Mesa Verde National Park Things to Do

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    by goodfish
  • Things to Do
    by goodfish
  • Things to Do
    by goodfish

Most Recent Things to Do in Mesa Verde National Park

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    Chapin Mesa: Petroglyph Point Loop Trail

    by goodfish Updated Jan 5, 2015

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    For the protection of the thousands of archeological sites, developed hiking trails are somewhat limited at this park but here’s a nice one!

    The trailhead for this one was on the way to Spruce Tree House so we could kill a couple of birds with one stone. It is roughly a 3-mile loop (from the parking area) which descends nearly to the ruins and then climbs up from the canyon floor past panel of petroglyphs to the top of the mesa where it follows the rim back to the starting point.

    So, from the path to Spruce Tree House, the trail splits off to the right and continues down to a trail register and signed descriptor of the route. It shares Spruce Canyon Trail for a bit until it splits off again at a sign at the base of a flight of stone steps. From here it’s an uneven up-and-down trek involving more steps, narrow passageways, scrambles over and around boulders, and through alcoves and overhangs to the panel. You’ll start your climb up to the rim at the far end via a series of roughly constructed stone steps and easy toe-holds, and emerge at the top to a meander though juniper stands and over open rock plateaus with long drop-offs and expansive canyon views. Nice! You’ll end up back at the Chapin Archeological Museum, near the parking lot.

    A few pointers:
    • You should be in reasonably good shape to attempt this one as it does involve some work (but it's fun work)

    • The trailhead is gated and can only be accessed during the hours Spruce Tree House is open. You must also be off the trail by sunset.

    • Pick up the inexpensive “Petroglyph Point Trail Guide” (50 cents to $1) at the museum for before your hike. There are 34 numbered points along the trail which are explained in the guide, and include information about the geology, plants and trees of the park, and Hopi interpretations of the petroglyphs. These booklets may also be available at the trailhead, and may be borrowed and returned if you don’t wish to purchase one.

    • Keep your eyes open for unspecified archeological sites along the way!

    • Bring water and wear good sturdy footwear. This trail can be hot during the summer months.

    • If you’ve seen some of the major petroglyph locations in the Southwest, you may find the panel to be rather less than more remarkable but the images are varied and distinct, and well worth the effort for first-timers. Others may find the hike itself to be the main attraction - as we did.

    • If you signed in at the trail register near Spruce Tree House, you don’t have to go all the way back down the switchbacks (and up again) to sign out at the end of your hike: do so in the other register at the museum. We didn’t know about this until after the fact: doh!

    Lastly, look but please don’t touch or otherwise disturb the petroglyphs, ruins, plants, wildlife or any artifacts you may happen across. And PLEASE don’t litter or deface any surfaces with graffiti - both of which are already enormous problems for our National Parks!

    Map:
    http://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/upload/profile_petroglyph.pdf

    Alcove along the way Navajo Canyon The panel Along the rim There they are!
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    Chapin Mesa: Archeological Museum

    by goodfish Updated Dec 31, 2014

    I’d written a bit about former superintendent Jesse Nusbaum in my review about the historic Administrative District, and here’s another example of his many contributions to Mesa Verde. When he was assigned to the park in1921, what passed for a museum was a dismal little log-cabin affair of a few poorly safeguarded artifacts. His mission to build a fireproof interpretive center and amass a more expansive collection was realized by successfully soliciting wealthy individuals for construction and excavation funding the NPS wouldn’t ante up for. One of those individuals was John D. Rockefeller Jr: only son and heir of the Standard Oil magnate of the same same.

    Now, this John was a devoted philanthropist whose many charitable efforts included the largest donations from any single individual to the National Park System. Rockefeller millions purchased many thousands of acres of land for Yosemite, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah and Acadia, among others, and financed museums at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Some years ago we trotted some of the gorgeous carriage roads - with their lovely stone bridges - he’d had constructed in Acadia.

    In 1924 Rockefeller and members of his family made a visit to the fledgling Mesa Verde. Personally escorted by Nusbaum, his distinguished guest was fascinated by the ruins, and impressed by the young man’s experience, knowledge and passion for conservation and visitor education. Finding that the Feds had appropriated nothing for improving the pathetic excuse of a museum, he pledged the additional sums needed to those donated by another generous patron, Mrs. Stella Leviston, as well as excavation funding to recover artifacts remaining in badly looted cliff dwellings. Nice guy, John D.

