Located near the Four Corners region of Southwest America, Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most stunning places that the United States has to offer any intrepid traveler. Created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, this natural wonder sits at almost 52,500 acres.
Proudly boasting the largest archaeological preserve in the country, this Coloradoan spectacle is a dream for anyone looking to peek through a keyhole into the past. With 600 cliff dwellings amongst its 4,300 sites, Mesa Verde protects some of the finest preserved Ancestral Puebloans anywhere in the world.
With archeologists dating Mesa Verde’s original inhabitants back to 7500 BCE, this is a historic adventure you won’t want to miss out on. And fortunately for you, BUCKiTDREAM has all the information you’ll need to make your trip as unforgettable as possible.
Take a Historic Journey On the 700 Years Tour This 4-hour tour is the most popular on offer at Mesa Verde, and with only two tours a day, it’s best to book well in advance. Starting from the park’s Far View Lodge, the tour provides a historic overview of the Ancestral Puebloans’ lives, through architecture, horticulture, and religion. The 700 Years Tour consists of several short hikes, culminating with a walking tour of our must-see destination…more on that later.
Head Out On the Family-Friendly Far View Explorer Tour This 4.5-hour guided tour is designed with the whole family in mind. While more strenuous activities are available along the way, such as climbing to the highest point in the park, the trails en route are accessible for all ages. Tours leave from the Morefield Campground and Far View Lodge each morning, bright and early. Spruce Tree Overlook, Chapin Mesa Museum, and the Sun Temple all await your arrival on the way.
Balcony House should be your first stop when exploring the many ancient resting places of the ancestors. Dating all the way back to the 12th century, these fascinating structures were built beneath overhanging cliffs. Balcony House itself is considered “medium size”, with 40 rooms available to explore, accessed by climbing a 32-foot ladder and crawling through a short tunnel.
Long House was excavated between 1959 and 1961 and resides within Wetherill Mesa in the western portion of the park. Long House’s secluded nature means visiting requires driving along a historic fire trail for 12 miles. Steep hills and winding roads will be sure to keep you on your toes, but overlooking the natural features of the landscape will make every second worth it.
Step House rests not all too far from Long House but is only available to visit between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. Step House is notable due to the evidence that two separate occupations existed within the same site, each around 600 years apart. This self-guided, 3/4 mile trail is particularly steep, so not recommended for small children or the elderly.
For any keen outdoorsman, Mesa Verde has some of the most inviting hiking trails in the country. Set course for the Prater Ridge Trail and travel along a 7.8-mile round-trip brimming with sights not found anywhere else. Changes in elevation assure views from the perfect angle.
For a quick trip through the wild, Soda Canyon Overlook Trail is ideal. This short 1.2-mile round-trip is an easy walk but still provides exquisite sights across a vast open area. Or for something in-between, Badger House Community Trail sits at a refreshing 2.25 miles, taking you through four of the park’s top sites.
Where To Eat
Trekking across the immense lands of Mesa Verde can stir up quite an appetite, which is why the park offers dining for all tastes. For a more up-market experience, the Metate Room Restaurant is guaranteed to cure any hiking hunger. Open for dinner between 5 pm and 9.30pm, this tasty offering has received an award for culinary excellence and looks out over the majestic sceneries of Mesa Verde.
For more casual dining, Far View Terrace is the ideal place to get a great meal. Complete with an unforgettable view, this food-court setting features delicious daily specials and build-your-own breakfast burrito. In a similar vein, Spruce Tree Terrace BBQ offers delectable smoked entrees in a casual environment. And as an added bonus, multiple snack bars can be found around Wetherill Mesa.
Where To Stay
Mesa Verde itself comes with a couple of different options for accommodation. For those looking for more of a classic hotel experience, Far View Lodge is located 15 miles inside the park. 150 traditional Western décor rooms occupy the lodge – comfort matched by the quality of the in-house dining.
Alternatively, Morefield Campground offers primitive camping for those who have always desired to be one with nature. Unspoiled beauty will surround you at every turn, morning, noon, and night. Or for out-of-park accommodation, Retro Inn in the city of Cortez is a brief 10-minute ride from Mesa Verde, featuring a prime location, full modern facilities, and a mountain view to boot.
To truly understand the marvel Mesa Verde holds, look no further than Cliff Palace. The most famous cliff dwelling in the entire park, this 150-room structure crafted of sandstone, wooden beams, and mortar, is inspiringly well-preserved. For context, most other structures within the park contain 1-5 rooms each, which is why it is thought that Cliff Palace had special significance to the original tenants. It’s a distinct and thought-provoking sight, one which you’re unlikely to ever forget.
Around half a million people visit Mesa Verde National Park every year; if you consider yourself a modern-day adventurer, you owe it to yourself to be one of them. So why not start on those plans in your BUCKiTDREAM planner today, and don’t forget to share your experience on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.