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Colorado State Parks

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USA Parks
Southwest Region
Mesa Verde National Park
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Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde © Annick Desjardins
Mesa Verde National Park Mesa Verde National Park © Annick Desjardins
Mesa Verde National Park Mesa Verde Cliff Palace © Annick Desjardins
Mesa Verde National Park © Ben Prepelka
Mesa Verde National Park Spruce Tree House © Annick Desjardins
Mesa Verde National Park Anasazi Dwellings © Dorothy Valenti
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PO Box 8
Mesa Verde, Colorado   81330-0008
Email: park email button icon
Mesa Verde, Spanish for "green table", offers an unparalleled opportunity to see and experience a unique cultural and physical landscape. The culture represented at Mesa Verde reflects more than 700 years of history. From approximately A.D. 600 through A.D. 1300 people lived and flourished in communities throughout the area, eventually building elaborate stone villages in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Today most people call these sheltered villages "cliff dwellings". The cliff dwellings represent the last 75 to 100 years of occupation at Mesa Verde. In the late 1200s within the span of one or two generations, they left their homes and moved away.

The archeological sites found in Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. Mesa Verde National Park offers visitors a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Scientists study the ancient dwellings of Mesa Verde, in part, by making comparisons between the Ancestral Pueblo people and their contemporary indigenous descendants who still live in the Southwest today. Twenty-four Native American tribes in the southwest have an ancestral affiliation with the sites at Mesa Verde.

To fully enjoy Mesa Verde National Park, plan to spend a day or two exploring its world-class archeological sites as well as its beautiful landscape. The entrance to the park is 9 miles east of Cortez and 35 miles west of Durango in Southwestern Colorado on US Highway 160.
History of the Area
The Mesa Verde area was inhabited for about 800 years by agricultural people who began to drift into the area shortly after the beginning of the Christian Era. We call the first farming people in the Mesa Verde area the Basketmakers (A.D.1-400), because weaving excellent baskets was their outstanding craft. At this early date, the people did not make pottery, build houses, or use the bow and arrow. No sites dating from the early Basketmakers have been found within the boundaries of Mesa Verde National Park.

Around the year A.D. 400, the people began to make pottery and build roofed dwellings. Around the year A.D. 750, they began to use the bow and arrow. Although the people were still the same, the culture was changing. Archeologists call these people the Modified Basket-makers (A.D. 400-750). The pithouses were built in alcoves and on the mesa tops. Scores of pithouse villages have been found on the mesas, and two pithouses have been reconstructed at Mesa Verde.

Starting about A.D. 750, the people grouped their houses together to form compact villages. These have been given the name of "pueblo", a Spanish term meaning village. The name, Developmental Pueblo (A.D. 750-1000), simply indicated that during this period there was a great deal of experimentation and development. Many types of house walls were used; adobe and poles, stone slabs topped with adobe, adobe and stones, and finally layered masonry. The houses were joined together to form compact clusters around open courts. In these courts were pithouses which grew deeper and finally developed into ceremonial rooms we now refer to as kivas.

During their last century, some Pueblo Indians of Mesa Verde left the mesa tops and built their homes in the alcoves that abound in the many canyon walls. This last period marks the climax of the Pueblo culture in Mesa Verde and is known as the Classic Pueblo Period (A.D. 1100-1300). The exact number of dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park is unknown, but over 600 cliff dwellings have been documented.

Beginning in A.D. 1276, drought struck the region. For 23 years precipitation was scarce. One by one the springs dried up and the people were in serious trouble. Their only escape was to seek regions which had a more dependable water supply. People left village after village. Before the drought ended, these people had left Mesa Verde area.

1859: Professor J. S. Newberry, in his geological report of an expedition under the leadership of Captain J. N. Macomb to explore certain territory in what is now the State of Utah, makes the first known mention of Mesa Verde. It seems quite evident from his description that Newberry must have climbed to one of the highest points of Mesa Verde, possibly Park Point, and the manner in which he uses the name Mesa Verde suggests that the name was in common usage.

1901: The first bill introduced before Congress to create a National Park in the Mesa Verde was introduced February 22. The bill provided for the creation of the "Colorado Cliff Dwellings National Park". It never returned from the Public Lands Committee.