    Jesse’s “new” museum is now nearly 100 years old, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Palaces, and the exhibits are looking a little elderly but provide an interesting chronological history of indigenous life of the mesas as well as collections of pottery, weapons, jewelry and other treasures. Also take time to watch the orientation video before heading off to visit nearby Spruce Tree House or others of the alcove dwellings. Entrance is free!

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    Chapin Mesa: Mesa Verde Administrative District

    by goodfish Updated Dec 29, 2014

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    In the heart of Chapin Mesa - near Spruce Tree House - is a cluster of beautiful buildings which were the brainchildren of one of the park’s most influential superintendents, Jesse Logan Nusbaum. This Jesse was an archeologist who, in 1907 at the age of only 20, had assisted Dr. Jesse Fewkes in surveying the ruins at the newly established National Park. He was also responsible for excavating and stabilizing Balcony House in 1910. At the request of the first director of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather, he was appointed Superintendent of Mesa Verde in 1921, and took on the unenviable task of putting to rights years of neglect, vandalism, nepotism, malfeasance and mismanagement by some of his predecessors.

    It was Nusbaum who finally won a previously contested battle to have the park’s headquarters moved up to Chapin Mesa from the town of Mancos - which allowed for better protection of the sites - and designed its first structures himself. There are six which were constructed in the 1920’s of the same sandstone as the ancient pueblos, and some of the material was repurposed from rubble of the cliff houses themselves. Labeled Pueblo Revival in style, they also incorporate Spanish-colonial embellishments common to the region. NPS documentation of their historical significance notes that they were, “.., the first National Park Service structures to experiment with architectural designs based in strong cultural traditions... in this instance modified to reflect and enhance the interpretation of the prehistoric structures of the surrounding countryside.”*

    I was intrigued by that statement as, having been to Grand Canyon, I’d seen the architecture of Mary Jane Colter - much of which had been constructed some years before that at Mesa Verde, and which have many similar characteristics including their incorporation into and around natural landscapes. Indeed, Round Tower at Cliff House was one of her many inspirations when designing the Watchtower at Desert View (1934) so it was clear that she'd spent time at the park. As it turns out, she and Nusbaum were very good friends - his signature appears on some the design sketches for Grand Canyon's Bright Angel Lodge - and in the 1940’s she'd donated her extensive collection of Native American crafts to the museum he’d built at Mesa Verde in 1923/24. All things considered, I wouldn’t be amiss to speculate that there had been considerable, abet uncredited, collaboration between these two. I would guess that Nusbaum’s "first” recognition was less about design style - having so much in common with earlier Colter works - as the purpose of complimenting man-made structures versus natural scenery.

    The six notable structures are: the Superintendent’s house (1921); administration building and post office (1923); museum (1923/24); ranger club (1925); and chief ranger’s office (1927). All are on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Jesse was a fascinating, many-faceted individual whose accomplishments included being the first archeologist hired by a U.S. Federal agency (NPS and DOI) , first employee of the School of American Archeology and Museum in Santa Fe (1909), member of a 1913 expeditionary team to the Yucatan, exhibit designer for San Diego’s Panama-California Exposition (1911/12), head of New Mexico’s Palace of the Governors restoration project (1913), employment at the Museum of the American Indian/Hey Foundation, NYC (1916 - 1919), Director of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe ( 1930-35), and Senior Anthropologist for the NPS (1946 - 1957). He served as Mesa Verde’s Superintendent from 1921-1931, 1936-1939 and 1942-1946.

    He died in 1975, and is buried in Santa Fe National Cemetery under a stone noting only his WWI military service.

    *Quote from “Architecture in the Parks - National Historic Landmark Theme Study”, Laura S. Harrison, NPS, Department of the Interior, 1986.

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    Wetherill Mesa: Step House

    by goodfish Updated Dec 29, 2014

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    Here’s another cliff dwelling you can explore on your own if you can’t get tickets to one requiring a tour. It’s smaller than some of the others but is unique in that you can see the remains of communities built 600 years apart. One end of the alcove contains the excavations of multiple pithouses which would have been occupied during the Basketmaker III era. These ancestors of the cliff dwellers lived in the canyon from AD 500-750, and the vast majority of them dug their semi-subterranean living quarters into tops of the mesas so the location of these is unusual. You can see excavations of some surface-level pithouses if you take the tram to the Badger House Community sites.

