Mesa Verde (Spanish for “green table”) is one of the most unique National Parks that we’ve visited in the US.. and the WORLD! It also happens to be a World Heritage Site, and when the UN first created the list, they made the first cut. There are 600 cliff dwellings and even more archeological sites that give you a look into the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived here from AD 600 to 1300.
7 THINGS TO DO IN MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
You can’t visit Mesa Verde without stepping into the cliff dwellings. It’s one thing to see them from afar, but when you get to walk in the footsteps of those who lived here it’s an amazing experience. We toured the Balcony House and hope to eventually tour the Cliff Palace.
2. Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
This is the best starting spot. You can chat with a ranger to learn about what is open and they can help you plan your time there. There are exhibits to check out. Plus, this is where you buy tickets to tour Cliff Palace or Balcony House.
3. Mesa Top Loop Road
This 6-mile driving tour has plenty of pull outs and short, paved trails to explore. There are surface dwellings to visit as well as overlooks to cliff dwellings. Be sure to check out Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook, and stop by the views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point and Sun Temple stops.
Check out displays and exhibits that give you a better understanding of what life was like for the Ancestral Puebloans. You’ll also find prehistoric artifacts and a movie to give you a quick overview.
5. View Spruce Tree House
This is the best-preserved cliff dwelling but unfortunately, it is currently closed due to safety concerns. You can still get a great view from it from the museum, and be sure to check the site to see when they might open it up again.
6. Hike Far View Sites Complex
A level 3/4 mile hike takes you to Far View House and four other villages. You can check out a dry reservoir as well.
If you’re looking to challenge yourself and visit some lesser known dwellings (like the Mug House, Oak Tree House, Spring House, etc), sign up for one of the backcountry tours.
WHAT NOT TO DO: DON’T TOUCH THE DWELLINGS!
Even after the ranger gave us a long talk prior about how fragile the structures are, we still saw people leaning on them and touching. We get into it a little more here. Please please please be respectful so that everyone in the future can experience this place the way you had the chance to see it.
PRO TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT TO MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- Be sure to check their site to see what is currently open. It changes depending on the season.
- Visiting a Cliff Dwelling is definitely the highlight of the park.
- The tours require climbing ladders and some hiking. If you’re afraid of heights. Only do what you’re comfortable with.
- It takes 45 minutes to an hour to get from the visitors center to the main attractions of the park. Keep that in mind when planning your activities.
- Drive slowly. There was a lot of wildlife crossing through when we went.
- We stayed at the Ancient Cedars @ Mesa Verde RV Resort, which is right across from the entrance to the park, and we enjoyed our stay! You can also see where else we’ve stayed on the #EndlessCaravan here.
- For driving the loop, bring a long lens. You’re really far from the cliff dwellings. We shot with a 70-200mm (full frame), but for many of the dwellings our 2x could have really helped.
- If you’re going on the tour, we took all our photos with a 35mm (full frame).
ATTRACTIONS NEAR MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- Cortez, Colorado (10.2 mi)
- Four Corners Monument (49.7 mi)
- Hovenweep National Monument (53.8 mi)
- Aztec Ruins National Monument (67.5 mi)
What World Heritage Sites have you visited that you would recommend?
A huge thank you to Airstream for powering our epic cross country road trip adventure.
See more info about our specific Airstream here. As always, all opinions, text, and images are our own.
You can virtually caravan with us by sharing your summer adventures with #endlesscaravan. Let’s go!