Mesa Verde National Park
Marvel at perfectly preserved remains of Ancestral Pueblo communes that date back thousands of years. Clamber up wooden ladders and through tunnels to reach superb vantage points for gazing across Mesa Verde National Park.
Hidden among the vast sandy plains of southwestern Colorado, this majestic location features one of the oldest examples of early human life in North America. Ancestral Puebloans lived here between A.D. 600 and 1300 before leaving behind approximately 5,000 sites including 600 cliff dwellings.
Set off with your guide on a 1-hour tour departing from the park’s visitor center. Start at the Chapin Mesa area of the park where you will find the highest concentration of sites, including Cliff Palace. Climb the five ladders to access this astonishing network of buildings dug into the canyon. The 150 rooms built from sandstone and wood beams once provided shelter for close to 100 people.
Back at ground level continue east along the path toward Balcony House. Getting here means climbing numerous ladders and staircases. As the name suggests, this settlement provides splendid views, particularly toward Soda Canyon’s jagged path through the sandstone. This dwelling is smaller, consisting of 40 rooms and several small plazas.
Access nearby Spruce Tree Hill more easily. Constructed during the 13th century, this dwelling was discovered in 1888 by local ranchers while searching for stray cattle. It is set into a natural alcove just above ground and features ceremonial chambers as well as small homes.
Before you leave, investigate the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. Study a selection of detailed dioramas to understand what life was like for the Ancestral Puebloans and see rare artifacts including tools used to hunt and eat. To learn more, attend an evening ranger talk at Morefield Amphitheater.
The entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is approximately 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of Durango. The park is open year-round and there is a small admission fee.
U.S. national parks offer affordable adventure for all types of travelers and frequently provide fascinating history lessons. Enjoy your trip to Mesa Verde National Park as you learn about your predecessors in North America.