    On the other end of the alcove are above-ground structures similar to others of the 13th-century Pueblo III-era houses the park is famous for.

    One of the Step House pithouses has been partially reconstructed so you can see how these would have looked with walls, supports and entrances through the center of the roofs. You can also see how characteristics of these dwellings evolved into the sunken, circular kiva structures of later eras: there’s a good example of one of those among the ruins on the pueblo end. Also amid those ruins is an interesting panel of petroglyphs.

    Getting here involves a nearly 1-mile RT trek, a path that’s steep in places, and involves stairs on the entrance route. While it’s considered handicap accessible from the exit trail (take that one both directions), assistance is required to manage the grades. The trailhead to the site is very near the parking area so you can do this one without having to jump one of the trams, and there’s a ranger on duty to answer questions. Do remember that Wetherill Mesa sites are open only during the summer months!

    Visiting rules are the same as for other houses: no food, sweetened beverages, touching the ruins, etc.

    You can download a park brochure for Step House here:

    http://www.mesaverde.org/files/uploaded-images/01-_Wetherill_Mesa_final.pdf.PdfCompressor-848712.pdf

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    Wetherill Mesa: Long House

    by goodfish Written Dec 22, 2014

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    One of the two cliff dwellings on Wetherhill which are open to visitors, this one can only be accessed with a ranger-led tour. It is the 2nd largest of the park's alcove houses - only slightly smaller than Cliff Palace - and like that more-visited sibling is thought to have functioned as a religious, trade and administrative center as evidenced by the number of kivas and an unusually large central plaza.

    You can read more about cliff dwellings and the people who built them in my travelogue.

    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/cae25/

    An advantage to this tour is that far fewer visitors make the drive out to the Wetherill sites so of the three dwellings requiring tours/tickets, they’re easier to nab for this one during the busy summer season. You’ll also be exploring in-and-around the ruins versus just a path along the front, as you would at Cliff Palace. General information for tickets can be found on my “Touring the Cliff Dwellings" page:

    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/240eab/#review=page2

    The Wetherill brochure, available for a small price at the park, may also be browsed or downloaded here for free:

    http://www.mesaverde.org/files/uploaded-images/01-_Wetherill_Mesa_final.pdf.PdfCompressor-848712.pdf

    Good know-before-you-go's for Long House:

    • Wetherill Mesa is only open to visitors during the summer: generally between Memorial and Labor Day weekends

    • Accessing the site requires the ability to climb/descend steep, uneven steps and two 15’ ladders. The climb back up from the ruins is more strenuous than the trip down.

    • The trailhead is reached by free tram: tour groups gather at the covered station near the parking area, and a limited amount of snacks and beverages can be purchased here but, with the exception of unsweetened water, can't be consumed on the tour itself. Long House tours are given priority seating on the trams so be there on time but don’t worry about rushing there early to snag a seat.

    • Wear sturdy shoes, and bring a full water bottle and a hat if it’s hot and sunny

    • As with all the tour-accessed dwellings, infants and toddlers must carried in backpacks - not in your arms - and children must be able to manage the ladders/steps on their own

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    Both mesas: dwellings from a distance

    by goodfish Written Dec 16, 2014

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    There are multiple overlooks in the park for a gander at some cliff houses which are otherwise off limits to me and thee:

    Chapin Mesa: almost all of them are on Mesa Top Loop Road: a 6-mile circular route with 12 archeological sites. Along with surface ruins - such as excavated pit houses and a ceremonial structure - you can see Square Tower, Oak Tree, Sunset, Mummy and a few other houses from viewpoints accessed by short, paved, accessible paths.

    Wetherill Mesa: the only overlooks here - Kodak House and Nordenskiold #16 ruins - must be accessed by free tram or on foot, and only during the summer months. Nordenskiold is 1-mile RT on a gravel trail - the trailhead is not far from the parking area - and Kodak House is an easy-peasy little walk on a paved path. There are mesa-top ruins which can be visited on others of the tram stops as well.

    For visitors with mobility challenges, the tram is equipped with a wheelchair lift. While Nordenskiold isn’t handicap accessible, the mesa-top Badger House sites and Kodak House overlook will be good choices for you.

