Mesa Verde National Park, A Wealth of History – Days 29-31

Stepping into Mesa Verde National Park is like taking a step back in time. You are surrounded by homes of the past. Imagine the feeling of knowing you are standing in a home that was built nearly 1,000 years ago. Suddenly, you feel incredibly small. It is an overwhelming feeling, and one that even the smallest of visitors can understand. That, is what makes Mesa Verde and its various cliff dwellings, pueblo ruins and remains of pit houses an amazing adventure in living history.

{Far View Sites}

The night we arrived it was looking pretty gloomy and running late, so we took a short drive from the Morefield Campground in the park out to the Far View Sites. This is a collection of five villages, including Far View House. It is a great way to be able to tour a variety of sites in one spot. You can tour the sites of the Ancestral Pueblo people’s homes built between 900-1300 A.D. on a 3/4 mile trail. This was our first taste of the history Mesa Verde had to offer and the boys really took it in. I was surprised, since they are still fairly young, but they really got into the ruins and understanding how the kivas were used and how the buildings were made. We also saw what turned out to be a fairly large night snake while there, which was an extra treat for the boys.

{The Chapin Mesa}

The next morning we got up early and headed to the part of the park known as the Chapin Mesa. Here, we drove the Mesa Top Loop Road, a 6 mile road that offers a 45 minute drive with stops to view various pueblos, pit houses and cliff dwelling observation sites. You can get an amazing view of Cliff Palace, one of the main cliff dwellings here if you are not able to go on the ranger guided tour to view in up close.

After taking the Mesa Top Loop Road, we headed to our ranger tour of Balcony House. Some of the cliff dwellings are not accessible via a self guided tour, and the only way to see them is to purchase tickets for a ranger guided tour. The tickets for the Balcony House tour are $3 and the tour itself requires being able to climb up steep tall ladders, walk on a cliff face and climb through a small narrow tunnel. It is not for the faint of heart, but getting to actually walk through the cliff dwellings and get top rate information from the ranger guide is more than worth it.

Chapin Mesa is also home to the Archaeological Museum, full of various artifacts from the park, tons of historical information about how the Ancestral Puebloan people lived and a 25 minute informational video. Once we had soaked up some historical knowledge, we walked down to tour Spruce Tree House. Be aware, since this is a self guided cliff dwelling, it will be far more packed than the tours and it may take longer to see what you want to see.

{Wetherill Mesa}

On our last day at Mesa Verde National Park, we toured the Wetherill Mesa. This is in another section of the park and takes nearly an hour to get to although it is only about 23 miles from the park entrance. Here, you park in the parking lot and a free tram takes you around to the various sites. The largest of these is the Badger House Community Trail, which has a collections of pueblos  on a relatively short walking trail that takes about 25 minutes to complete. There are also several lookout stops, including views of Long House, which is another dwelling that you can choose to take a ranger-led tour of. 

If you plan to visit Mesa Verde, there are plenty of sites at the Morefield Campground. Most sites are primitive, with no hook-ups, but there are 15 full hook-up sites available and access to flush toilets and showers. Rates are $27 for regular and $37 for full hook-up sites per night. We loved the history we found at Mesa Verde National Park and hope to return in the future to explore the past even more!


  1. It's amazing how well the structure has held up. I can't imagine living like that though. I'm too dependent on modern conveniences but I guess when you don't know any better back in the day, you make do.

  2. How cool to see something from such an old civilization ! We're not use to that here in the States.

  3. We visited this place when I was a teenager. I was so interesting, I would love to take my kids back.

  4. The Balcony House is amazing — I would LOVE to go there; I love archaeology.

  5. Wow, that is beyond amazing. I've always wanted to tour old cities such as that one. Will have to make note of there this one is because wow, it looks so rich in history.

  6. Eek! The snake picture caught me off guard! You couldn't be giving your boys a greater appreciation for the outdoors than you are doing with this trip!

  7. I would love to visit this park. You boys seriously are having the summer of their dreams.

  8. the structures are so pretty. I'm always amazed at how they hold up to the elements.

  9. I think this is my favorite of all the places you've visited so far. It's amazing the structures have held up as well as they have.

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