Given the historical nature of the park, backcountry access is specifically forbidden and fines are imposed on anyone caught wandering off designated trails or entering cliff dwellings without a ranger. Please respect the regulations so that these fragile and irreplaceable archaeological sights and artifacts remain protected for centuries to come.
When hiking in Mesa Verde always carry water and avoid cliff edges. Trails can be muddy and slippery after summer rains and winter snows, so wear appropriate footwear. Most park trails, except the Soda Canyon Trail, are strenuous and involve steep elevation changes. Hikers must register at the respective trailheads before venturing out.
Finding convenient parking at the many stops along Mesa Top Loop Rd is no problem for those with bikes. Only the hardy will want to enter the park by bike and immediately face the grueling 4-mile ascent to Morefield Campground, quickly followed by a narrow tunnel ride to reach the North Rim. An easier option is to unlimber your muscles and mount up at Morefield, Far View Lodge or park headquarters.
Skiing & Snowshoeing
Winter is a special time in Mesa Verde. The crowds disperse and the cliff dwellings sparkle in the snow. The skies are often blue and sunny, and you may be the only person around. In recent years there has been enough snow to ski or snowshoe on most winter days after a snowstorm (although Colorado’s dry climate and sunshine cause the snow to melt quickly). Before setting out, check the current snow conditions by calling the park headquarters.
Two park roads have been designated for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when weather permits. The Cliff Palace Loop Rd is a relatively flat 6-mile loop located off the Mesa Top Loop Rd. The road is closed to vehicles after the first snowfall, so you won’t have to worry about vehicular traffic. Park at the closed gate and glide 1 mile to the Cliff Palace overlook, continuing on past numerous other scenic stopping points. The Morefield Campground Loop roads offer multiple miles of relatively flat terrain. The campground is closed in winter, but skiers and snowshoers can park at the gate and explore to their heart’s content.