1903 to 1905: Two more bills were introduced in the 58th Congress for the creation of the "Colorado Cliff Dwellings National Park". One of the bills (the Hogg bill) was reported back from committee with several amendments but did not receive any further action.

1906: The first bill for the creation of "Mesa Verde National Park" was introduced in the 59th Congress in 1905. This bill was subsequently passed on and Mesa Verde National Park was created June 29, 1906. It was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Day-UseHiking Trailyes
Morefield Campground, Open from May 10 To October 10, 2005. Phone 1-800-449-2288

Details: Join us for a night or two in Morefield Campground, just 4 miles inside Mesa Verde. With 435 sites, there?s always plenty of space! The campground rarely fills. Each site has a table, bench, and grill. Camping is open to tents, trailers and RVs.

Morefield's campsites are situated on loop roads that extend through a high grassy canyon filled with Gambel Oak scrub, native flowers, deer, and wild turkeys. Many sites offer excellent shade.

Several of the Park?s best hikes leave from Morefield and climb to spectacular views of surrounding valleys and mountains.

Wake to an all-you-can eat pancake breakfast at the cafe in Morefield?s full-service village. There's also a gas station, RV dumping station, coin-operated laundry, complimentary showers, a gift shop and a well stocked grocery store.

With all of its conveniences and amenities, Morefield provides a truly comfortable stay in Mesa Verde National Park.

RATES: $20 per campsite, per night + tax. Maximum of two vehicles, two tents. Reservations accepted.

$25 per RV hook-up, per night + tax. There are a total of 15 RV hook-ups. (First come, first serve.)

Group sites ($55 minimum) are available at $5 per night, per adult or child. Reservations accepted.

Rates and dates are subject to change.
Far View Lodge, Open From April 27 through October 22, 2005. Reservations can be made online or by phone, at 1-800-449-2288.

Details: Far View Lodge sits on a high shoulder of the Mesa Verde near the Visitor Center, offering panoramic vistas into three states. It?s simple here, quiet enough to hear the ravens fly by. No phones. No TVs. Nothing fancy. Absolutely beautiful. Peaceful. A place to linger and appreciate why people lived here for seven centuries.

All Far View Lodge rooms are non-smoking and feature private balconies and various bed configurations.

April 27th - October 22st, 2005 season specific rates range from $110 (standard) to $127 (kiva). (Based on double occupancy, rates subject to change)

STANDARD: Basic Room, Private Bath, Private Balcony.

DELUXE: Recently Renovated and upgraded, Private Bath, Private Balcony, Refrigerator, Coffeemaker, Hair Dryer, Iron and Ironing Board.

KIVA: New in 2003/2004, Refrigerator, Coffeemaker, Private Bath, Private Balcony, 1 King Bed or 2 Queen Beds.

The Metate Room serves the areas finest choices of contemporary southwest regional cuisine in a casual atmosphere. The Far View Terrace Food Court and Gift Shop, located just a quarter mile away, is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner... and espressos!

Mesa Verde National Park is located near Cortez


Trails on Chapin Mesa:

Hikers are required to register at the trail head of the Petroglyph and Spruce Canyon trails. There will be a registration box at the trail head.

Petroglyph Loop Trail: 2.8 miles, begins from the Spruce Tree House trail. The trail follows below the edge of the plateau to the South, then makes a short climb to the rim of the mesa and returns via the rim. You will have good views of Spruce and Navajo Canyons. This is the only trail in the park open to visitors where you may view petroglyphs. The trail ends near the museum. The gate to access this trail is open only during visitor hours to Spruce Tree House.

Spruce Canyon Loop Trail: 2.1 miles round trip. This trail offers an opportunity to experience the canyon bottoms at Mesa Verde. The gate to access this trail is only open during visitor hours to Spruce Tree House. Please contact a ranger for times the gate is open.

Spruce Tree House Trail: (0.5 miles) is accessed near the museum. Take along the trail guide.

Soda Canyon Overlook Trail: 1.5 miles round trip, begins at a parking- area on the Cliff Palace Loop Road, past the Balcony House parking area. This trail is an easy walk to the canyon edge, and offers views of Balcony House and other archeological sites along Soda Canyon.

