Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Established in 1906, Mesa Verde National Park serves to preserve and interpret the archaeological history of the Ancestral Pueblo people. With over 5,000 known sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde is overflowing with fascinating, centuries-old history. In fact, there’s so much to see and do at Mesa Verde, one might feel overwhelmed trying to plan a visit out there.
But fear not, inquisitive citizens (cue superhero music)! Mild to Wild has got your back with this detailed guide on everything Mesa Verde. In it, we’ve broken down which sites to visit first, how to prepare for your day at the park, the operating hours and weather for each season at the park, camping options, and a few select insider’s tips to get the best bang for your buck. Whether you’re planning your first trip to Mesa Verde, or you’re a seasoned mesa-trekking vet, there’s useful information here for anyone.
Top Sites to See
The highlights of any trip to Mesa Verde are the incredible pueblo ruins sheltered beneath the overhanging cliffs. Historians estimate that the Ancestral Pueblo people began constructing and living in these pueblos sometime during the late 1190s. Ranging in size from one-room storage units to entire villages with over 150 rooms, the ingenuity and magnificence of these structures cannot be overstated. With that said, let’s dive into the top four sites to visit at Mesa Verde. All of the following sites are available for entry through ranger-guided tours only.
Take Guided Tours
Although you can explore Mesa Verde on your own, the best way to experience the park is through ranger-guided tours. Not only are these tours the only ways to get access to signature sites, but the rangers who lead the tours are true experts on everything park-related. As you get up close and personal with magnificent structures like Cliff Palace and Balcony House, your guide will provide fascinating information on what life was like for the Ancestral Puebloans over 700 years ago.
The best way to take control of your personal touring schedule is by booking ahead of time. We recommend booking at least a few days ahead of your visit. If you need to cancel any of your tours, Mesa Verde will provide a full refund (minus a $1 reservation fee) so long as you cancel up to 24 hours in advance. You can book online at recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. The NPS Mesa Verde website also provides a handy graphic for scheduling multiple tours which you can find here.
Golden Hour Tours
Alright now, this one is really cool. In addition to standard guided tours, Mesa Verde also offers specialty sunrise and twilight tours at Cliff Palace and Balcony House. If you’re looking to get some next-level photos or video at Mesa Verde, these are 100% the tours for you. Dress appropriately for colder early or evening temperatures, and make sure your camera is fully charged for the many pictures you’ll take.