Mesa Verde National Park is one of those places that seem to be hidden and yet it is a place for both archeology lovers and those looking to spend a weekend in an unusual place.

Cliff Palace - 11th Century Stone Village, Mesa Verde National Park in Southwest Colorado

First, let’s talk about the history of the park. Mesa Verde was established in 1906 as the country’s ninth national park [9].

The site was visited and considered sacred by multiple Indigenous nations before it began attracting interest from white Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Mesa Verde National Park

The park is home to over 5,000 archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Pueblo people between 600 and 1300 CE [3].

One of the main attractions of Mesa Verde National Park is the Cliff Palace, which is the largest cliff dwelling in North America with 150 rooms. Built between 1190 and 1280 CE, Cliff Palace was once home to over 100 people [1]. There are also other cliff dwellings and archaeological sites that you can visit in the park.

Spruce Tree House - Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado

If you are planning to stay in the park, there are options for camping and RV hookups [2]. If you prefer to stay in a hotel or lodge, the town of Cortez is the largest town near Mesa Verde National Park, and it takes just 15 minutes to drive to the park entrance [2].

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, US August 2017 947

Mesa Verde is a seasonal park, and most of the big draws are closed during the cold season. Cliff dwelling tours are available from May 1 through October 22 in 2022 [5]. Additionally, some of the cliff dwellings require a ranger-led tour and are seasonal [4].

Mesa Verde National Park

When planning your visit to Mesa Verde National Park, make sure to check out the park’s operating hours and seasons [4]. Also, keep in mind that the park only has one entrance [4].

Spruce Tree House - Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado

Whether you choose to camp in the park or stay in a hotel or lodge in nearby Cortez, make sure to plan your visit during the park’s operating season and check out the various ranger-led tours available to truly immerse yourself in the park’s history and culture.

FAQs

Is Mesa Verde National Park worth visiting?

Mesa Verde National Park is definitely worth visiting, especially for those interested in history and archaeology. The park boasts over 600 cliff dwellings and is home to the largest cliff dwelling in North America.

A visit to Mesa Verde National Park can take at least a full day or more, depending on your interests and schedule [15].

It is recommended to take a guided tour, which can be reserved up to 14 days in advance, of the five cliff dwellings that are open to the public during the late spring to early fall season [18].

Additionally, it is advisable to stop by the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center to better appreciate the park’s significance and historical context [20].

How long do you need in Mesa Verde National Park?

The amount of time you need in Mesa Verde National Park depends on your personal preferences, but a full day at least is recommended.

In order to see the ruins and take a tour of the cliff dwellings, you will need to set aside several hours. Spruce Tree House alone will take at least an hour, and a tour of Cliff Palace or Balcony House will require an additional 1.5 to 2 hours [15].

What is the best time of year to visit Mesa Verde National Park?

The best time of year to visit Mesa Verde National Park is in late spring or early fall to avoid the crowds and enjoy mild temperatures [16]. The cost to enter the park varies from $20-$30 per vehicle depending on the time of year, and covers seven days [11].

Are the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde open?

As of the time of this response, the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde are open for guided tours during the late spring to early fall season [18]. However, visitors with disabilities may have some accessibility limitations [17].

Can you see the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde without a tour?

Most cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde require a ticketed tour with a ranger. However, Step House in Wetherill Mesa is available for a self-guided tour without a ticket [23].

Additionally, some cliff dwellings can be viewed from overlooks, including Cliff Palace, which can be seen from way across the canyon and possibly from the overlook above the ruin if the road has been opened [22][25][26].

Moreover, the Mesa Top Loop Road is a 6-mile drive with twelve easily-accessible archeological sites, including overlooks of cliff dwellings [24].

What city is closest to Mesa Verde National Park?

The city closest to Mesa Verde National Park is Cortez, Colorado, located approximately 9 miles from the park’s entrance [27][28].

Can you do Mesa Verde in a day?

It is possible to do Mesa Verde in a day, but visitors should plan their itinerary carefully. A driving tour on Mesa Top Loop Road can take 45 minutes to an hour, while visiting a cliff dwelling requires a ticketed tour with a ranger, which may take up to two hours [24][28].

The park also has several museums and visitor centers that are worth visiting. Therefore, visitors may need to prioritize their activities based on their interests and the time available.

Do I need a reservation for Mesa Verde National Park?

Yes, visitors are required to make a reservation to enter Mesa Verde National Park between May 1 and October 31.

Reservations can be made on recreation.gov and are highly recommended due to limited availability. However, visitors can enter the park without a reservation from November 1 to April 30, but some services and facilities may be closed during this time [28][29].