Mesa Verde National Park is a unique and fascinating destination that offers a glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there over 700 years ago.
This extraordinary place is home to almost 5000 archeological sites, the most well-preserved cliff dwellings in the world, and an unsolved mystery.
Mesa Verde National Park is located in southwest Colorado, about 11 miles from Cortez, Colorado.
Mesa Verde National Park Highlights
At Mesa Verde, visitors step back in time into the world of the Ancestral Pueblo people. They made their home in rugged terrain surrounded by steep cliffs and narrow canyons. At an elevation of over 7000 feet, changing weather conditions affected everyday life.
A scenic drive runs atop Chapin Mesa and leads to 2 loop roads: Mesa Top Loop and Cliff Palace Loop. This drive offers visitors stunning views of the surrounding canyons and mesas, along with overlooks to peer at cliff houses from above. Keep an eye out for wildlife, such as mule deer, along the way!
Three primary dwellings in the park are Cliff House, Balcony House, and Spruce Tree House. Guests can enter the Cliff House and Balcony House on ranger-led tours. Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.
The largest cliff dwelling in the park is Cliff Palace. It has 150 rooms! The ranger-guided tour begins at the overlook. After descending stone stairs, guests can sit and gaze at the site while listening to the ranger and asking questions. For more information on this tour, check out this NPS video.
Lodging is available in the park at the Morefield Campground or the Far View Lodge. The lodge also offers various dining options.
We stayed in Cortez, Colorado, at the Holiday Inn and used it as a base to explore the 4 Corners region.
And the Mystery?
By the end of the 13th century, the people who built these magnificent structures left. Why? No one knows for sure. But scientists theorize that it was due, at least in part, to drought and a deteriorating food supply.
Mesa Verde National Park offers an opportunity for visitors to delve into the architectural wonders of the cliff dwellings and gain a profound insight into the lifestyle and culture of the Ancestral Pueblo people. A visit to this ancient community promises a captivating and unforgettable experience.
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