Colorado National Parks Road Trip: Part 2 - Mesa Verde
Step into history among the cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made Mesa Verde their home.
Heading west from Great Sand Dunes, our route took us through the mountains to emerge into the arid Four Corners region of southwest Colorado. Here, hidden in the canyons of Mesa Verde National Park, are the archeological remains of the Ancestral Pueblo people, who occupied the region from 550 AD into the 1200s. Created in 1906, the national park was the first park designed to “preserve the works of man.”
We stayed at a relatively empty Morefield Campground, which was wifi, showers and coin laundry available at the nearby Morefield Village. In order to preserve the delicate sites located in the park, hiking is restricted to designated trails only, and no overnight backpacking options are available.
The main activity at Mesa Verde that shouldn’t be skipped is taking a ranger guided tour of one of the cliff dwellings. Tickets can be purchased at the visitor center or the ranger station at Morefield Village. There are several to choose from, but we went with Balcony House, billed as the “Adventurous Cliff Dwelling Tour” due to a 60 foot ladder that must be climbed and a claustrophobic tunnel that visitors must crawl through to exit the dwelling.
The Balcony House tour is unique in that visitors get to move around inside the actual dwelling, passing though narrow openings and stepping around ancient walls that were once occupied by the Ancestral Pueblo people. Gazing out into the canyon below, it’s easy to be transported to a different time and imagine what it would have been like to live in this amazing landscape.
We spent our remaining time in the park exploring the self guided sites located along the long park roads. Stunning vistas can be found at Park Point Overlook, the park’s highest point. Views of the cliff dwellings are located throughout the park, the highest concentration found along the Mesa Top Loop on Chapin Mesa. The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is also a must see to delve further into the history of the region and its people.
Next, we began our drive back to the north, where the mountains were waiting. To be continued…
Brewery to Visit: Ska Brewing in Durango, with their 100% wind powered facility and beer garden made from shipping containers.