Preserving more than 4,000 archaeological sites and over 600 extraordinary Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings, southwest Colorado Mesa Verde National Park is a historically important and culturally rich World Heritage Site, welcoming almost 600,000 visitors annually.
Things to do in Mesa Verde National Park
Due to the unique positioning of the dwellings within the park’s countless naturally-formed caves and outcroppings, Mesa Verde National Park is a prime location for experienced hikers and backpackers seeking especially challenging trails. Sharp inclines, high ladders and tunnels are common obstacles on popular paths through this cliff-house and cavate-laden site. Hikers with the vigour to reach the end of the highest trails are met with unsurpassed vistas of the stone-carved residences, against a lush backdrop of green woodland.
Visitors can also step back in time and explore wider Colorado with a ride on the coal-fuelled Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (reservations are required). There is an opportunity to purchase wares from the marketplace – located in an area traditionally used for this purpose by the Puebloan people – and there is a number of art exhibits displayed around the park (season dependant).
National Park highlights
Cliff Palace: Considered the largest cliff dwelling in North America, this 217 room ruin is reached through embarking on an exciting tour guide-led trail, comprising a steep 100ft decline, 120 uneven stone steps and five tall ladders
Balcony House Trail: Comprising a 100ft descending staircase, a 12ft long tunnel and a 32ft tall ladder, this is Mesa Verde’s most challenging trail. The concealed 45 room Balcony House site greets those who reach its end
Spruce Tree House: This is the park’s third largest cliff dwelling and while the trail contains no ladders or stairs, a good level of fitness is required to ascend from it. (NOTE: tours are self-guided between spring and fall, and ranger-guided in winter.)
Petroglyph Point Hike: Hikers are led around and through cracked boulders high above the canyons, where an impressive panel of interesting ancient pictographs awaits
Point Lookout Trail: A peaceful and scenic 2.4 mile hiking trail, which ends at the park’s highest peak, Park Point, for unrivalled panoramic views
Square Tower House: Occupied between AD 1200 and 1300, this is the tallest structure in Mesa Verde and is one stop on the much loved Mesa Top Loop Road driving tour
When to visit Mesa Verde
Although the park is open all year round, the visitor campground and a number of cliff dwelling sites are closed during the winter season; check the operating hours and seasons page before planning your trip. As expected, summer is peak tourist season but visits during spring and fall are recommended for those who would prefer not to endure humid temperatures of up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mesa Verde National Park Tours
This National Park can be visited as part of our self-drive ‘American Grandeurs’ and ‘Wonders of the American West’ tours. Please click respective links for additional information.
Planning a holiday to this National Park in 2016/2017?
Want to visit Mesa Verde in 2016 or 2017? The American Sky Team has the experience to help organise dream holidays. Call our Colorado specialists today and start planning your trip of a lifetime.