Mesa Verde National Park Things to Do

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

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

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    You can go take a peek inside Looking down into a kiva
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Archeology
    • National/State Park

    Was this review helpful?

  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Chapin Mesa: Spruce Tree House

    by goodfish Written Dec 12, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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

    Related to:
    • Seniors
    • Family Travel
    • Budget Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    How much time do I need?

    by goodfish Written Dec 3, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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

    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • National/State Park
    • Road Trip

    Was this review helpful?

  • OlenaKyiv's Profile Photo

    Where to go, what to see?

    by OlenaKyiv Written Jul 12, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Overlook between geological overlook and meseum Montezuma Valley overlook
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • National/State Park

    Was this review helpful?

  • OlenaKyiv's Profile Photo

    From where to begin

    by OlenaKyiv Updated Jul 12, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Cliff Palace Cliff Canyon, from Cliff Palace
    Related to:
    • National/State Park

    Was this review helpful?

  • Martinewezel's Profile Photo

    Cliff Palace

    by Martinewezel Updated Feb 27, 2005

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Mesa Verde
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Castles and Palaces

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Sun Point

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Sun Point Tower Sun Point Kiva
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Oak Tree House

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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

    Oak Tree House Oak Tree House
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Geologic Overlook

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Geologic Overlook
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Museum Displays in the Visitors' Center

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Pottery Display Basketry Jewelry
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Far View Sites: Coyote Village

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Coyote Village Coyote Village
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Far View Sites: Far View House

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Far View House
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Far View Sites: Far View Tower

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Far View Tower
    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • National/State Park
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Far View Sites: Pipe Shrine House

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Far View Community was one of the most densely populated areas in the Mesa Verde area, with over 50 villages in a 1/2 square mile area. Pipe Shrine House got its name from the 12 pottery pipes found while excavating the kiva floor here. Note the neat design on the stone to the left of the doorway in Photo 2.

    Pipe Shrine House Pipe Shrine House
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Chapin Mesa Facilities and Museum

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    As you enter the first part of Chapin Mesa there is a large parking area and a number of buildings and facilities on the right. One of the buildings is the excellent Chapin Mesa Museum. This museum is well worth seeing and has a number of well-done, informative displays that will give you insight into the people who built these dwellings and called Mesa Verde home. Displays include: Dioramas, pottery, rugs, paintings and other types of displays. The types of pottery found at a site is a good indicator of when an area was occupied and how extensive their trade and social relationships with other locations were. Most pottery produced in the Mesa Verde area was the black on white design. I was very impressed by this museum and found it fascinating.
    In addition to the museum, this complex offers a post office, and a restaurant and gift shop.

    Museum Pottery Diorama Painting Rug
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Historical Travel
    • Archeology

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Mesa Verde National Park

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

35 travelers online now

Comments

Mesa Verde National Park Things to Do

Reviews and photos of Mesa Verde National Park things to do posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Mesa Verde National Park sightseeing.

View all Mesa Verde National Park hotels