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. 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. This year (2016), the National Parks are all celebrating a centennial - and to promote visits, all 4th graders can get a free pass for their entire family. 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!
Cliff Palace open thru 9/25
Balcony House open thru 10/29
Long House open thru 10/15
Spruce Tree House to be announced
* No fee to enter park, tour fees still apply.
Due to safety concerns relating to a recent rockfall, Spruce Tree House is temporarily closed. Overlooks near the museum offer superb views of the cliff dwelling. A reopening date will be set after the completion of a full geologic site assessment.