Mesa Verde National Park Guide

Home to some of the oldest cliff dwellings in the United States and archeological sites, Mesa Verde National Park is a place you’ll never forget. 

This park is a delight for those who love historic sites.

According to Morethanjustparks, Mesa Verde covers an area of 52,485 acres and is home to over 4,700 known archeological sites, which also includes 600 cliff dwellings.

In this post, we’ll share the rich history of Mesa Verde National Park, the best things to do, the best places to stay, and other valuable tips you’ll find helpful. Let’s get started!


ParkMesa Verde National Park
Things to do Sight Seeing, Museum Visit and many more
Hotels near Mesa Verde National ParkStrater Hotel, White Eagle Inn and many more
Entry Fee$10-$20
Camping LocationMultiple Locations

Where Is Mesa Verde National Park?

Mesa Verde National Park is located in the Southwestern corner of Colorado, where four states touch.

The nearest airports from Mesa Verde National Park are Durango, Colorado, Cortez, Colorado, and Farmington.

Mesa Verde National Park is 35 miles away from Durango, so if you are traveling via bus, then you can find the nearest bus station in Durango.

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About Mesa Verde National Park

This National Park is one of the best-preserved archeological sites in America.

More than 600 cliff dwellings and 500 archeological sites in the Park, including pueblos, pit houses, masonry towers that give you a look into the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans spanning from 600 -1300 AD

This Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it is the only national park created to protect the historical and cultural sites than the natural features.

More than 5 million visitors worldwide come to visit the Park every year to take a look at the spectacular window in the past.

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History Of Mesa Verde National Park

Around 2,000 years ago, the Mesa Verde was inhabited by nomadic Paleo-Indians.

The first cliff dwellings were built around 1500 years ago during the Puebloan civilization, and by the end of the 12th century, Puebloans began constructing massive cliff dwellings the Park is famous for. 

The civilization thrived until the 13th century and was forced to emigrate to New Mexico and Arizona.

In 1889, Rancher Richard Wetherill and his three younger brothers tracked their stray cattle, stumbled across the ancient ruins, and discovered the honeycomb network of rooms they named Cliff Palace. 

In 1889, Godman Point Pueblo became the first pre-Columbian archeologist site in the Mesa Verde to get federal protection.

By the end of the 19th century, it was clear that Mesa Verde needed protection from the people coming to see it.

In June 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established this Park to protect American history.

The Park got its name Mesa Verde meaning “green table,” from the pinyon and juniper trees found in the Navajo Canyon. 1

Top 5 Things To Do In the Park

Here’s a list of the top 5 things to do in this Park: 

Cliff Palace 

Located on the east side of the Cliff Canyon, Cliff Place is one of the top sights in Mesa Verde.

This 150-room palace is famous for being one of the largest cave settlements in the Park and the first to be discovered in the Park.

As per archeologists, it used to be an administrative or ceremonial center and home to about 100 people.

The one-hour ranger-guided tour to the palace takes one hour and involves 120 uneven stone steps and climbing four ladders on a 100 feet vertical climb. 

Long House

The Long House is the second-largest ruin in the this Park, with open spaces to conduct ceremonies and performances.

It is located in the west region of the Park on the Wetherill Mesa. To get here, you can follow the 12-mile winding road and enjoy a series of overlooks and turnouts along the route with information about natural features.

The visitors often overlook the longhouse, which makes it a great site to experience the dwelling without crowds.

Spruce Tree House

Spruce House is the third-largest best-preserved cliff dwelling in the Park, absolutely worth visiting.

Located in the southeast of the par on the edge of Spruce Canyon, Spruce Treehouse has 130 rooms and eight kivas where 80 to 80 people lived in the 13th century.

Due to the alcove protection, more than 90% of the structure, such as walls, wood, and plaster, are original.

Unfortunately, the site was closed in 2015 due to an unstable sandstone arch, but you can see it from a distance. 

Mesa Top Loop Road

Mesa top Loop Road is a 6-mile trail that provides a great way to explore the Mesa Verde in a couple of hours.

The trail offers plenty of paved trails, stunning overlooks, cliff dwellings, and pull-outs along the route and takes you through 700 years of Pueblo history.

From the remnants of early penthouses, multi-storied residences to masonry villages, the archeological sites along this trail blow your mind away. 

Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum 

Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is the perfect place to learn about the history of the Mesa Verde region.

The artifacts and exhibits in the museum provide a more in-depth look into the lives of Ancestral Puebloans.

You’ll also find many displays of prehistoric artifacts, a chronology of Ancestral Pueblo culture, and other significant items related to the Park.

The museum is located 20 miles from the park entrance on the Chapin Mesa. 2

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Planning a Trip to Mesa Verde
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Best Time To Visit Mesa Verde National Park

The ideal time to visit the this Park is Spring and Fall. Weather is quite pleasant during both periods, and occasional rain brings wildflowers on mesa tops and country meadows.

Another advantage is thinner crowds allowing you to explore the Park comfortably.

Map Of Mesa Verde National Park  

This Park is the high plateau country of southwestern Colorado and encompasses 52 122 acres.

Make sure to download the Park’s map before visiting the Park, so you’ll know where you’re going and what to do if you get lost.

Click here to get the PDF map of the Park.

Hotels Near Mesa Verde National Park

The lodging options inside the Park are limited to Far View Lodge and Morefield Campground. Here is some accommodation option near the Park worth checking out:

  • Strater Hotel 
  • Ute Mountain Casino Hotel
  • White Eagle Inn
  • Baymont by Wyndham Cortez 
  • Holiday Inn Express Mesa Verde  

Camping Locations

Spend a night under a starry sky at Mesa Verde Morefield Campground. With 267 sites, the campground has plenty of space all year-round.

Camping is available for tents, RVs, and trailers. The campground is located just four miles from the park entrance and is open seasonally from May to early October.

To make reservations click here

Weather Of Mesa Verde National Park  

This Park enjoys a relatively moderate climate because it is generally colder than most deserts areas.

During the summer, the average daily temperature is 45 °F and seldom reaches more than 85°F.

The average winter temperature is around 40°F which can drop to about 15°F. Cold snaps occur rarely and are short-lived.

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Entry Fee & Passes

This Park charges $20 for a private vehicle, $15 for a motorcycle, and $10 per person on foot, valid for seven days.

People with America the Beautiful Pass, Federal Recreational Lands Pass, Senior Access, military or volunteer passes will get free access.

You can purchase the passes at the Park’s entrance. 

Checklist Of Things To Pack

Here are the top 10 essentials you must bring with you for a safe and comfortable visit to this Park: 

  1. Daypack
  2. Reservation Confirmation
  3. Hiking boots
  4. Seasonal clothing
  5. Water bottles or hydration system
  6. Sunscreen, hat
  7. Binoculars 
  8. Flashlight
  9. First-aid kit 
  10.  Map 


Is Mesa Verde Open during COVID?

Park’s visitor center, sites, and trails are open, but the services are limited, and the museum is also closed. 

How much time do I Need in Mesa Verde National Park?

The actual ruins are located 30–60-minute drive from the main entrance, so you’ll need at least a day to explore the all-main attractions of the Park.

Are pets allowed in Mesa Verde National Park?

No, pets are prohibited in archeological sites, trails, and buildings. Pets are only allowed at the paved roads and campground and must be leashed at all times. 


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