Mesa Verde National Park Things to Do

  • Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde
    Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde
    by goodfish
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  • Things to Do
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Best Rated Things to Do in Mesa Verde National Park

  • painterdave's Profile Photo

    Take at least a whole day

    by painterdave Updated Feb 20, 2010

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    You can go take a peek inside
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    There are several sites of dwelling in the canyons and also on top of the mesa. You will not want to be in a hurry, so plan at least one whole day for you visit. Don't miss the museum and visitor's center. There are many chances to stop for photos along the way, so take advantage of those.
    There is a campground for campers, and the rangers plan activities at night for families where they give talks about animal life, the history of Mesa Verde and other topics of interest.
    You will find a restaurant for food if you haven't brought a picnic lunch. In the summer carry a water bottle, watch out for rattlesnakes along the trail.
    Sunset photo ops can be terrific.
    During the winter after a snowfall your camera will be busy. It is beautiful at that time with the colors of the rocks, the pine trees and the snow.
    The last photo shows a kiva where religious ceremonies were held. This was also a "men only" gathering place.

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    Touring the three major cliff dwellings

    by goodfish Updated Nov 20, 2011

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    There are 3 large cliff dwellings that can can only be toured, up close, with an NPS ranger:

    Cliff Palace, on Chapin Mesa, is the largest and involves climbing five 8-ft. ladders. It's not scary or very difficult - there were children on our tour and they had no issues with it, although I wouldn't bring the very little ones.

    Balcony House is also on Chapin Mesa and is a little more difficult to explore. Seeing that site involves climbing a 32-ft. ladder, two 10-ft. ladders on an open rock face, and a 12-ft. crawl through an 18" wide tunnel.

    Long House (Wetherill Mesa) involves climbing three 15-ft. ladders, and a 3/4 mile hike.

    Spruce House (see next tip) tours are only mandatory from early November to early March.

    The tours take about one hour to an hour and a half and cost $3.00 per person. Tickets can only be purchased at Far View Visitor Center (not at the sites!!!) except for Oct. 18 to Nov. 7 - purchase them at the Chapin Museum during those couple of weeks.

    As these are the most popular sites and are first-come, first-served, they recommend getting there early to purchase tickets and then seeing some of the overlooks, self-guided sites, or the museum at Chapin Mesa until time for your tour. During peak season, it's possible that you won't be able to get tickets to more than one site in a single day.

    For those unable to walk or climb, there is accessibility info for the overlooks at the Visitor Center, Chapin Mesa Museum, and all of the ranger stations. Park brochures indicate that wheelchairs may need assistance at these overlooks.

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  • lisa85202's Profile Photo

    Check out Balcony House Tour in the Afternoon

    by lisa85202 Written Feb 7, 2012

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    One of the ladders to enter Balcony House
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    Balcony House is a very fun tour, with lots of ladders and tunnels. You cannot see this cliff dwelling from the road, therefore I recommend this guided tour. If visiting during the summer months, plan this tour in the afternoon, then your tour will be in the shade!

    Tour tickets must be purchased in advance at the Visitor Center. ($3 each)

    Allow plenty of time to get to the tour. The road through the park is quite lengthy with a slow speed limit.

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    Wetherill Mesa

    by lisa85202 Written Feb 7, 2012

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    The Tram Ride
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    I only recommend going if you have lots of time. Chapin Mesa is the place to start- but if you have extra time, take the drive to Wetherill Mesa. It did seem like a very long drive, but the views were amazing.

    When you get to the parking area they have a tram ride (I'm pretty sure it was free). We were worn out by this time, so enjoyed the ride. It was in one of those open air vehicles with a canopy. They take you on a ~45min ride with a stop to view Long House from afar. We didn't do the full walking tour of this particular cliff dwelling. There are two stops where you can get out of the tram to tour on your own,... we just stayed on for the ride.

    The area had been burned by a wildfire, so not much greenery. We did see wild horses playing on the hillside as well as a deer that ran right in front of the vehicle.

    A very enjoyable way to finish off the trip to Mesa Verde when your feet are worn out!

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Stuff you can see without a guide

    by goodfish Updated Nov 20, 2011

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    Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde
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    While you need tickets and a guide to tour the three largest of the cliff dwellings, there are also plenty of things to see on your own.

    Spruce Tree House (Chapin Mesa) is not far from Balcony House and Cliff Palace so it's a great way to spend your time while waiting for a guided tour. It's a 100 ft. descent (1/2 mile round trip) on a paved path and takes about an hour. An NPS ranger will be on site for questions. This is only a self-guided site from early March to early November: during the winter, guided NPS tours are mandatory.

    Step House (Wetherill Mesa) is also a 100 ft descent and is about 3/4 mile, round trip. Badger House (Wetherill Mesa) is 1.5 miles, round trip.

    Mesa Top Loop Road (Chapin Mesa) is a 6-mile driving tour with 12 stops at easily accessible sites with paved trails.

