Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience a unique cultural and physical landscape. The culture represented at Mesa Verde reflects more than 700 years of pre-Columbian 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, these people 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.
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.
It is 21 miles from the entrance to park headquarters and archeological sites on Chapin Mesa. Morefield Campground is located 4 miles from the entrance. The Far View Visitor Center is found 15 miles into the park. Allow at least 45 minutes for the drive to Chapin Mesa. Park roads are scenic drives with sharp curves, steep grades, and reduced speed limits.
To get the most out of your visit, go first to either the Far View Visitor Center (open from April to October) or to the Chapin Mesa Museum (open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in summer and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year). Rangers there will help you plan your visit. Exhibits at Far View and Chapin Mesa illustrate the arts and crafts of the cultures of the region. Guided tours and evening campfire programs are given in summer. Wayside exhibits throughout the park interpret the cliff dwellings and other archeological sites. You can also see the sequence of Ancestral Puebloan architectural development in Mesa Verde at sites along the Mesa Top Loop Road on Chapin Mesa.
Food, gasoline and lodging are available only from early spring through late fall. No services are available the rest of the year. Interpretive services are available year-round although not all sites are open during the slower months. See the Park Schedule for specifics. Morefield campground, open early spring through late fall, has single and group campsites. Campsites for the physically impaired are available. All campsites have a table, benches, and grill. Some utility hookups are available, and there is a dump station for RVs.
Near the park entrance are several commercial campgrounds. Services at the campgrounds include groceries, carryout food, gasoline, firewood, showers, and a laundromat.