Mesa Verde National Park History
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado USA is one of the most fascinating national parks in the Southwest USA. If you are interested in native culture, then you will learn a lot about the culture of the Anasazi here. This group is an ethnic group that science doesn't know much about. Even the Navajo who live in the neighborhood had no idea of their existence. They called them the "Mysterious Ancients."
Another source less graciously translates the Navajo name as "enemies of our ancestors." In science today one speaks more of the "ancestors of the Puebloans", like archaeologist Dr. Michelle I Turner explained to me. To this day, no one knows what they called themselves. One article says, "They came out of nowhere and disappeared into nowhere." That pretty much sums up what is known about the Anazasi. Even the Navajo who live in the neighborhood didn't discover Mesa Verde's cliff-top settlements until the 16th century. In 1888, two Mancos cowboys, Charlie Mason and Richard Wetherill, stumbled across the settlements while looking for runaway cattle.
Mesa Verde National Park Cards
What can you see in the National Park?
pit houses and pueblo buildings
Today we know that the region of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado was settled from about 600 to 1300 AD. At first, these people lived in so-called pit houses. At that time, nature on the table mountain was more livable. There was enough rain. The soil was fertile and the forests provided timber. Springs carried sufficient water, and game made hunting possible. From about 750 the Anasazi abandoned their pit dwellings. Instead, they began building mud houses on the surface. However, they soon switched to building houses made of stone. These are reminiscent of the villages of the Pueblo Indians. From that time on, the pit houses were mainly used for ceremonial purposes and as kivas. This is a kind of ceremonial meeting room.
The Cliff Dwellings are the most spectacular
The main attractions of Mesa Verde are certainly the cliff dwellings. The Anasazi only began to withdraw to the settlements in the steep slopes around 1200 AD. There are about 600 of them in the National Park. The largest and most famous are the Spruce Tree House, the Cliff Palace and the Balcony House. What was the reason for the retreat to the rock dwellings is not certain. The mere fact that only about half of the population retreated to the cliff faces suggests that defense was not the primary reason. Although there is evidence that the Anasazi were threatened by others. The science leans more towards a drought being the trigger. This reached its peak between 1275 and 1299. By 1300 AD, Mesa Verde was virtually uninhabited.
What's the best way to visit Mesa Verde National Park?
There are different possibilities. I have been to Mesa Verde several times myself. I was several times Camping in the national park. Other times I've visited the park as a stop on a road trip from either Cortez or Durango. You can also stay in a hotel in the national park, but only in one place. It depends on how much time you take and where you want to stay. Because Mesa Verde offers only limited possibilities.
For getting there, cars or RVs are the best choice if you want to see Mesa Verde on your own. There are now charging stations for electric cars at Far View Lodge, albeit in limited numbers and with low charging capacity. The national park is also good for hiking. The adventurous among you will also get their money's worth. For a visit to the Cliff Palace or the Balcony House you should definitely have a head for heights. If you want to visit the Cliff Palace, the Long House, the Mug House, the Square Tower House or the Balcony House, you need to book a ticket for the guided tour.
Mesa Verde National Park Award
Entrance fees to the National Park range from $20-$30 depending on the time of year. You can find out the current prices on the National Park website.
How long does it take to get to Mesa Verde National Park?
That depends on what you are planning for your stay. If you only have one day, I recommend a self-drive tour that includes a hike to the Spruce Tree House, a drive on the Mesa Top Loop with a stop at the Pit Houses and Villages, a drive on the Cliff Palace Loop, or maybe a guided tour through the Cliff Palace. However, you will not be able to do all the viewpoints and guided hikes along this route that day. You need more time for that. If you want to take a closer look at this route, you need 2-3 days. You also need 1-2 days for the tour to Wetherill Mesa if you want to see everything.
Best time to visit
Mesa Verde National Park is open year-round. However, this does not mean that all activities and facilities are also open all year round. Certain sights and offers may also be closed from time to time, whether for repairs or for other reasons. It is best to find out more on the National Park websiteabout the current opening hours. Most activities are available from May to October.
Weather in Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde's table mountain rises about 600 meters (2000 ft) above the surrounding land. At its highest point it reaches a height of almost 2600 meters (8500 ft). This leaves the landscape on the Mesa more exposed to the elements than in the lower parts of the Four Corners Region. Nevertheless, the climate is rather mild. During the winter months from December to February, temperatures on the Mesa hover around 0°C (32°F) during the day. At night, the values usually fall into the simple minus range. Nevertheless, snowfalls and icy roads can occur. Due to the remote region, this can lead to road conditions that are more difficult to drive on, as there are not a large number of clearing vehicles or road salt spreading options available there. The best way to find out more is to go to the National Park website for the current conditions.