    Hikers, there's a whole list of options available for those looking for the path less traveled.

    Best bet? Pull up the website to help you plan your trip, then make sure that your first stop is Far View Visitor Center for tickets, maps, permits, and detailed information.

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  • OlenaKyiv's Profile Photo

    Where to go, what to see?

    by OlenaKyiv Written Jul 12, 2007

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    Overlook between geological overlook and meseum
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    Mesa Verde Park has one entrance from US-160. On the entrance you will pay your entrance fee to a ranger. You will get detailed map of the park that will be most useful in your tours. Inside of the park in 15 miles a road splits up on 2 major roads: Wetherhill Mesa Road and Chapin Mesa Road. Chapin Road is more popular among visitors; it is paved and has more points of interest. So if you come to Mesa Verde for a day or less I would advice to take Chapin Road. I personally didn’t go to Wetherhill Mesa Road, because we just didn’t have time. As park’s map shows there is some type of tram route that brings visitors through sites.

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  • OlenaKyiv's Profile Photo

    From where to begin

    by OlenaKyiv Updated Jul 12, 2007

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    Cliff Palace
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    If you have only a day or less in Mesa Verde, it will be the best if you start from Cliff Palace Loop without stopping by Chapin Mesa Museum. First of all, it is better to take early morning tour while a sun is not so high and it is not so hot. Secondly, after tours you will be tired and hot, if it is summer, and you will want to sit down somewhere and to have a drink of a cool water. Museum is one of the best places for this.

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  • Martinewezel's Profile Photo

    Cliff Palace

    by Martinewezel Updated Feb 27, 2005

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    Mesa Verde

    It was about 10 am when we arrived at the Visitor Center. We planned to visit Cliff Palace, cause this was the "must see" we heard about.

    First letdown: there was an immense queue of people waiting to be registered for a visit with a park ranger.

    Second bummer: if we liked to visit Cliff Palace we had to wait until 4pm.

    So we decided to explore the park on our own, stopping at several observation points. The scenery is magnificent... no chance to get bored!

    From "Cliff Palace Overlook", the place where the visit normally starts, we had a spectacular view over Cliff Palace.

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    Sun Point

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

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    Sun Point Tower
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    The Sun Point Stop shows you the ruins of a village built during the latter stages of the Classic Pueblo Period of architecture. One characteristic of this period is the location of the tower and kiva inside the walls of the village.

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    Oak Tree House

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

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    Oak Tree House
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    Here at Oak Tree House notice how the inhabitants attempted to make the best use of all available space. Floors of the alcoves were filled as needed to stabilize rooms and to provide work areas and a safe place for the children to play. Also note in Photo 2 how they built additional storage rooms on the ledge above

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    Geologic Overlook

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Geologic Overlook

    One of the earlier pullouts along the access road, before the visitors center, is an interesting area that teaches about the geologic origins of the rock forming the cliffs where the Mesa Verde dwellings are built, and the seep springs that helped provided them with fresh water. The rock forming these cliffs started forming about 90 million years ago when the area was covered by a shallow sea. The Colorado Plateau began raising to its current 8000 feet about 65 million years ago.

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  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Museum Displays in the Visitors' Center

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Pottery Display
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    There is a very nice museum inside the Far View Visitors Center that has well done, informative displays about the geology of the rocks here and the peoples who settled the land and built the dwellings.

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    Far View Sites: Coyote Village

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Coyote Village
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    About 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) south of the visitors center is a grouping of villages called the Far View Community or Far View Sites. There is a short, level, unpaved 3/4 mile loop trail that leads through these villages. One village is called Coyote Village. Coyote Village has lots of rooms built together in a large building. Many of the smaller rooms were used for storage. Coyote Village also had a very nice Kiva (a special room used for ceremonial purposes) that was enclosed inside the walls of the building. Sites here were built and occupied from around 750 AD to 1300 AD a period of almost 700 years.

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    Far View Sites: Far View House

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Far View House

    Far View House was the first mesa-top site excavated by famous archeologist Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes, in 1916. Fewkes pioneered some of the early techniques used in the excavation and study of Pueblo sites in the Southwest and contributed greatly to our knowledge of their lives and habits. Far View House was built around 1000 AD and was occupied until the 1300s. It shares many architectural similarities (like planned community design, large rooms and doorways, massive walls, and the overall layout of rooms and kivas) with the sites in Chaco Canyon. The design of the building along with items like pottery, baskets and jewelry, found during excavation indicate extensive and far reaching trade relations.

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    Far View Sites: Far View Tower

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Far View Tower

    Another interesting site in the Far View Community was the Far View Tower. Towers were several stories tall, were built using double coursed masonry and only during the later periods of construction (usually 1100 to 1300 AD). The exact use of these towers is unknown but they were frequently connected to kivas by a tunnel so they may have been ceremonial or religious in use. What do you think? Also of particular interest to me were the "Keyhole Kivas", so called because of their shape like an old keyhole.

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Mesa Verde National Park Things to Do

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