Mesa Verde National Park (Spanish for green table) is a fabulous insight of how the Pueblo people lived in these now preserved cliff dwellings and surrounding lands. It also gives us an in-depth glimpse into their culture. Located in Southwest Colorado, Mesa Verde, occupying over 52,000 acres, the park has over 600 cliff dwellings and about 4300 archeological sites to date.
The Pueblo people inhabited this area for about 700 years building very elaborate stone houses, community meeting areas, store houses, ceremonial ritual rooms, and expansive courtyards all while farming the surrounding lands.
While exploring these wonderful labyrinths made of sandstone, wooden beams, and mud, some of the structures have 50 to 200 rooms each, you will develop a great appreciation for the work and skill that went into these architectural marvels. Some of the rooms even have painted designs on them. Cliff dwellings created a natural barrier against the elements as well as a defense against any unwelcome intruders.
The Cliff Palace, the largest dwelling in the park, has over 150 rooms and 23 religious quarters known as Kivas.
The Spruce House is the third largest dwelling with about 130 rooms.
The Long House is located Weatherill Mesa and is a 12- mile drive from the main park. You can also pick up Badger House Trail and Step House Trail from Weatherill. Both are self guided trails from 1 mile to 2 miles in length.
You can do a self-guided tour or opt for guided tours for a fee (cost depends on which tour you choose). There are plenty of hiking trails too, and it’s a great way to see wildlife in the area and get some higher elevation views. The park has a wonderful array of wildlife, including Albert’s squirrels, mule deer, bear, fox, and marmots as well as over 75 bird species like the Great Horned Owl and the Mexican spotted owl. Many species of rare plants can be found throughout the park such as the Cliff Palace Milkvetch, and are found nowhere else.
It will take you a full day to explore a large portion of this park and probably a couple days to see all the archeological sites and hike a few of the trails. Mesa Top Loop Road (about 6 miles) will take you to archaeological sites, including Square Tower House and Sun Point Overlook, and guide you by stunning overlooks like this canyon view below.
This is another wonderful US National Park that has so much to see and explore. I recommend spending a couple days here to enjoy it to the fullest. ***Mesa Verde National Park was named a World Heritage Site in 1978 for its extensive archaeological importance.
- The Visitor Center is a great place to start your learning experience here.
- The park is opened 7 days a week year round.
- Entrance fee is $15.00 during summer months and $10.00 the rest of the year.
- The park offers lodging at the Far View Lodge and campsites at the Moorefield Camp Grounds.
- Some trails can be steep and higher in elevation, if you are not used to the higher elevations go slow.
- If you wander off from the designated areas, you can be fined.
- Dogs are not allowed.
NOTE: Spruce Tree House is currently closed through 2019 due to falling rocks making it unstable for tourists