Hiking in Mesa Verde National Park Colorado
With the exception of the Soda Canyon Trail, all hiking trails in Mesa Verde National Park are strenuous. They often lead steeply uphill and downhill. You often have to climb a lot of stairs. In some places there are also high ladders to climb. You should always have enough water with you, because the climate conditions are dry. On top of that, there are only a few places where you can buy drinks along the way.
Mesa Verde National Park Hikes
If you are in good physical condition, I recommend these hikes:
- The guided hike to the Cliff Palace (a Ticket for the guided tour is required). Up to 40 people are allowed on the tour.
- Detailed descriptions for everyone Hiking trails in Mesa Verde National Park, which are possible without a guide, can be found on this page.
Mesa Verde National Park Hotels
There is only one hotel in the National Park. This is at the intersection of the main street with the street leading to Spruce Tree House, Cliff Palace and Balcony House and the turnoff to Wetherill Mesa. This hotel also has charging stations for electric cars. However, the capacities are small. It is therefore only worth charging your car overnight.
Far View Lodge is the Mesa Verde National Park Hotel
Mile marker 15
in Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330
Book a room here*
As this hotel is the only one in the national park, early reservations are strongly recommended.
Looking for a hotel near Mesa Verde National Park?
Mancos, Colorado is about eight miles from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park.
Here you find Hotels and accommodations in this place*.
Cities near the National Park
West of the National Park is the city of Cortez. From there it is a good 10 miles to the park entrance. Hotels and accommodation in Cortez* can be found here.
East of the National Park is the city of Durango. This is 35,5 miles from the park entrance. Hotels and accommodation in Durango* can be found here.
A selection of the best hotels near Mesa Verde National Park
Accommodations in the Mesa Verde National Park area are scarce. Therefore we present the best hotels, motels and lodging near Mesa Verde National Park here. We recommend reserving these early.
Camping in Mesa Verde National Park
There is one campsite in the National Park, the Morefield Campground. This is located about four miles from the park entrance and has 267 campsites. Of these, 15 are full hookups, 15 are for RVs only and 85 are for tents only. The campsite is open from spring to autumn. You can reserve a parking space by calling 1-800-449-2288. However, the campsite is rarely full.
National Park restaurants
There are several restaurants and cafes in the National Park.
At Morefield Campground, you can get snacks, groceries and drinks from the campground shop. You can get breakfast at the Knife Edge Café, which can also be found at Morefield Campground.
There are two restaurants at Far View Lodge. The Far View Lounge serves snacks, pub grub and appetizers. The Metate Room, also at the hotel, is the park's only fine dining restaurant. Here you can get game, fish and local products.
Not far away is the Far View Terrace Cafe. Breakfast and lunch are served there. In the Mesa Mocha Espresso Bar you get coffee and espresso.
Cafeteria-style dining is available at the Spruce Tree Terrace Café. Starters, salads, main courses and desserts are served.
Airports near Mesa Verde National Park
There are flights to Durango, Colorado from the international airport in Denver, Colorado. Compare prices here*.
That has to be in your suitcase, if you want to hike in Mesa Verde National Park
You should be well equipped for hiking in Mesa Verde National Park. You need:
- Shoes, with which you can walk over uneven terrain. The hiking trails in the national park are rocky and rough.
- A backpack, where you take your equipment with you for a day. It can get very hot during the day in summer. So you need enough water.
- Take a snack with you. There are no restaurants or shops in the more remote parts of the national park.
- In the summer you also need a hat that protects against the sun. The paths are often in the blazing sun.
- Did you pack everything for a hike? With our hiking checklist you can easily check that.
Do you like to travel by motorhome?
- Do you want to rent a motorhome? Then you will find information and a selection in these booking options.
- You can find pitches at the Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park. (Phone 1-800-449-2288)
- Check our packing list for campers to see whether you have packed everything for your motorhome tour.
Travel organization to Denver, Colorado:
Parking at the airport
Arrival by plane, bus or train*. Denver has an international airport where direct flights from Germany and Europe land.
Rent a car for your Colorado trip :
Accommodation in Denver* You can book through our partner booking.com.
Colorado Travel Guide:
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Source: own research while traveling
Text: Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos: Pixabay, Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons in the public domain
Video: Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Last update on 30.11.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API