    All of these are marked on the park map you’ll be given with your entry pass, and on the respective mesas as well.

    http://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/index.htm

    Square Tower House House of Many Windows Mummy House Sunset House
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    Chapin Mesa: Spruce Tree House

    by goodfish Written Dec 12, 2014

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    If you can’t get tickets for one of the tours to Cliff Palace or Balcony House, have small children along, or aren’t up to climbing ladders, you can visit this cliff dwelling on your own during the warmer months. Spruce Tree House was the first of the ruins to be excavated for tourism (1908) because it’s the most accessible of the big houses, and it’s also the best preserved. While you can’t walk completely inside and around all of it, you’re able to get quite close to the structures up front. It also has a ladder-accessed kiva with a reconstructed roof to imagine what worship or social functions may have been like inside these evolutions of the original pithouses.

    This is a nice introduction to how the villages were constructed and how the people lived as most types of building methods and artifacts found here are common to the other alcove villages as well. For that reason I might recommend beginning your day here before moving on to any of the other cliff houses you may have scheduled. The sites are numbered, and with the aid of the accompanying booklet you’ll get a decent, if not comprehensive, overview of ancient pueblo culture. There’s also a ranger stationed at the site to answer questions.

    During the winter, you can see this one only on a free, ranger-guided tour:

    http://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/guided_activities.htm

    This NPS says that this house is handicap accessible with assistance. Yes, the path to the ruin is paved but it is also steep so the return journey (don’t take the stairs leading up from the far side of the site: go back the way you came) is where you’re going to need some help. I’ve read numerous complaints from seniors who expected an easier trek so do be aware that your trip back up to the rim may require numerous stops to rest: bring water, and wear comfortable shoes! You may also view the ruin at a distance from the first overlook.

    As with the other cliff dwellings, no food or sweetened beverages, please. Spills and crumbs draw wildlife which can cause damage to the site. Also refrain from climbing, leaning on or touching the ruins.

    The booklet, available for $1 at the site, may be downloaded here for free before you go:

    http://www.mesaverde.org/files/uploaded-images/01-2013SpruceTree_final.pdf.PdfCompressor-848705.pdf

    See this for seasonal visiting hours (click on “Facilities: hours of operation):

    http://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/upload/interp_program_sch_2014c.pdf

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    Chapin Mesa: Balcony House

    by goodfish Written Dec 11, 2014

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    This is the smallest of the houses which may only be visited on guided a tour, and the best example of how difficult it was to access some of them. Involving steep staircases, long-drop-offs, tight passages, a series of ladders - one of them 32’ long - and a squeeze through a narrow, 12’ tunnel, this one isn’t recommended for the very stout or individuals twitchy about heights.

    But it could be worse: original occupants did it with just toe and finger-holds cut into the cliff. The first to document the ruins - Swedish-born mineralogist Gustaf Nordenskiöld - described it as a “break-neck climb.” Noting that it “occupies a better position for purposes of defense than other large ruins” may partially account for finding it "the best preserved of all the ruins on Mesa Verde” he’d explored. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave it that way: a large amount of artifacts he removed from Mesa Verde ruins were shipped abroad and now reside in the National Museum of Finland. Other pot-hunters followed suit, and by the time it was formally excavated in 1908/10 it had been almost completely looted of its treasures. That fine bit of vandalism aside, he pioneered the use of scientific methods of archeological documentation at the sites, and his published report was instrumental in the effort to obtain federal protection of the ruins.

    Unique qualities of Balcony House are the unusual number of well-preserved porches by which upper stories of multi-level buildings were reached, and deliberate structural impediments to accessibility and movement to-and-around various parts of the site. Largely added during the latter years of occupation, barrier walls, hatchways, sealed doors, re-routed passageways and that aforementioned tunnel - the only entrance to the village - may be hints of additional protection needed from hostile invaders just prior to the collapse of the ancient pueblo system.

    A few good things to know:

    • Unlike Cliff Palace, this tour explores the interior the village instead of just viewing it from the front

    • The staircase descending to the path leading to alcove is steep and long but not difficult

    • The path ends at small platform at the base of the 32-ft ladder to the ruins. This ladder is a double - meaning people can climb it side-by- side - and the wooden rungs are a little slick but it is solidly secured to the cliff wall. Use both hands and don’t look down. You do not have to go back down the thing to exit the site. I was too busy encouraging a quivering pre-teen to the top to pay much attention but my height-allergic spouse was not a fan of this piece.

