Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

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Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park Colorado

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


Pit houses in Mesa Verde National Park
Pit houses in Mesa Verde National Park Photo: Dsdugan, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons public domain


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.


Sun Temple in Mesa Verde National Park
Imagine the pueblo buildings as in the Sun Temple in Mesa Verde National Park Photo: Wikimedia Commons public domain


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.


One of Mesa Verde's Cliff Dwellings
One of Mesa Verde's Cliff Dwellings with warehouses and kivas


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.


cliff settlement
Clifftop settlement in Mesa Verde National Park


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.


View from the mesa
View in Mesa Verde National Park


Best time to visit

Mesa Verde National Park is open all year round. However, this does not mean that all activities and facilities are open all year round. Certain attractions and offers may also be closed from time to time, be it for repairs or for other reasons. The best place to find out more is on the National Park website about the current opening times. Most offers 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
In some places, hiking in Mesa Verde National Park requires a guided tour


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:

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* 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 and book flights 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 definitely need:

  • Shoes, which you can also use to walk over uneven terrain. The hiking trails in the national park are rocky and rough.
  • A  backpack, for example by taking your equipment with you for a day. It can get very hot during the day in summer. Therefore you need enough water.
  • Also take one 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 definitely check that.


Do you like to travel by motorhome?

  • Do you want to rent a mobile home? Then you will find information and a selection of booking options.
  • You can find pitches at the Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park. (Phone 1-800-449-2288)
  • Also 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

Here you can reserve your parking space at the airport.


Compare and book flights here*. Denver has an international airport where direct flights from Germany and Europe land.

Rent a car for your Colorado trip :

Cheap Car Hire - Book Fast and Easy! *

Camper Rentals:

Compare motorhome prices here.


Accommodation in Denver* You can book through our partner

Colorado Travel Guide:

Order your Colorado travel guide here*.

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Mesa Verde National Park
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Source: own research while traveling. Our opinions definitely remain our own.

Text: Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos: Pixabay, Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons in the public domain
Video: Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

Monika Fuchs

Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the authors and publishers of the Slow Travel and Enjoyment travel blog TravelWorldOnline Traveller. You have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline has been online since 2001. Your topics are Trips to Savor and wine tourism worldwide and Slow Travel. During her studies, Monika Fuchs spent some time in North America, where she traveled to the USA and Canada - sometimes together with Petar Fuchs - and spent a research year in British Columbia. This strengthened her thirst for knowledge, which she pursued for 6 years Adventure Guide for Rotel Tours and then for 11 years as Study tour guide for Studiosus Reisen tried to breastfeed all over the world. She constantly expanded her travel regions, but curiosity still gnawed at her: “What is beyond the horizon? What else is there to discover in this city? Which people are interesting here? What do you eat in this region?” These are the questions she is now trying to answer as a freelance travel journalist (her articles have appeared in DIE ZEIT, 360° Canada, 360° USA, etc.), among others. travel writer and travel blogger answers in many countries around the world. Petar Fuchs produces the videos on this blog as well as on YouTube. Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline is below Germany's top 50 bloggers in 2021 Other Information about Monika and Petar Fuchs. Recommendations on LinkedIn from tourism experts Further recommendations from cooperation partners and tourism experts Professional experience Monika on LinkedIn