uncanningly large, high, abrupt plateau/mound. The visitors center is way off to the base, and here you can plan your hikes. Whatever hike you choose, save time to simply drive the loop. From the loop you can do small (5 min walks) to beautiful visuals from above of the cliff dwellings.
What astonished me was the drive up to the dwellings. That singular mound that I just described is so large, in fact, you begin a solid 30-minute ascent up the mound, driving in repeated circles. There are a few lookouts/vistas along the way up. Then you begin to follow the ridge line into to canyon/dwellings area. Many patches of the ridge forest have recently been burned in a forest fire (this is admittedly disturbingly interesting).
Bring good climbing shoes if you plan to do all of the ladders into the sites (and for the steep hikes and stairs in/out of the canyons).
To fully appreciate this place, you have to have a little background history before you come. Wikipedia: "The Anasazi/Pueblo inhabited Mesa Verde between 600 to 1300, though there is evidence they left before the start of the 15th century. They were mainly subsistence farmers, growing crops on nearby mesas. Their primary crop was corn, the major part of their diet. Men were also hunters, which further increased their food supply. The women of the Anasazi are famous for their elegant basket weaving. Anasazi pottery is as famous as their baskets; their artifacts are highly prized. The Anasazi kept no written records."
Totally amazing.. Who knew when looking at Mesa Verde there was a civilization who inhabited this area so long ago and for soo many years. I am on crutches (an a bit afraid of heights) so the tours of the dwellings were out of the question. I am still in awe of the sights here. I loved it!
Do not go to Mesa Verde in the winter. Every Trail and tour closed. Even Spruce tree was closed. Was advised to not even drive to outlooks without chains.
Buy your tour tickets up front at the visitor center and get there early We got in at 8 and our tour was already booked till noon. Also, I would be weary about taking this drive with any RV longer than 30 feet. Trailers and Toads are not allowed. Very steep inclines and sharp turns. Breathtaking views and scenery. Watch your kids on the hikes as there are no barriers to the many drops below.
Got here after closing, an hour before dusk. You could still get a nice good view of the civilization if you were interested in seeing and taking a photo and not taking a tour into the building. On the way out saw a couple wild horses (stallion, mare and foal). Quite a sight. Nice place for a sunset photo too.
Only did Spruce Tree self guided tour because my 11 yr old was on crutches and 4 yr old, well, is 4. But that was great and plenty for the kids. Of course we did the museum too. The kids filled out their booklets and became Junior Rangers and got badges. The drive in and out is beautiful on its own as well. Highly recommend going!
Seriously one of the coolest national parks I've ever gotten to see. My biggest disappointment of my entire road trip through the southwest was not giving myself enough time to do an entire tour of Cliff Palace (the archaeological site that you see in all the pictures)--it's about an hour drive from the visitors center to the palace, and the tour itself takes about an hour. If you're tight on time or don't feel physically prepared for the Cliff Palace tour (it's supposedly somewhat strenuous), be sure and drive to the Cliff Palace overlook. It's a gorgeous drive of switchbacks through some beautiful mountain scenery, and you can still get an impressive view of the palace from the overlook.
The entrance cost 10$ and each tour costs an additional 4$ per person. (most tours are 1 hour and not all of them are open year round. You can't see some parts of it without the tours).
We went to Spruce Tree(by ourselves) - very pretty, and took a guided tour to Cliff Palace - was worth it, very interesting. The rangers are nice and have great stories, painted a rich picture of the life of the Pueblos.
Visiting this absolutely beautiful park was one of the highlights of my life. I knew I would love this place, and I left mesmerized. The Anasazi were one of the most fascinating ancient cultures in history. And what they left behind at Mesa Verde is truly awe-inspiring. When you look at some of these incredible cliff dwellings, the fact at how they got up there on these sheer canyon walls completely blows your mind. I took the Cliff Palace tour, and it was astonishing. If you tell yourself to, you can feel the peaceful presence of these amazing ancient people.
Visiting Mesa Verde is like being in another world - it's hard to believe that this place exists - we explored the ruins for over an hour as we were enroute to Arizona. Easy to access and an incredible look into how resilient humans are even in the harshest desert! Should be part of every persons bucket list!
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Mesa Verde National Park
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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Good for hiking.
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