Spotlight: Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff dwellings and archeological sites offer a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived here for over 700 years.
Some of the best preserved and most impressive cliff dwellings in North America. Mesa Verde, Spanish for ‘green table,’ remains a very important place to modern Pueblo people and was home to their ancestors. Like their neighbors around the area, they were successful farmers and skilled artisans. They were also sophisticated builders who used simple technologies to create structures and communities that fascinate and amaze modern visitors. Ranger-guided tours are offered daily from spring through fall and allow you to enter some of these ancient communities; you can also explore many archeological sites on your own. Plan to explore at least one cliff dwelling, as well as some of the mesa-top sites, to get a good sense of what life was like here in the past.
Mesa Verde National Park is located on US Highway 160 between the towns of Mancos and Cortez, Colorado. The park’s Visitor and Research Center is located close to the highway. It is best to plan an extra 45 minutes to drive into the heart of the park, where most of the archeological sites are located. For more travel information, visit the park’s website.
Lodging and camping within the park are available from the park’s concessionaire, Aramark. You can also check with the Mesa Verde Country website for additional lodging options.
Make Sure You
Get tickets for ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings at the Visitor and Research Center, located near US Highway 160 at the park entrance. Rangers will help you identify the best tour for your timing and interest. Tickets are $3 and tour sizes are limited! For a challenging backcountry adventure, visitors may make reservations for the rugged Mug House and Square Tower House hikes which begin in late May. These hikes may not be suitable for young children and for safety reasons this hike is not for children carried in backpacks. However, in the fall (September into early October), both adults and children can enjoy the moderately difficult Weatherill Mesa Experience hike.
Visit the Four Corners in the heart of the southwest - an area rich in Ancestral Puebloan cultural sites. Why not expand your exploration to include Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Chimney Rock National Monument, the Anasazi Heritage Center, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument and Aztec Ruins National Monument, or parks on the nearby Navajo Nation.
Indian Tacos are a Four Corners specialty! If you’ve never had one, it’s not what you expect… think rich fry bread, chili or beans, lettuce, tomatoes and if you’re lucky… lots of green chilies!
Mesa Verde is a busy place during the summer season! May, September and October tend to be less busy and autumn weather is particularly pleasant. Planning a late July or August visit? Bring your rain gear… afternoon thunderstorms are common. Download a visitor guide for each season from the park's Brochures and Publications page.
Trip planning for Mesa Verde National Park is easy – visit the park website, or call 970-529-4465. We look forward to seeing you!
Did You Know?
Mesa Verde National Park was the first US national park established to protect archeological sites. It was designated in 1906, the same year President Theodore Roosevelt signed The Antiquities Act. People around the world were becoming fascinated by the incredibly rich archeological story visible in the southwestern United States. In 1978, Mesa Verde National Park became a World Heritage Site.
By Carol Sperling
National Park Service