Historic Cliff Dwellings Make This a True Gem
While the true attraction of most National Parks is the spectacular nature all over the country, Mesa Verde National Park is a little bit different, and in a good way. Of course, the landscape and scenery in and around the park is well worth the trip, but Mesa Verde adds something very unique, hundreds of cliff dwellings.
These cliff dwellings, homes and even entire villages carved into the canyon cliffs are some of the oldest and best preserved of it’s kind on the entire continent. Built anywhere from 600 to 1300 (centuries before America was even founded), these cliff dwellings were the homes of the Ancestral Puebloans.
So, not only is Mesa Verde a National Park in the conventional sense, it’s also a Cultural National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only about twenty in the entire United States. Now you can see why Mesa Verde is so special!
Exploring the Dwellings
There is no better way to learn about the cliff dwellings and their owners than exploring some of the homes on your own.
Some of the more famous spots visitors really enjoy include the Cliff Palace which has more than 200 rooms and is over 700 years old and the Long House which accommodated about 150 people and were built to be able to expand as families got larger.
To get the best sense of what the homes looked like hundreds of years ago, visit the Spruce Tree House which is the best preserved of all of the dwellings.
Find more ancient dwellings in the U.S. using this helpful article.
Guided Tours and Drives
If you’d rather explore with a Ranger and hear the history of the dwellings, then you’re in luck! The Rangers at Mesa Verde National Park offer ongoing tours throughout the year.
You can take the standard tour of some of the more popular dwellings like Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House, which will give you the full overview of the park. Or, for something a little special, consider the twilight tour or photography tour of Cliff Palace.
If you are pressed for time, but would still love to see at least some of the park, then you’re in luck, there is an area of the park that is accessible to vehicles. Take the Mesa Top Loop Road, which will give you six miles of paved roads with a dozen different sites dotted along the way.
Eating and Sleeping
There are no spots to camp inside the park. Your best bets are either just a few miles down the road at the Morefield Campground which allows for car, tent and RV camping. It also is accessible to a nearby village with restaurants and laundry facilities.
There are cafes inside the park at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, for a nice meal with a beautiful view!
Have you been to Mesa Verde National Park? Let us know what you thought of the dwellings!