Bypass the bus
A 4-hour bus tour is offered by the concessionaire (Aramark) for Far View Lodge, Morefield Campground and the park’s few restaurants. The only reason I can fathom for booking these is to avoid doing any reading, making decisions on what to see, and/or purchasing cliff-dwelling tour tickets oneself.
• The tour starts at Far View Lodge/Terrace at the top of the mesa so you have to pay the $15/$10 park entry fee and drive all the way up/down yourself anyway
• The cost is $48 adults; $26 for children 5-11 (time of this writing) to see a few archeological sites which are free to begin with, and one cliff dwelling (Cliff Palace) for the very same ranger-guided tour which costs only $4 if you buy tickets at the Visitor Center.
• These tours do not go to Wetherhill Mesa: bus-sized vehicles aren’t allowed on that road
• The tours do not allow time for free exploration of Spruce Tree House; very near Cliff Palace: if you want to see this too you’ll have to drive all the way back to the site after the bus tour returns to Far View
• Not all visitors have the physical ability to do Cliff Palace. If you’re only up to handling overlook stops and a few of the sites which are flat and don’t involve a lot of walking/climbing (all of them free), the $15/$10 per-vehicle entry fee for a self-guided drive is a much better - and much less expensive - plan.
You do the math? A family of 4 with two teenagers can either shell out as much as $192 + $15/$10 vehicle entry fee for the bus, or a mere $16 +$15/$10 for Cliff Palace tickets and their own wheels. Information about the free sites can be found on the park website, at the Visitor Center, and on signage at the sites themselves, and you’ll be taking the same NPS tour of Cliff Palace as the bus bunch.
Fun Alternatives: This is a no-brainer:
Buy your tickets for Cliff Palace (or Long or Balcony Houses) at the Visitor Center
Download info from the NPS website and/or pick up materials when you buy your tickets
Drive to the sites yourselves
Save enough for three-figure meal at Far View's Metate restaurant or a nice hotel room
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
During most of the guided tours, the National Park Service Personnel will try to pick out the person who seems most interested in learning or is very vocal during the time they are sitting at the overlook waiting to go down the hill. In our tour, Sandy was chosen as the vocal one, and therefore she became the eligible bachelorette that taught us how Indian women of that time would prepare themselves for marriage. In this case, Sandy was required to make a fine corn flour for her future mother-in-law to taste to prove she is worthy of her son's hand in marriage.
Sandy spent a little time grinding some corn before it was time for the test.
Unique Suggestions: If you want to avoid being the example on the tour, it is best to ask your questions after the tour volunteers have been picked.
- Family Travel
- National/State Park
- Study Abroad
Wetherill Mesa a waste of time?
Un-maintenanced roads and overlooks. I was disappointed when we took the long drive to the other side of this park.
Unique Suggestions: If you have time left over and don't mind the long drive over to Wetherill Mesa...go ahead and check it out.
Fun Alternatives: I suggest that you hit the main part of the park before driving over to the Wetherill Mesa side.
- National/State Park
- Road Trip
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