Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park, Spanish for "Green Table," offers an incredible look into the lives of the Ancestral Puebloan People who made it their home for over 700 years.
Beautifully constructed cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages were built by the people who inhabited the Mesa Verde Country area between 600 A.D. to 1300 A.D. These sites are some of the most notable and best-preserved in the United States.
Today, Mesa Verde protects almost 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. Visitors may walk, drive, or take a bus tour through the Park. Hiking and climbing ladders in and out of cliff dwellings is one option, or walks through less rigorous self-guided routes are also available. The suggested visitation time for the Park is two days to cover all the amazing options.
- “One of the 50 Places of a Lifetime – The World’s Greatest Destinations” - National Geographic
- Traveler UNESCO World Heritage Site (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)
- Visit the Chapin Mesa Museum inside the Park. Here, exhibits and dioramas trace the lives of the Ancestral Puebloan people. Also available is a 25-minute Park video shown every half-hour, and a museum store.
- Attend an evening Ranger program at Morefield Campground. Morefield programs run May - September.
- Become a Junior Ranger and have a fun time learning about Mesa Verde National Park. Becoming a Junior Ranger is a great way to explore your National Parks and help take care of them for the future. Visit the museum to get your activity booklet and special Junior Ranger badge!
Take a Glimpse into an Ancient Culture
The new Mesa Verde Visitor Research Center and Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum offer glimpses into the culture of Ancestral Pueblo people. Rangers here will help plan your visit. After your hour-long drive into the Park, visit the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum. Here, exhibits and dioramas trace the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Also available is a 25-minute Park video shown every half-hour, and a museum store.
Visit a Cliff Dwelling Community
Five cliff dwellings are open to the public. Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House can only be entered on a ranger-guided tour. Spruce Tree House and Step House can be explored on your own.
Explore from Your Car
Mesa Top Loop Road on Chapin Mesa is a six-mile drive that offers amazing canyon views and a chance to learn about the Ancestral Pueblo people’s occupation and architecture through time.
Go for a Walk or a Hike
Wander Prater Ridge Trail, try to decipher the art on the Petroglyph Trail, or discover the lushness of Spruce Canyon.
Less crowded than Chapin Mesa with only biking and hiking trails, Wetherill Mesa offers a quiet setting to appreciate the archaeological sites and scenery. Wetherill Mesa will be open May 1-October 31 or as soon as weather and road conditions permit. Walk through the Badger House Community to see early mesa-top sites. The Wetherill Mesa Information Kiosk will be open on May 22 to September 7. Tours of Long House will begin on May 22-September 7. Self-guided tours of Step House, one of the only alcove sites that contains evidence of both basketmaker and pueblo occupation, is also open during this time.
Morefield Campground Evening Program
Attend an evening ranger program at Morefield Campground at mile 4.
Special Backcountry Hikes
Mesa Verde National Park is again offering a series of unique Special Backcountry Hikes in 2015. Tickets for these special hikes are limited and must be purchased online at www.recreation.gov.
These ranger-guided hikes and programs include a half-day hike on Wetherill Mesa, a weekly two hour hike to Oak Tree House during the summer, and a two hour hike to Square Tower House is offered in the spring and fall. In addition, tickets for Twilight Tours of Cliff Palace, which feature a historical figure from the past, and the Photography Tour at Cliff Palace will be offered on-line at: www.recreation.gov. Please check the website for more detailed descriptions of each program.
Wetherill Mesa Hike and Bike Adventure
Hikers and bicyclers, this is the trip for you! This ranger-guided, four and a half-hour trek on the quieter side of Mesa Verde includes about five miles of biking; four miles of hiking; expansive canyon views, spectacular overlooks of remote cliff dwellings; and a tour of magnificent Long House. A bicycle is required for this, so plan to bring your own bike or you may be able to rent one upon arrival at the Wetherill Mesa parking lot. Call 970-529-4465 to verify this before booking your ticket. With a ranger, you’ll bike to several mesa-top archaeological sites, walk to others, and hike about three miles round trip through the piñon-juniper woodlands for cliff edge views of Nordenskiold #12 and Double House. The tour concludes after the Long House Tour, and participants are free to continue exploring Wetherill Mesa, or bike back to the parking lot with the ranger. The adventure is offered Wednesdays and Sundays from May 27-September 6, 2015. Tickets cost $18 for adults, or $15 for children or pass holders. Group size is limited to 15 people. For reservations or more information, visit: www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.
Oak Tree House
This 60-room site built on two ledges is one of the largest cliff dwellings in the Park. It is a well preserved but fragile site that features plastered walls and varied architectural styles. The two hour, one mile round-trip hike is moderately strenuous. Expect a narrow, unpaved, uneven trail, with steps carved into the sandstone, steep drop-offs, and two ladders (4-foot and 15-foot) and a total elevation change of 200 feet.
In addition to up close views of this site, you’ll have stunning views of Cliff Canyon, Cliff Palace, and Sun Temple. The Oak Tree House Hike is available from May 26-September 5, 2015, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Tickets cost $25 per person, all ages. Group size is limited to 10 people per hike. For reservations or more information, visit: www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.
Square Tower House
This stunning and surprisingly intimate cliff dwelling includes an original kiva roof and the Crow’s Nest, both features that cannot be seen from the viewpoint on the canyon rim. The strenuous two hour, one mile round-trip hike follows an unpaved, uneven trail that descends 100-foot, and includes steep drop-offs, switchbacks, scrambling up and down boulders, and climbing three ladders, the longest of which is 20 feet. The Square Tower House Hike is offered on Saturdays and Sundays from May 3-May 24, 2015 and on Thursdays and Sundays from September 10-October 18, 2015. Tickets cost $25 per person, and group size is limited to 10 people per hike. For reservations or more information, visit: www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.
Twilight Tours of Cliff Palace
Twilight Tours offer a historical perspective of Cliff Palace and Mesa Verde National Park. Costumed interpreters introduce visitors to famous characters from the past on this 90-minute tour. This is a unique opportunity to learn about North America’s largest cliff dwelling through the eyes of the people who found, stabilized, and preserved it in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Twilight Tours are scheduled on Sunday through Thursday evenings from May 24-September 6, 2015.
Tickets cost $12 per person and group size is limited to 20 people. For reservations or more information, visit: www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.
Photography Tour in Cliff Palace
Photographers, here is an opportunity to spend 90-minutes in Cliff Palace with a Park Ranger in a small group setting. Dramatic sunset lighting will appeal to both amateur and professional photographers as well as those seeking a deeper connection with this extraordinary archaeological treasure. The tours are offered on Friday and Saturday evenings from May 22-September 5, 2015. Photographers must be able to carry all gear while keeping both hands free to climb ladders. Tickets cost $20 per person and group size is limited to 10 people. For reservations or more information, visit: www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.
If you’re visiting the Park November through April, there are still plenty of options. Spruce Tree House is open year-round and a ranger is always there to help you. Take a drive across the mesa top and view Cliff Palace from afar. It’s still quite an amazing sight! The luminaria display, held the second Thursday in December is an amazing experience as real luminarias light the path to Spruce Tree House.