7 Things You Can’t Miss in Mesa Verde National Park

7 Things You Can’t Miss in Mesa Verde National Park

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, Mesa Verde 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 Amazing Things to Do in Mesa Verde National Park

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Last Updated: April 5, 2019 // First Published: June 31, 2016

7 THINGS TO DO IN MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK

Thing to Do

Address, map

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PHOTO

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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 both the Balcony House and the Cliff Palace.

Pro Tip: Tickets must be purchased in person at the Visitor Center, Museum or the Durango Welcome Center. You can get them two days in advance since they sell out quickly. Consider doing a sunrise or twilight tour for the best light for photography.

Touring the Balcony House in Mesa Verde National Park Colorado // localadventurer.com

2. Take a Self-Guided Tour of Step House

Trailhead Coordinates: 37.195987, -108.537305, map

This is a one mile trail that’s somewhat steep and winding. You can take this tour at your own pace, and there is a ranger there to answer any questions. It’s also nice that it’s in the quieter area of the park.

Step House Mesa Verde National Park Self-Guided Tour in Wetherill Mesa
Step House Mesa Verde Colorado Self-Guided Tour in Wetherill Mesa

35853 Rd H.5, Mancos, 81328, map

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.

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.

Square Tower House Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado USA // localadventurer.com

Coordinates: 37.184413, -108.488427, map

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.

Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum at Mesa Verde CO

6. 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 (photo below), and be sure to check the site to see when they might open it up again.

Spruce Tree House Mesa Verde National Park Colorado

7. Hike Far View Sites Complex

Coordinates: 37.237945, -108.503248, map

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.

More National Parks in Colorado: Great Sand Dunes + Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Far View Sites Mesa Verde National Park Colorado

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.

More Things to Do In Mesa Verde CO

  • Take a Sunrise Hike in the Backcountry – 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.
  • 700 Years Tour gives you a great overview of the park’s main attractions and its history.
  • Petroglyph Point Trail – It’s a 2.4 mile hike and the only place in Mesa Verde you can see petroglyphs.
  • Park Point Fire Lookout – Had great views of the canyon.
  • Soda Canyon Overlook Trail – 0.7 mi hike to a great view of Balcony House.
  • Spruce Canyon Trail – 3.1 mi out and back, moderate hike that goes down into the canyon and then back out.
  • Farming Terrace Trail – 1/2 mile loop and leisurely walk where you see farming terraces and check dams made by Ancestral Puebloans.
  • Join an Evening Campfire Talk – It’s a 45-60 min ranger-led talk located in the Morefield Campground.
  • 12 Hours of Mesa Verde – Endurance mountain bike race in May

Map of Mesa Verde National Park Attractions

Essential TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT TO MESA VERDE

  • 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 extremely afraid of heights, you may want to opt out.
  • 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.

Photography Tips

  • 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).

What to Pack for Your Visit

7 Things You Can't Miss in Mesa Verde National Park

Where To Eat

  • Dine in Metate Room – If you’re staying at Far View Lodge, it’s extremely convenient and delicious. We ate here both nights and some of the best views of the park.
  • Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe – You have to try their navajo taco. At first I thought it was going to be gimmicky but ended up being so good!
  • Knife Edge Cafe at Morefield Campground – All you can eat pancakes.

Best Places to Stay Near Mesa Verde

ATTRACTIONS NEAR MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK

What UNESCO World Heritage Sites have you visited?

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7 Things to Do in Mesa Verde National Park Colorado that You Can't Miss
7 Things You Can't Miss in Mesa Verde National Park
7 Amazing Things to Do in Mesa Verde National Park
7 Things You Can't Miss in Mesa Verde National Park

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in NYC.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. This is a beautiful place to visit.
    Any true Native American will feel they’re spiritual ancestors still present in this amazing place!

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