Mesa Verde National Park
SeasonThe National Park, the Museum and Spruce Tree House are open throughout the year; other facilities are closed in winter.Situation and characteristicsThe Mesa Verde ("Green Table") is a tabular hill covered with coniferous forest which reaches a height of 8,573ft/2,613m, rising abruptly to 2,000ft/600m above the semi-desertic foreland of the Rockies in the extreme southwest of Colorado.
Official site: www.nps.gov/meve/
Address: Box 8, Mesa Verde, CO 81330-0008, United States
Entrance fee in USD: Vehicle plus all occupants $15.00, Adult $8.00
Useful tips: Open year-round (except for Wetherill Mesa). Admission is good for 7 days. Hiking is restricted to established park trails. Pets must be on a leash. Biking is permitted on paved roads (except Wetherill Mesa).
Facilities: Gift shop
Mesa Verde National Park Highlights
The other road from the Visitor Center leads to Chapin Mesa, passing the Far View Ruins and Cedar Tree Tower. In 25mi/40km the road comes to the Park Headquarters Area.
The Chapin Mesa Museum is the starting-point of Ruins Road Drive, which takes in the main features of the Mesa Verde in two long loops, with a total length of 12mi/19km.
Ruins Road East
On the eastern loop of the road are the Cliff Palace and the Balcony House.
The 299-room Cliff Palace, in a large cave on the east side of Cliff Canyon, is the largest cave settlement in the park and the first to be discovered in 1888.It can only be visited on a guided tour; tickets must be purchased in advance from the Far View Visitor Center.
The Balcony House is built into a wide, low recess on the wall of Soda Canyon.It can only be visited on a strenuous guided tour; tickets must be purchased in advance from the Far View Visitor Center.
Soda Canyon Overlook Trail
There is an overlook of Soda Canyon accessible from the eastern loop of Ruins Road in Mesa Verde National Park.
Ruins Road West
The high spots in the western part of the park are the Square Tower House, the Sun Point Pueblo, and the unfinished Sun Temple.
Sun Point Pueblo
The Sun Point Pueblo has the remains of a village which was pulled down by its inhabitants in the 13th century to provide material for new dwellings in a cave in nearby Cliff Canyon.
Square Tower House
The Square Tower House is a four-story structure built against the rock wall of the Navajo Canyon.
Navajo Canyon Overlook
The unfinished Sun Temple is a large cult building on a D-shaped plan.
Park Headquarters Area
A loop road branching off of the road to Chapin Mesa leads to the Park Headquarters Area, with the Chapin Mesa Museum and the Spruce Tree House, as well as the park headquarters, a library and ranger's office.
Petroglyph Point Hike
A permit must be obtained from the National Park administration for hiking on the Spruce Canyon Trail and the Petroglyph Point Trail, in the area of the Chapin Mesa Museum.The Petroglyph Point Hike is a three mile loop beginning at the Chapin Mesa Museum. Along the route are Anasazi petroglyphs and views of the Navajo and Spruce Canyons.
Spruce Canyon Trail
A permit must be obtained from the National Park administration for hiking on the Spruce Canyon Trail (2mi/3.2km) and the Pictograph Point Trail, in the area of the Chapin Mesa Museum.Beginning at the Chapin Mesa Museum, the Spruce Canyon Trail drops 500 feet to the canyon floor.
Spruce Tree House
To the southeast of the Park Headquarters area, on the edge of Spruce Canyon, is Spruce Tree House, the best preserved settlement in the park and one of the largest, with 114 rooms and 8 kivas.The walk to Spruce Tree House begins next to the Chapin Mesa Museum, descending 100 feet.
Chapin Mesa Museum
The Chapin Mesa Museum has archeological remains, Indian arts and crafts.There are dioramas depicting the life of the Anasazi Indians.
Far View Ruins
The Far View Ruins were occupied between the 10th and 14th centuries.An access road leads to a parking area, from which footpaths lead to the Far View House, Pipe Shrine House, Coyote Village, Mummy Lake, Megalith House, Far View Tower, and Far View Ditch.
From the entrance on the north side of the park a winding road leads to Morfield Village. It then continues past Montezuma Valley Overlook and Park Point to the Far View Visitor Center.
Four miles past the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is Morefield Village, with a campground and park visitor services. The campground has over 400 sites and is open from late April until mid-October on a first come, first served basis.
Useful tips: Trailers and towed vehicles are not permitted beyond Morefield Campground. Morefield Village is the only location within the park where gas may be purchased.
Knife Edge Trail
No permit is required for the Knife Edge Trail (1.5mi/2.4km), in the Morfield Village area.The trail leads to a picnic site at the Montezuma Valley Overlook.
Prater Edge Trail
No permit is required for the Prater Ridge Trail (7-3/4mi/12.5km) in the Morfield Village area.The Prater Ridge Trail is a loop that features views of the Montezuma Valley.
Point Lookout Trail
From the Morfield Amphitheater parking lot, the Point Lookout Trail rises 500 feet over 2.3 miles to an impressive overlook.
Far View Visitor Center
The Far View Visitor Center features exhibits of Native American jewelry, pottery, and basket displays. Visitors must purchase their tickets for Cliff Palace, Balcony House, or Long House from the visitor center.
Montezuma Valley Overlook
On the entrance road to Mesa Verde National Park is the Montezuma Overlook, with views of Montezuma Valley and surrounding area. The overlook is an excellent place to watch the sunset.
From the entrance road to Mesa Verde National Park, an access road leads to Park Point, the highest point in the park at 8,572 feet.
From the Far View Visitor Center a 13mi/21km long road runs to Wetherill Mesa, with the Step House and the Long House.All the Wetherill Mesa sites are accessible by hiking trails, except Long House, which is reached only by a mini-train.
Opening hours: May 25 to Sep 3: 8am-4:30pm
Useful tips: Vehicles restricted to a maximum length of 25 feet. No bicycles allowed.
The Long House is the second largest ruin in the park, with a large open space in which dances and ceremonies were performed.The Long House can only be visited under the guidance of a park ranger; tickets must be purchased in advance at the Far View Visitor Center. The often strenuous tour is not recommended for those with health problems.
The Kodak House can be seen from an overlook on the Wetherill Mesa Road. There are about 60 rooms in the two-story building.
Nordenskiold Site #16
Nordenskiold Site #16 is named after Gustaf Nordenskiold, who excavated the Step House site in 1891.
Two Raven House
Two Raven House can be found near the Badger House ruins on Wetherill Mesa.