Mesa Verde National Park

mesa verde national park

Discover an unsolved mystery at the Mesa Verde National Park, a unique National Park and World Heritage Site focused on preserving the Ancestral Puebloans cultural relics. Discovered in the 1800’s and declared a National Park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Mesa Verde was home to the Ancestral Puebloans for more than 700 years. It is here that they built their stone homes in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls until they mysteriously left and disappeared in the 1300’s.

Today, Mesa Verde preserves over 5000 known archeological sites including 600 amazing cliff dwellings and architectural masterpieces, all that remains of this ancient culture. The Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) cliff dwelling ruins and sites are found throughout the canyons and mesas of the park, perched on a high plateau south of Cortez and Mancos and offering a glimpse into the lives of those that called it home.

There is so much to see at Mesa Verde. The most famous sites for visitors are the cliff dwellings. There are many self-guided tours to allow you to explore the park or take a guided tour of the cliff dwellings.

  • Stop at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center at the park entrance to purchase tickets for any of the dwellings you would like to visit.
  • Discover prehistoric artifacts and a chronology of the Ancestral Puebloan culture at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. Due to current structural and preservation concerns, Spruce Tree House tours are currently suspended, but it can be seen from viewpoints near here.
  • The Chapin Mesa Museum is the starting point of Ruins Road Drive which takes in the main features of Mesa Verde in two long loops, a total length of 12 miles.
  • Drive the six-mile Mesa Top Loop Road taking you through 700 years of history. Highlights include 12 surface dwellings and cliff-dwelling overlooks including Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook and views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point and Sun Temple stops.
  • Drive the Cliff Palace/Balcony House Loop Road to see the park’s largest cliff dwelling, Cliff Palace, with over 150 individual rooms and 20 kivas. The Cliff Palace and Balcony House can only be viewed inside on a guided tour.
  • The Fire Lookout at Park Point is the highest elevation in the park with panoramic views of the San Juan peaks and the La Plata Mountains.
  • If you have more time on your hands, explore the quieter side of the canyon at Wetherhill Mesa, home to Long House and Step House.
  • Hike the 2.4-mile Petroglyph Point Trail to view prehistoric rock carvings with spectacular views of Spruce and Navajo canyons.
  • f there is enough winter snow on the ground, [which there is often not]???, cross-country ski or snowshoe along the groomed Cliff Palace Loop Trail or the Point Lookout Trail for views of the cliff dwellings.

Selected the “No. 1 Historic Monument in The World” by Conde Nast Traveler and “One of The 50 Places of a Lifetime – The World’s Greatest Destinations” by National Geographic Traveler, Mesa Verde National Park is only 35 miles west of Durango. This makes Durango the ideal base for a visit to the park and Vacation Accommodations of Durango has the ideal Durango vacation rental to return to after a long day of exploring this beautiful World Heritage Site. If you want to be closer to the Park, check with us for availability of our vacation rental homes in Mancos and Hesperus, Colorado.