Before entering Mesa Verde National park, I was under the assumption that the park was just about the artifacts and seeing the cliff dwellings where the Pueblo people lived out of. Which is interesting, but I didn’t know there was so much more the park offered.
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When I entered into the park, my expectations exceeded almost instantly. The park offers so much! You get to see how the pueblo people lived, which is very exciting seeing how they lived out of canyon walls!
And, it is just gorgeous there. Red rocks, canyons, a desert landscape and yet pine trees all over. This park was one of the most diverse parks I have been in.
You can look at ancient artifacts and admire where these people were living from about 550AD and also get your fix on nature all at the same time. These people flourished in these cliff dwellings for approximately 700 years and you get to be engaged on how they transformed and prospered throughout those 700 years. The park is very interactive with guests and is great for kids and families.
I like archaeological events, but I’m not huge on it. I am more of a nature girl. So I actually was not planning on seeing this National Park. It was not on the itinerary. But as I was driving to my next stop, I came across a sign that read Mesa Verde National Park, 10 miles ahead. Hmmmmm…
“O.K. I’ll go. I will maybe stay just a couple hours, see some cool cliff dwellings, check out where they lived and leave. ”
That didn’t happen! I was there all day!!! There was so much to do! This park literally exceeded all of my expectations. You got to drive around and look at the sites and see how the Pueblos use to live in these cliffs, which was cool, and then I hit some trails and this is where I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.
It was a mixture of desert hiking, canyon hiking and forest hiking. I did the Petroglyph Point Trail which was epic, looping around a canyon and this trail will lead you really close to one of the cliff dwellings, Spruce Tree House, which is pretty sweet. And not many people were hiking on it. It was pretty secluded. It is just a 2.4 mile loop, but it is pretty strenuous.
Here is a video if you want to check it out.
When you come to this park, there are self-guided tours and tours you have to take with a park ranger. I only did the self-guided tours, but I believe the guided tours are only 4 dollars and the rangers bring you right up close to the dwellings. You are not allowed to touch anything and if a person decides to take or destroy any of the structures, it can be up to a $100,000 fine and imprisonment up to 20 years! The park service takes this park very seriously in trying to preserve it to the best of their capabilities.
Overall, it was a great experience. You can’t see everything all in one day but you can see a good chunk of it if you devote an entire day to it.
If you add up all the trails together there is approximately 20 miles of trails weaving through different landscapes.
You definitely get a diverse feel to it. You will be hiking in a desert landscape, then pine forests and red rocks, weaving in and out of canyons with great overlooks.
You even get to admire these huge snow-covered top mountains in the background.
I definitely recommend this place. Even just driving through it is beautiful. This was also one of the first cultural heritage sites in the world! So that says something.
I ended the day with a big smile on my face, happy that I did not just drive past it. It is only a few hours away from Great Sand Dunes National Park and not far from Southern Utah’s big five either. Hope you enjoyed this article!