If we can’t protect the Earth, can’t protect the sky; if we can’t protect our sacred sites, then we’ve failed the world.”Jewell Praying Wolf James, Lummi
About the Park
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado protects nearly 5,000 archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. The Puebloan people built these places for over 700 years, from 600 to 1300, giving us a glimpse into America’s diverse cultural heritage. The fantastic cliff dwellings are some of the best-preserved sites in the country.
Check out the view near the dwellings!
Live it up!
Best Things to do in the Park
- Tour a Cliff Dwelling on a ranger-led tour. This is a must do at the park
- Learn more about the history by visiting the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum
- Drive the Mesa Top Loop Road and see the sites from above
- See some of the homes at the Far View Sites where the Ancestral Puebloans lived before the cliffs
- Eat a great dinner at the Metate Room Restaurant
We were amazed Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado at seeing the incredible cliff dwellings and trying to imagine what daily life would have been like for the people living in these unique structures perched on the steep rock walls. This was an incredible park to visit and one we will never forget!
Size of Park
“Mesa Verde” is Spanish for ”green table” and is named for the color of the juniper trees in the area
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is located in Montezuma County. For over 700 years, these mesas and cliffs were home to the Ancestral Pueblo people. Today, the park preserves these cliff dwellings and the rich cultural heritage of these people. Some of the well-preserved landmarks in the park include Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Point Trail.
This park is a great place to start if you are interested in native American history and ancient cultures, as there are more than 4,000 known archeological sites in the area. In addition, Mesa Verde is also an International Dark Sky Park and a World Heritage Site, as you will find over a thousand species, many of which are not found elsewhere on earth.
This park was Bev’s favorite we visited on our Airstream tour across the country. It was a location she was most excited to see, and it didn’t disappoint! Let us know what you think!
Best hiking trails
Petroglyph Point Trail
This trail is more appropriate for experienced hikers as it promises an adventurous hiking experience. The trail dives almost 2.5 miles into the Navajo Canyon and Spruce Canyon before gaining elevation again. The trail also includes a few narrow passages and a stone staircase, making the hike challenging even for experienced hikers.
The trailhead begins at Chapin Mesa, and there are multiple markers along the way identifying the plants and archeological sites you will pass along the way. The highlight of the trail is the petroglyph panel decorating the rocks. Once you reach the top, you will realize that all that effort is worth the beautiful views this trail offers!
Mesa Verde Point Lookout Trail
Located on the park’s northern side, the Point Lookout Trailhead is located near Morefield Campground and provides access to the Mesa Verde Point Lookout Trail. While this trail is almost 2 miles long, it has some steep switchbacks and is not recommended for beginners. You can view the Montezuma Valley and Mancos Valley from the flat lookout at the end. La Plata and San Juan mountain ranges are also visible from the top.
Knife Edge Trail
This trail can also be accessed from Morefield Campground and follows a section of one of the oldest roads in the park. Unfortunately, this 2-mile-long track does not have any shade and has a lot of elevation.
The name of this trail comes from the fact that the path has a few steep overhangs, which makes it look like the track is hanging on the “edge of a knife.” The path was extremely dangerous to build and maintain, and hikers were also advised to be cautious while trekking.
Step House Loop Trail
Step House Loop Trail is more appropriate for beginners and families as it is not as intense as most other hikes in the park. In addition, the trailhead is near Wetherill Mesa, which provides some fantastic views of the western mountains.
This short hike is paved and leads to the Step House, one of the cliff dwellings. The place is open to explorers and provides an exciting insight into how ancient tribes lived in the area. You can easily explore the dwellings through a reproduction ladder.
Soda Canyon Overlook Trail
If you are short on time, we advise you to go for the Soda Canyon Overlook Trail, as there are plenty of mesmerizing views here. The hike is also a little over a mile long, and people of all ages and fitness levels can trek here. Hiking this path, you will see the interior of Soda Canyon and the Balcony House.
Camping in the Park
Mesa Verde National Park has only one developed campground; Morefield Campground. It is located near the park entrance. The campground has 267 camping sites that accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. Each site has a table, bench, and grill, while there are 15 RV sites with hookups. There is also a camp store nearby that offers food and other camp supplies. A kennel, gasoline, firewood, a coin-operated laundromat, and showers are also nearby. This campground operates seasonally and is open between spring and fall.
Camping options near the park
With just one campground in the park, you may not find a suitable spot for camping inside the park. Luckily, the nearby towns of Cortez and Mancos have RV campgrounds. A great thing about these campgrounds is that they are available year-round. Ancient Cedars Mesa Verde RV Park and Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA are two nearby campgrounds.
The Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA is a 10-minute drive from the park’s entrance, so you can easily camp and drive to the park daily. You will also find surprisingly good restaurants here, chain restaurants, and major stores. The other campground, Ancient Cedars Mesa Verde RV Park, is located less than a mile from the National Park and has all the basic facilities, including electric hookups, toilets, and showers.
Spruce Tree Overlook
The Spruce Tree House contains the ruins of a multi-room dwelling built into stone cliffs by the ancient tribes that used to live here. This is the best-preserved cliff dwelling you will find in Mesa Verde. Unfortunately, tours to this cliff may be closed down, so many tourists climb to the Spruce Tree Overlook to get a good look at this site. The overlook is located near Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum.
Sun View Point
The entire Mesa Verde National Park is filled with historical sites, three of which you can easily spot from the Sun Viewpoint. As you stand tall on this overlook, you get a wide view of the Fewkes and Cliff Canyons. The landscape includes the Mummy House, Sun Temple, Fire Temple, Oak Tree House, and Cliff Palace. According to many tourists, visiting the Sun Viewpoint is also one of the best things to do in the park!
Park Point Fire Lookout
Park Point Fire Lookout is the highest point in the park. So naturally, it also offers some of the best views in the region. As you stand at an elevation of 8500 feet, you can see the entire landscape. With clear skies, you will even be able to visit Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico!
With such a magnificent view, many people bring food and have a picnic at the overlook. Moreover, this place is also great if you want to catch the spectacular Mesa Verde sunset.
Mesa Top Loop
If you want to have a close-up look at all the archeological sites, this viewpoint offers the best experience. The 6-mile-long Mesa Top Loop Road takes you 700 years back to revisit the Ancestral Pueblo history.
Mesa Top Loop is all about showcasing the essence of the park. You will find viewpoints and overlooks of cliff dwellings in the alcoves. As you enjoy the views, look for the unfinished Sun Temple and the Square Tower House.
Soda Canyon Overlook
There is a short hike up to Soda Canyon Overlook, also famous for its natural landscape and great vistas of Mesa Verde. The canyon’s name was inspired by its white, calcium carbonate deposits visible below the rim. From this viewpoint, the Balcony House, as well as the cliff dwellings in the Soda Canyon, are also visible.
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