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MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK TOUR

  • 100+Audio Points
  • LocationColorado, USA
  • Suggested TimeAllow 1 Day

Tour Route Map

Tour Route Map

Photos

Highlights

  • Balcony House
  • Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum
  • Cliff Palace
  • Montezuma Valley Overlook
  • Park Point Overlook
  • Pithouses
  • Spruce Tree House
  • Square Tower House
  • Step House
  • Sun Temple

What to Expect

Mesa Verde is truly unique place to experience as it was the first National Park to be created specifically to preserve important archeological and cultural sites, rather than just beautiful scenery and an unusual environment. 

Thousands of Ancestral Pueblo people lived on the “Green Table” for over 700 years building both on the mesa and in the surrounding cliffs.

The biggest draw to the park, are the amazing cliff dwellings impossibly built into cliff alcoves. Many are able to be seen from roadside viewpoints across the valley, like Cliff Palace.  Others, like Step House require a short hike.

But if you’d like to get up close, many others like Mug House, Long House Balcony House, Square Tower, offer ranger led assisted or guided hikes (by reservation). 

Mesa Verde is also certified as an International Dark Sky Preserve. If you have time,  return of a night and enjoy one of the darkest skies in the United States.

Suggested Start Location

Drive eastbound on 160 from Cortez, or westbound on 160 from Durango.

Suggested Time

Allow a full day to drive to Chapin and Wetherill Mesas and time to explore a house or two.

Driving Distance

There are approximately 35 miles of road in the park.  With only one entrance, all routes go in and out the same way. 

FAQ

WHY IS MESA VERDE FAMOUS?

Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a wild landscape of deep canyons and expansive vistas where the Ancestral Puebloan people built thriving communities for over 700 years.

With over 5,000 Ancestral Puebloan sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it’s the largest archaeological preserve in the United States and offers an incredible spectacular window into the past. Today the park is best known for cliff dwelling structures such as Cliff Palace which is believed to be the largest in North America.

IS MESA VERDE WORTH VISITING?

Mesa Verde National Park is one of only two dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States, and its ancestral cliff dwellings are some of the best preserved in the country. 

HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED IN MESA VERDE?

Most visitors will want one full day in Mesa Verde National Park for sightseeing and hiking. Two days is ideal so that you can see both the Wetherill and Chapin Mesa sites as well as enjoy one of Mesa Verde’s spectacular hiking trails. 

CAN YOU GO INTO THE CLIFF DWELLINGS AT MESA VERDE?

Most cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park can be only entered on a ticketed tour with a ranger, including Cliff Palace, and usually operate from May to October. All of these tours must be booked in advance on recreation.gov and involve strenuous physical activity.

Step House on Wetherill Mesa is a free, self-guided cliff dwelling that’s open between spring and fall and accessible via a steep one-mile hike.

Trip Planning

CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS AFFECTING ROADS, CLOSURES & RESERVATIONS

The Cliff Palace Loop is currently closed due to construction, and is anticipated to reopen late July 2022. While the road is closed there is no access to to Balcony House or Cliff Palace, but Cliff Palace can be viewed from Sun Temple on the Mesa Top Loop. Construction will begin on the Mesa Top Loop in August and the road is anticipated to be closed until the end of October 2022. Current road closure information can be viewed on the Mesa Verde Hours of Operation webpage.

The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is currently closed for renovations until further notice. Updates can be viewed on the National Park Service website.

Most cliff dwellings can be entered only on a ticketed tour with a ranger, and must be booked in advance. Tickets are released 14 days prior, and can be booked online on the recreation.gov website.