Mesa Verde National Park is famous for it’s cliff dwellings which are some of the best-preserved of the Ancestral Pueblo people. It’s located in the southwest corner of Colorado. There are over 4,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.
Teddy Roosevelt created the park in 1906 to “preserve the works of man”. There is a lot see in this park, so consider spending an extra day. Guided tours are only $3 and are definitely worth it. Pets are not welcome on tours or most of the trails, so be careful as it gets hot here.
Combined with the Mesa Verde Wilderness, the area preserves 8,500 acres.
- Moorefield Camp Store, Knife Edge Cafe, Gas Station, Laundry
- Far View Visitor Center – Gift shop, info and tickets; 8am-7pm (May 25-Sept 3), otherwise 8am-5pm.
- Far View Restaurant & Lounge – For drinks or dinner after 5pm, head up to the Far View Lodge Lounge located above the Visitor Center.
- Far View Lodge – It’s a hotel with an upscale restaurant and bar serving late, primarily for hotel guests.
- Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum
- Research Library
- Spruce Tree Terrace Restaurant & Gift Shop: 10am – 5pm;
- Post Office, Ranger Station
Camping: The Moorefield Campground is located just 4 miles inside the Park entrance. It’s open from mid-April to mid-October. There are 267 sites spread out over several loops. Reserve online
Hiking: There are lots of trails around Mesa Verde. The Petroglyph Point National Recreation Trail is a 2.4 mile round trip hike that departs from the end of the road near Spruce Treehouse. Be on the look out for Native American rock art.
Self Guided Tours: Open 8am-Sunset
- Far View Sites – There are 5 mesa top villages and Far View Reservoir. A 3/4mile trail connects all the sites.
- Spruce Tree House – This is the best preserved cliff dwelling in the park. During the winter season, it is a free ranger-led tour. During peak season it’s a self-guided tour; 1/2 mile round trip, 45 minutes.
- Cedar Tree Tower – Mesa top tower and kiva.
- Mesa Top Loop Road – This is a driving tour, where’ll you park and take a short paved walk to each site or overlook. It covers 700 years of Mesa Verde history (A.D. 600-1300). There are 12 easy-to-access sites including surface dwellings and cliff dwelling overlooks. 6 miles. Highlights include Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook, Sun Temple, and Sun Point Pueblo.
- Weatherill Mesa – Open Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Step House is a 3/4 mile round trip hike to see a pithouse, petroglyphs and a cliff dwelling. The Badger House Trail is a 2.5 mile walk leading to community surface sites. You can take the tram to the Badger House tram stop to shorten hike to 1.5 miles.
Guided Tours: $3 per tour
- Cliff Place – Largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde and a much see. Easy hike, only 1/4 mile round trip, 1 hour. There is also a twilight tour held at 7pm for $10, where characters in costume, give their perspective of Mesa Verde; 90 minutes.
- Balcony House – A fun tour for adventurists. This cliff dwelling is one of the most defensive in the park and requires you ladders, cliff steps and crawl through a 12-ft-long tunnel; 1 hour.
- Long House – Open from Memorial Day – Labor Day weekends. This is the most in-depth tour at the park. It’s starts with a tram ride from the trailhead and requires you to climb 2 ladders and walk 3/4 mile roundtrip; 90 minutes.
For more guided tours visit the Ute Mtn Tribal Park, located nearby.
Highlights at Mesa Verde
Highlights are nonstop at Mesa Verde, with a driving tour, and both guided and self-guided walking tours. More than 4,000 ruins exist, from 600 AD to 1300 AD, with 600 cliff dwellings.
It’s exciting to witness the evolution of the Ancient Puebloan people and their villages. The ruins are located in Southwest Colorado, in between Cortez and Mancos.
Getting around on auto tour and hiking trails
The scenic auto tour is excellent, but make sure you stop and see each site! It’ll take a few hours if you’re taking the time to see everything.
Dogs are not permitted on any of the hiking trails. They are permitted on the paved overlook trails and other paved areas. Be careful about leaving your dog(s) inside your car with much more than 60°F heat. Always leave windows cracked and water. Parking in the shade is usually not an option at Mesa Verde. Canyons Of The Ancients is a nearby archeological site that allows dogs on the trails.
Guided and self-guided tours
Guided tours are 60 to 90 minutes long, depending on the tour. Definitely try to take a guided group tour. They are only $3, guides are insightful and you get to walk through the park’s most popular ruins, including Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House.
Some favorite self-guided tours included Coyote Village and Spruce Tree House. There’s also a free museum, library, and visitor center with information and exhibits.
Ample camping at Morefield Campground
The Morefield Campground is the first attraction you reach 4 miles into the park. There are 267 campsites over several loops. It’s the only campground, but more camping can be found at nearby Mancos State Park. You can also stay at the Far View Lodge, located right across from the the Visitor Center.
Camping runs $26 + tax, reservations taken through Aramark at Visit Mesa Verde The parks costs $10-$15 for a vehicle, $5-$8 for motorcycle or bike. All are good for 7 days.
Dining at Mesa Verde
For food and drinks, the Spruce Tree Terrace Restaurant is open til 5pm next to the Museum. Another restaurant, mainly for hotel guests, is available in the Far View Terrance Restaurant. They serve upscale southwestern cuisine and are open late. There’s also a Lounge upstairs serving food and drinks.
Season: Year round
Entrance Fees: Good for 7 days
- 1/2 – 5/22 & 9/2 – 12/31: $10/vehicle, $5/pedestrian/motorcyle/bicylcle
- 5/23 – 9/1: $15/vehicle, $8/pedestrian/motorcycle/bicycle
Pets: Yes, on-leash, with restrictions. They limited to paved areas, so no trails.
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