Farming Terrace Trail: Starting and finishing on the spur road to Cedar Tree Tower, this 3/4-mile loop leads to a series of prehistoric check dams built by the Ancestral Puebloans as farming terraces. This trail is a good place to look for lizards, hummingbirds, and a wide variety of plants.

Trails in Morefield Campground:

(No permit required.)

Prater Ridge Trail: 7.8-mile round trip, begins on the West side of the Morefield Campground. This trail ascends the east side of Prater Ridge and follows a loop around the top of the ridge and returns via the same ascent. Changes in elevation and vegetation types along with views of surrounding countryside.

Knife Edge Trail: 1.5 miles, trail follows the old road alignment from the Northwest comer of Morefield Campground toward the Montezuma Valley Overlook. This trail provides good views of the Montezuma Valley, and is an excellent place to watch sunsets from.

Point Lookout Trail: 2.3 miles, trail switchbacks up the back side of Point Lookout and follows the top of the mesa. The trail provides excellent views of both Montezuma and Mancos valleys, as well as the surrounding countryside.

Wetherill Mesa:

Open Memorial Day to Labor Day

Nordenskiold Site No.16: The 2.2-mile round trip hike to Ruin No.16 overlook offers a leisurely stroll on the quietest trail in Mesa Verde. The booklet, available at the trail head, provides information about native plants and their historic uses.


Winter activities such as skiing and snowshoeing at Mesa Verde can be a very peaceful experience. Many times you may be the only person around. Because most of the trees are bare, wildlife is more visible in the winter. You may even be able to track them by following their footprints in the snow.

In recent years, there has not been enough snow to ski or snowshoe except for a few days during the winter after a heavy snowfall. Colorado's dry climate and sunshine cause the snow to melt quickly after a snow storm. Please call (970)529-4461 for current park road and skiing/snowshoeing conditions.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to ski or snowshoe in Mesa Verde National Park, you will not be disappointed. Two park roads listed below are designated for cross country skiing and snowshoeing when snow permits. Skiing or snowshoeing in the backcountry of Mesa Verde National Park or other park roads is not permitted.
Nature Programs
In addition to ticketed ranger-guided cliff dwelling tours and special programs, Mesa Verde National Park Rangers provide regularly scheduled programs at no additional fee. At this time the only National Park user fees charged in the park are the vehicle entrance fee, a campground fee, and a nominal fee for guided tours of three different cliff dwellings. Other interpretive program availability is subject to change at short notice. To verify program schedules call (970) 529-4465.

Evening Programs:

Each evening at 9:00pm in the Morefield Campground Amphitheater a Ranger will present a 45-minute program or slide presentation. Each night of the week there will be a different program. EVENING PROGRAMS ARE GIVEN FROM MEMORIAL DAY THROUGH LABOR DAY.

Junior Ranger Program:

Children ages 4 and up can pick up a Junior Ranger Application at Far View Visitor Center or Chapin Mesa Museum. Once the application is completed, they can be reviewed by a Ranger at Far View or the museum. A certificate and badge are earned for a job well done. This program is available year-round through.
Area Attractions

Natural Bridges National Monument, 138 miles.

Navajo National Monument, 176 miles.

Arches National Park, 435-719-2299, 129 miles.

Hovenweep National Monument, 435-459-4344, 46 miles.

Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, 505-786-7014, 141 miles.

Canyon De Chelley National Monument, 520-674-5500, 152 miles.

Canyonlands National Park, 435-719-2313, 157 miles.

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Nearby Hotels

Plane - The nearest airports are Cortez, Colorado, Durango, Colorado, and Farmington, New Mexico.

Car - Mesa Verde National Park is in Southwestern Colorado. The Mesa Verde Headquarters is a one-hour drive from Cortez, Colorado, heading east on Highway 160 to the park turnoff, and a 1.5 hour drive from Durango, Colorado, heading west on Highway 160 to the park turnoff.

Public Transportation - The closest bus terminal is located in Durango, Colorado. Car rental is needed to get from the bus terminal to the park. The entrance to Mesa Verde is 35 miles from Durango.

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