    • At the top, there’s a narrow passageway and another short ladder up to the village

    • The site itself is uneven but relatively flat with one more small ladder, a little scramble across some rock, and another narrow passageway between areas

    • This is where the fun begins: you exit the site on your hands and knees through that tunnel. The openings at both ends are a tight 18” wide and there’s a very large rock in the center which must be gotten around but the ceiling is also much higher in the middle so it’s not the claustrophobic experience you might expect. Some rather large/rotund visitors have also reported success squishing through so you don’t have to be THAT svelte to do it.

    • The last stage is a 60’ ascent up open rock face via a series of ladders and steep, narrow stone steps. There are chains along the steps for stability and to help haul your fanny along.

    • Balcony House may be seen at a distance from Soda Canyon Overlook Trail. There is unfortunately no handicap accessible viewpoint for this one.

    Tickets, fees, length of tour and visiting regulations are the same as at Cliff Palace so reference my review for those:

    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/241128/

    The information booklet for sale at the park can be downloaded here for free:

    http://www.mesaverde.org/files/uploaded-images/2013BalconyHs_English.pdf

    You may read more about cliff dwellings and their people in my Mesa Verde travelogue:

    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/cae25/

    Quotes from “The Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde”, Gustaf Nordenskiöld, 1893

    Defensive Wall. Balcony House
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    Chapin Mesa: Cliff Palace

    by goodfish Updated Dec 10, 2014

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    The grandaddy of the 'houses’ is the one everyone wants to see, and you can do that a couple of different ways.

    With 150 rooms and 21- 23 kivas, it is the largest cliff dwelling in North America, and housed roughly 100 individuals at the peak of its occupation. Like others of Mesa Verde’s alcove communities, it was largely built in stages during the 13th century, and mysteriously abandoned at the beginning of the 14th so people only lived here for one hundred years or so. Along with its size, it differs from the other large houses in its unusual amount of kivas and other ceremonial rooms which may indicate its use as a religious and administrative hub for the greater Mesa Verde region. It’s possible that not all of the living spaces were occupied full time but housed visitors gathering for important religious observances, administrative meetings and trade markets.

    By the time of its first formal excavation (1909) it had also suffered the most vandalism from pot hunters who had damaged or destroyed many walls and foundations, and looted most of the artifacts which could be easily carried away.

    You can only get up close to the ruins on seasonally guided tours. Tickets/time slots for those can be reserved at the Visitor Center (recommended: near the entrance to the park) Morefield Ranger Station (near the campground) or Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez. Tours are $4 for all ages, and last about an hour. Photography and evening tours (additional fees) are also available.

    NOTE: this is the most popular of the cliff dwellings requiring a tour so tickets sell out FAST. To have the best chance of snagging them during peak season, plan to arrive at the Visitor Center first thing in morning!!

    http://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/guided_activities.htm

    http://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/tour_tickets.htm

    Accessing the site involves the ability to climb stairs, five 8-10’ ladders, and walking one quarter of a mile. No food or sweetened drinks are allowed, please, but bring a full water bottle, and wear good, sturdy shoes (no heels or flimsy sandals, ladies!) and a hat if it’s hot. Infants and toddlers must carried in backpacks - not in your arms - and children must be able to manage the ladders on their own. Tours do not go inside the structures themselves.

    If you’re not physically up to managing the ladders or can’t get tickets, you may view the ruins from a distance at Cliff Palace Overlook (paved trail and 1 flight of stairs: not wheelchair accessible) or Sun Temple Overlook (accessible).

    You may read more about cliff dwellings and their people in my Mesa Verde travelogue:

    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/cae25/

    And the informational booklet available for a small fee at the park may be downloaded (for free!) here:

    http://www.mesaverde.org/files/uploaded-images/2012-CliffPalaceBook.pdf

    Last note? Skip the expensive, 4-hour bus tour offered by Aramark: the Cliff Palace part is the same ranger-guided tour you can purchase $4 tickets for on your own.

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    Where do I start?

    by goodfish Updated Dec 4, 2014

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    At the Mesa Verde Visitor Center, of course! Their modern, ‘green’ facility is located just off Hwy 160, at the bottom of the mesa and just before the entrance station. The FIRST THING to do here is to purchase your tickets for a time slot at any of the three cliff dwellings which require ranger-guided tours!!!* After that’s accomplished you can browse the displays and bookshop, and use the restrooms before heading up to the park. Don’t forget to fill your water bottle!

    Note: if booked, don’t underestimate the time it may take to get to the location of your tour. If yours is within 2 hours of the purchase of your ticket, save the browse for when you exit the park - especially during peak season when traffic is heavy. Larger RVs are going to do a slow chug up the steep switchbacks to the top.

