Mesa Verde National Park

Posted in North America | April 12, 2010 | Comment Now

Mesa Verde National Park is located in Montezuma County in southwestern Colorado in the USA. Mesa Verde (Spanish term meaning ‘green table’ in English), spread across an area of 211 square kilometres and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is particularly famous for its well-preserved cliff dwellings, which undoubtedly earn reputation as some of the most spectacular archaeological attractions in the entire North American continent. The park features ruins of homes and villages built by Anasazis (or Ancestral Puebloans), the ancient Pueblo people, who made the region their homeland about 1400 years ago. The park has four main areas, namely: Morefield Campground, Far View, Chapin Mesa, and Wetherill Mesa.


Elevation in Mesa Verde ranges from about 1,900 to 2,600 metres. The park terrain is mostly dominated by ridges and valleys running roughly in the north-south direction.  It is also known for its tall mesas and steep canyons.


Mesa Verde National Park experiences four seasons with a predominant dry high-desert climate. Summer days are immensely hot while evenings are cool. July and August witness thunderstorms. Winters are mild.


Pinyon-juniper forests, big sagebrush, Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine are common in the higher altitudes. Gambel oak is abundantly found around Morefield Campground.


Mule deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, skunks, black bears, gray foxes, coyotes, mountain lions, elks and others.


Warblers, woodpeckers, flycatchers, jays, hawks, titmice, chickadees, hawks, golden eagles and various other species.

Reaching Mesa Verde:
  • By air:
    Cortez and Durango airports are the nearest airports. Both are connected to Denver (the latter also with Phoenix). Rental car outlets are available at both airports.
  • By road:
    Mesa Verde National Park
    entrance is located 9 miles east of Cortez and 35 miles west of Durango on US Highway 160.

A seven day entry pass to Mesa Verde is available ($10 per private vehicle during fall-spring and $15 per vehicle during summer).

Get around:
  • Drive by car
  • Cliff dwellings:
    Structures built within caves and under outcroppings in cliffs (including Cliff Palace). Accessing these cliff dwellings can be strenuous. Many of the cliffs require climbing uneven and steep steps and ladders.
  • Far View Visitor Center, located near the park center (open from mid-April to mid-October, 8am-5pm daily). Tickets for guided tours of Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House on Wetherill Mesa are available here.
  • Montezuma Valley Overlook

  • Park Point Overlook
  • Geologic Overlook
  • Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, (open April-October 8am-6:30pm, October-April 8am-5pm).
  • Square Tower House

  • Spruce Tree House (tallest structure in Mesa Verde)
  • Mesa Verde Reservoirs
  • Sun Point View
  • Sun Temple
  • Cedar Tree Tower
  • Wetherill Mesa (is open only seasonally).
  • Guided tours to cliff dwellings like Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House (on Wetherill Mesa).
  • Guided bus tours of Mesa Verde (from spring through fall)
  • Hiking in Mesa Verde National Park
  • Camping (Morefield Campground is the only campground in the park).
  • Campground trails including Prater Ridge Trail, Knife Edge Trail, Point Lookout Trail and others.
  • Far View Lodge (May-October):
    The only hotel inside the park.

  • Lodging is also available in the towns of Cortez, Dolores, Mancos as well as in further Durango.
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