Established by Congress on June 29, 1906, Mesa Verde National
Park is the first and
only National Park established to preserve the works of people. Mesa Verde National Park was also designated as a World Heritage Site on September 8, 1978 by UNESCO, an United Nations organization formed to recognize the cultural and natural heritage of sites that have international importance.
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 take a
day or two to explore its offerings. Visitors will see not only experience
world-class archeological sites but also will enjoy the beautiful canyons
and plateaus of Mesa Verde Country. The entrance to Mesa Verde National
Park is 9 miles east of Cortez and 35 miles west of Durango in Southwestern
Colorado on US Highway 160.
Basic Information on Mesa Verde National
Operating Hours, Seasons
Open daily, year-round. Chapin Mesa Museum is open from 8AM to 6:30AM mid-April to mid-October; 8AM to 5PM the rest of the year.
Far View Visitor Center is open from 8AM to 5PM mid-April to mid-October. Ranger-guided tours and self-guided tours are available in Spring, Summer, and Fall. Limited services are available in Winter.
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.
Weather & Climate
Spring--variable, 30s and snow or 70s and sunny. Summer-- temperatures can reach the 90s. Afternoon thunderstorms in July and August. Fall--still warm during the day, cool nights. A possibility of snow in October. Winter--below freezing at night. As much as 3 to 4 feet of snow. Snowpacked and icy conditions.
Due to the nature of the park, it has very limited access for those with disabilities.
Camping at Mesa Verde National Monument
Open From Summer to Early Fall
There are over 400 standard camp sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. All other sites are open to the public. The campground rarely fills. Each site has a table, bench, and grill. Camping is open to tents and trailers. Standard sites are $16 per night. Sites with hook-ups are $23 per night. Restrooms, coin-operated showers, a laundry facility, gas station, and general store are found in Morefield Village.
Activities and More Information for Mesa
Verde National Monument
1/2 DAY OR LESS:
Plan to spend at least 3 hours at Mesa Verde. 2 hours of this time will be spent driving in and out of the park. Your first stop should be at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, located 21 miles from the park entrance, for information and orientation. From there join a ranger for a free one-hour guided tour of Spruce Tree House at 10am, 1pm, and 3:30pm. Starting March 4, Spruce Tree House will be self-guided. Another option is to drive the Mesa Top Loop Drive.
Stop at Chapin Mesa Museum for park information and orientation. Join a ranger for a free guided tour of Spruce Tree House at 10am, 1pm, and 3:30pm. Starting March 4, Spruce Tree House will be self-guided. Drive the Mesa Top Loop Road. Visit Cedar Tree House and Far View Sites Complex.
TWO DAYS OR MORE:
Day one--Visit Chapin Mesa Museum and tour Spruce Tree House. Explore your hiking or cross-country skiing opportunities. From the Cliff Palace Loop of Mesa Top Loop Road there is the Soda Canyon Overlook Trail (0.75 miles) which offers the opportunity to view Balcony House. Stop at Cedar Tree Tower and visit the Farming Terrace Trail (0.50 miles).
Day two--Drive the Mesa Top Loop Road. Visit Far View Sites Complex. Finish the day by taking a walk or ski trip and taking time to enjoy the wayside exhibits.
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