    *See my "Touring the Cliff Dwellings" page more more info.

    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/240eab/

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    Touring the cliff dwellings

    by goodfish Written Dec 4, 2014

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    They’re not the only things to see and do at Mesa Verde but are without a doubt the stars of the show! There are 5 with which to get up close to, and I’ll go into a little more detail on each in individual reviews but here’s some top-line info on which require guided tours, where to get tickets, and how they’re grouped.

    •The 3 which require guided tours by NPS rangers are Cliff Palace and Balcony House (Chapin Mesa) and Long House (Wetherill Mesa)

    • 2 may be explored on your own although a ranger is always on duty to answer questions. These are Spruce Tree House (Chapin) and Step House (Wetherill).

    • TICKETS ARE NOT SOLD AT THE CLIFF-DWELLING SITES. They can be purchased at the Mesa Verde Visitor Center, Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez, Morefield Ranger Station or Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum for $4, all ages: no discounts. The museum, near Spruce Tree House, should be your LAST choice as it’s at the top of the mesa - a slooooow 20 miles from the park entrance - and same-day slots are likely to be sold out if you wait until this point. If you’re in the area for a couple of days, you can buy tickets up to 2 days in advance.

    See this page for ticket-sales hours at each outlet:
    http://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/guided_activities.htm

    • You will have to select an available time slot when you buy your tickets. Ideally, all the Chapin Mesa sites should be seen on one day and Wetherill’s on another but depending on how busy the park is, you may not be allowed to book tours for both Balcony House AND Cliff Palace on the same day. If worst comes to worst, try booking either of the two Chapin cliff dwellings in the morning, and Long House in the afternoon, or vice versa. It’s 18 miles or so between these two locations so give yourself enough time, OK?

    • The cliff dwellings are open seasonally: see the same link for ticket outlets above. Wetherhill sites are the most restricted with the access road open only from Memorial through Labor Day weekends.

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    How much time do I need?

    by goodfish Written Dec 3, 2014

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    The key to planning a visit here is getting a handle on how the park is laid out, and why it takes some time to explore.

    The cliff dwellings and other archeological sites aren’t clustered together in one spot but are spread over the tops of two mesas: Chapin and Wetherill. Getting to them involves a 15-mile climb up a steep, winding road to where it splits off to each of the mesas. From there it’s 5 miles one-way to the main dwellings at Chapin, 12 miles to those at Wetherill, and these branch roads have to be backtracked: they don’t form a loop. You can see a park map here:

    http://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/upload/mevemap13_viewable.pdf

    Low speed limits, heavy traffic during high season and feral horses or other wildlife wandering about all add up to a light foot on the gas! And unless you’re on an escorted tour, you need your own vehicle: there are no shuttles to or around all sections of this park.

    Additionally, most of the sites at Wetherhill may only be accessed by free hop-on/hop-off tram or on foot. The trams leave the Wetherhill information kiosk every 30 minutes and make stops at 8 locations. Priority seating is given to tourists with tickets for guided tours at Long House so you could have a wait on a very busy day.

    Throw in time for overlooks and roadside ruins, exploring any or all of the five cliff dwellings (3 require guided tours; 2 can be done independently) and any hiking you wish to do? Plan for at least two days. Not interested in or up to seeing dwellings which require steep climbs and scrambling up ladders? One day will probably do ya.

    More on the tram, mandatory NPS tours and individual cliff dwellings in separate reviews.

    http://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm

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    Spruce Tree House

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Apr 12, 2013

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    This is the best preserved cliff dwelling and one of the few with open access. No tour ticket is required, however rangers patrol the area to ensure you don't access unauthorized areas. It's a half mile hike from the parking lot to the dwelling.

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    Cliff Palace Overlook

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Apr 12, 2013

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    Mesa Verde is dotted with hundreds of small cliff dwellings. The largest of these is the Cliff Palace. An overview allows a good view from the cliff face above down into the structure. To enter the structure you must buy a $3 tour ticket from the Visitor's center and go on a guided tour.

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    Accessibility

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

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    The rugged terrain here makes the dwellings inaccessible for those in wheelchairs or with other health issues. Many of the dwelling are visible though from accessible overlooks. Many facilities at the Far View Terrace and Visitors Center are accessible as are the Chapin Mesa Museum. For more information on accessible facilities at the park, inquire with the NPS Rangers.

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