Introducing Mesa Verde National Park
Shrouded in mystery, Mesa Verde is a fascinating, if slightly eerie, national park to explore. It is here that a civilization of Ancestral Pueblo Indians appears to have vanished in AD 1300, leaving behind a complex civilization of cliff dwellings. Mesa Verde is unique among parks for its focus on preserving this civilization’s cultural relics so that future generations may continue to interpret the puzzling settlement, and subsequent abandonment, of the area.
Mesa Verde rewards travelers who set aside a day or more to take the ranger-led tours of Cliff Palace and Balcony House, explore Wetherill Mesa or participate in one of the campfire programs. But if you only have time for a short visit, check out the Chapin Mesa Museum and walk through the Spruce Tree House, where you can climb down a wooden ladder into the cool chamber of a kiva.
The park entrance is off US 160, midway between Cortez and Mancos. From the entrance it is 21 miles to the park headquarters (
The Chapin Mesa Museum (
The largest concentration of Ancestral Puebloan sites is at Chapin Mesa, where you’ll see the densely clustered Far View Site and the large Spruce Tree House. At Wetherill Mesa, the second-largest concentration, visitors may enter stabilized surface sites and two cliff dwellings, including the Long House, open late May through August. South from Park Headquarters, the 6-mile Mesa Top Road connects excavated mesa-top sites, accessible cliff dwellings and vantages of inaccessible dwellings from the mesa rim.
The park concessionaire, Aramark Mesa Verde (
The nearby towns of Cortez and Mancos have plenty of midrange places to stay. Within the national park, visitors must choose between camping or a lodge.
The Far View Lodge (
Campers can head to Morefield Campground (
The Metate Room (
Mesa Verde National Park destination guides
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