Perched in alcoves in steep semi desert canyons, are ancient apartment complexes, some of which are several stories tall where an ancient people lived and thrived in soutwest Colorado. Cliff Palace is the jewel of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, and is befitting to it's name, a palace built within the cliff by a people who lived centuries ago. From a vantage point above the ruin you see rooms and towers of stone, circular sunken enclosures and wide passageways. A trip to Mesa Verde is a voyage back to the time before recorded history in the United States and a look at the southwest's most earliest inhabitants, the people that the Navajo call the Anasazi.
Mesa Verde as a national park turned 100 years old in 2006, but it's been around for 14 centuries. The nomadic Anasazi people chose to settle down and build permanent homes within the cliffs and planted their crops on the mesa tops above. The Anasazi culture flourished for hundreds of years but, approximately 400 to 500 years ago, they vanished suddenly and mysteriously.
Today, Mesa Verde is one of the premier archaeological sites in the United States. Hiking among these now silent villages will transport you back in time. Allow at least a couple of days for your visit to Mesa Verde, one day won't do it. The Morefield campground is located within the park boundary and has 400 campsites. Rangers deliver nightly presentations in the large amphitheater located in the upper portion of the campground. In the town of nearby Cortez, or a bit farther away, Durango, offer motels, hotels, and rv parks.
Mesa Verde, Spanish for
green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral
Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600
to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological
sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most
notable and best preserved in the United States.
Want to visit a Mesa Verde cliff dwelling? To go to Cliff Palace, Balcony House, or Long House, you will first need to purchase a tour ticket in person at the Far View Visitor Center. Ranger-guided tours are offered seasonally, and provide you with the opportunity to hike into and experience these Ancestral Puebloan sites.
Mesa Verde Centennial!
Mesa Verde is always open, but opportunities vary from season to season. Visit the Operating Hours & Seasons page for park schedule information. And look for a Visitor Guide on the Brochures page to see what will be available during your trip.
The first view of a cliff dwelling is 21 miles (approximately 45 minutes) past the entrance station along a steep, narrow, winding road.
IF YOU HAVE ONE HALF DAY OR LESS...
IF YOU HAVE ONE DAY...
IF YOU HAVE ONE DAY (alternative)...
IF YOU HAVE TWO DAYS OR MORE (one day activities plus)...
Mesa Verde is famous for the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings constructed within its cliff alcoves
Mesa Verde National Park is open year-round, but some facilities, tours, and access to archeological sites are seasonal. To make the most out of your trip, take a look at the 2006 Park Schedule to see what will be available at the time of your visit.
than one-sixth of the over 4,000 archeological sites found in Mesa
Verde National Park are cliff dwellings. Other sites include mesa top
houses, check dams, and flaking sites.
There are a number of cliff dwellings that can be toured during your visit to Mesa Verde National Park. Most of these can only be visited by taking a ranger-guided tour. Two are open seasonally on a self-guided basis. See the chart below for details.
Tickets for guided-tours must be purchased in person at the Far View Visitor Center. Both guided and self-guided tours are strenuous.
* After the Far View Visitor Center closes in October, Cliff Palace tour tickets must be purchased at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum.
Mesa Verde Museum Association
Wintertime at Mesa Verde
Far View Visitor Center