Mesa Verde National Park
The fire lookout station at Attractions Park Point offers superb views of the entire Four Corners region and is staffed during the fire season. A brochure describes the natural features of the area.
The Far View Visitor Center is a major center of visitor service. The visitor center, open from mid-April through mid-October, displays contemporary Native American arts and crafts and orients visitors to what can be done on a visit to Mesa Verde National Park. The visitor center is also the only location where tickets for ranger-guided tours may be purchased.
Commercial tours of Chapin Mesa leave from Far View Motor Lodge. The motor lodge is open from mid-April through October. For reservations, write ARAMark Mesa Verde, Box 277, Mancos, Colorado 81328. Telephone: 970-529-4421 or 1-800-449-2288. There is a restaurant at the lodge and a cafeteria nearby.
Wetherill Mesa is accessible during the summer by private vehicle between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Vehicles over 8,000 pounds GVW and/or over 25 feet in length are prohibited. The 12-mile mountain road to Wetherill has sharp curves and steep grades. Please obey the posted speed limits. Roadside pullouts offer spectacular views of the Four Corners region. Two cliff dwellings: Step House and Long House, are open to the public on Wetherill Mesa. Long House requires a ticket to enter. Purchase Long House tickets at the Far View Visitor Center before heading out to Wetherill Mesa. Badger House Community, a mesa top complex near Long House, is accessible over a 3/4 mile trail. Rangers are on duty to interpret the sites. You can buy snacks and cold drinks at Wetherill Mesa.
Chapin Mesa has three major cliff dwellings--Spruce Tree House, Cliff Palace, and Balcony House--are open in season for visits, and many others dwellings are visible from overlooks on the Mesa Top Loop Roads. An archeological museum with dioramas interprets the life of the Ancestral Puebloan people who once lived in the area. In summer, rangers conduct tours through some of the cliff dwellings. Current schedules are available at the museum or Far View Visitor Center.
Two hiking trails lead into Spruce Canyon. The Petroglyph Point Trail, 2.8 miles, and Spruce Canyon Trail, 2.1 miles, begin at points on the Spruce Tree House Trail. Hikers must register at the Museum or the trailhead before attempting these trails.
Other cliff dwellings can be seen from canyon-rim vantage points by taking either the self-guiding Mesa Top Loop Road or the Cliff Palace Loop Road. Wayside exhibits interpret the development of the Ancestral Puebloan culture from the Basketmakers through the Classic period. These roads are open from 8 a.m. until sunset. During winter, the mesa top loops are open as weather permits. When snow conditions permit, visitors may snowshoe or cross-country ski on roadways. Cliff dwellings are closed and cannot be entered. Check at the museum for information and conditions. In winter, rangers lead guided tours (three a day) of Spruce Tree House, weather and trail conditions permitting.
Spruce Tree Terrace, selling light snacks, gifts, and souvenirs, is open year-round. A guidebook for disabled visitors is available at all ranger stations, the visitor center, and the museum.
This is the landscape of Mesa Verde
Visits to cliff dwellings are strenuous. Altitudes in the park may vary from 6,000 to 8,500 feet. Trails may be uneven; steps and ladders must frequently be climbed. Hiking or touring cliff dwellings is not recommended for persons with heart or respiratory ailments. You can view most of the major cliff dwellings from overlooks. Parents should be alert for their children's safety when near the canyon rims. Do not throw rocks or other objects into the canyons, there may be people below. Bicycling is permitted on all park roads except those on Wetherill Mesa, but lanes are not designated. Organized bicycle groups are not permitted due to the narrowness of most park roads.
Emergency first aid is provided at the Chapin Mesa and Morefield ranger stations. Park roads and trails may be hazardous in winter. Stop at the entrance gate for current information on road conditions and tour schedules. Trailers and towed vehicles are prohibited beyond Morefield Campground. All towed vehicles must be parked at the entrance parking area or at Morefield Village parking area.
Park visitors can be the target of professional thieves who rob campsites and locked vehicles. Take your valuables with you or leave them in a secure place. Locked cars and trunks are not completely safe. Report all thefts immediately to the nearest ranger station.