Mesa Verde is 1st! - home of the Ancestral Puebloans
On your 1st visit, MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK is a must!
Why? Mesa Verde is recognized as one of the premier historic destinations in the world! It is the only US park dedicated to human culture. The park is 55,000 acres with over 6,000 ruins. Spruce Tree House, Cliff Palace, Balcony House & Long House are ancient village condominiums of 1250AD, tucked into magnificent sandstone alcoves. Spruce Tree is open all year, the others are seasonal. Ranger guided tours in summer are quite good for all ages.
A World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde is worth at least a full day of your trip or more. Mesa Verde is translated “green table” for the flat topped mountain that defines is entrance. It gives us a glimpse of the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Previously called the Anasazi, these Indians didn’t have a written language, but had a rich culture and a stable civilization for over 700 years, (A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300) and more people called it home than do today! Over 4,000 known archeological sites exist in the park, including 600 cliff dwellings.
Be sure to take a tour - they are well worth the time! The park sells tour tickets for $4/person for a one hour tour - an incredible value. There are also concessionaire tours available if you don't want to drive around the park, but that convenience comes at a cost. Regardless, make sure you know travel times. The park is BIG and the roads are 30 mph. Don't schedule too early - it can take an hour to get to the tours.
Once a year (mid December), they hold an open house when they put lanterns in the rooms - it litterly comes alive. You're just waiting for somebody to climb out of that kiva!
Mesa Verde links - enhance your visit:
- Of course, the official Mesa Verde site
- The Mesa Verde Museum Assoc., a non-profit educational partner that, in conjunction with the park, has collected books, maps, trail guides and DVDs will help you plan a fun and educational visit!
- Please click to go to the Museum Association store to get more info on their Mesa Verde Trip Planners. You can also purchase directly from their site.
- Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is the home to current archaeological work in this region - with amazing discovery and educational opportunities.
- For the more adventurous, there are ranger guided hikes in the fall that go deeper into the park and visit sites not normally accessible to tourists. There are 2 hour, 4 hour and even 8 hour, strenuous hikes. Click here for details.
- Plan one more day – and experience Hovenweep on the historic Scenic Byways and the Trail of the Ancients. Get a copy of the National Geographic map. Stop in at the children friendly Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores.
- Tips on making great photos in Mesa Verde