Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

This archaeological preserve located in Montezuma County, Colorado was established as Mesa Verde National Park in 1906. A popular National Park, it is also the largest archaeological preserve in the US, as well as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Tens of thousands of visitors come to Mesa Verde each year to see the thousands of Anasazi ruins which are present in various conditions throughout the park.
Mesa Verde National Forest

The ruins were built along the top edges of the canyon walls as well as within alcoves located within the cliff walls, over the course of 1,000 years throughout the Mesa Verde area. Though many ruins are likely yet to be discovered, there are currently 5,000 known archaeological sites, 600 of which are cliff dwellings.

Mesa Verde 3

The ruins located just atop the canyon walls (example shown above) treat visitors to more easily accessed ruins, as well as beautiful views of the surrounding southwestern landscape. However, it is the well preserved ruins constructed in the canyon walls themselves that intrigue guests the most, especially those precariously placed high above the canyon floor.

Regardless of the location of the sites, the amazing ancient structures of Mesa Verde draw guests from around the world, inviting visitors to discover the wonders created by the ancient North American culture of the Anasazi.

Mesa Verde

If you are looking for adventure, there are many miles of park trails to explore at Mesa Verde, providing endless hours of exploration in this vast park. However, you should take care to watch out for rattlesnakes, as the park does have a few!

The park is lovely any time of the year, though access is restricted during the winter months and summer visits are likely to be hot and dry. Early fall and late spring visits provide a cooler stay at the park, while a visit during color drive season ensures unique views of an autumn colored Mesa Verde. Viewing some of the ruins at sunset or sunrise is a special treat, as the orange colored light baths the old structures creating an enchanting vision of days past.

Mesa Verde Sunset

Settled by the Anasazi people in about 550 AD, Mesa Verde is inhabited by wildlife such as deer, rabbits, coyotes, snakes, lizards and many species of birds. Having reached the height of their civilization around 1100-1300 AD, the Anasazi population may have reached several thousand individuals during this time. They left behind clues which give us some notion as to their way of life; pieces of hand painted pottery, long forgotten jars of ancient stored corn, stone tools and other fascinating items have been found in, and around, the ruins of Mesa Verde.

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Bioluminescent 1
Mesa Verde Cliff Palace

The cliff dwellings, mostly built from 1190-1270 AD, are commonly viewed as the most spectacular of the ruins at Mesa Verde National Park.  The most well-known of these cliff dwellings is the “Balcony House” which contains over 200 rooms and is pretty easily accessible. Meanwhile the notorious “Cliff Palace” (shown above) offers stunning and exhilarating views of the surrounding landscape from it’s position high in the cliff wall.

Ascending to the Cliff Palace in particular is not an adventure for the faint of heart. A short climb up a wooden later or two is required to reach this awe inspiring destination, but well worth the trouble for those who dare!

Cliff Palace Climb

Comfortable lodging is available at several in Park facilities, such as the Far View Lodge. Reflecting it’s surroundings in the park, this lodge is an excellent place to find solitude, a break from the problems of life and free from modern distractions like tv and cell phone service. The lodge boasts plenty of wild animal watching and breathtaking views of Mesa Verde. Accommodations include a choice of the lodges’ Standard Rooms, which come complete with private balcony and in-room refrigerator, or a Kiva Room for the upgraded ambiance of handcrafted furniture, and air-conditioning with a private balcony.

Far View Lodge

Delicious dining is also available; you can grab a fantastic bite to eat at either the Spruce Tree Terrace Café, the Mesa Verde Metate Room Restaurant, which received “Award of Culinary Excellence” from the American Culinary Federation Colorado Chefs Association in the area of sustainable cuisine, or the Far View Terrace Café, which is located near the Far View Lodge as well as the Far View Visitor center.

Mesa Verde Far View Lodge

Between the ancient cultural aspects and the natural beauty of Mesa Verde National Park, it is well worth the trip and offers a unique vacation experience you will never forget!

Mesa Verde National Park

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Image Credits (In order of appearance) 

photo credit: j-fi via photopin cc
photo credit: Dougtone via photopin cc
photo credit: Dougtone via photopin cc
photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc
photo credit: mistersmed via photopin cc
photo credit: PSHiker via photopin cc

photo credit: Ken Lund via photopin cc
photo credit: Ken Lund via photopin cc

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